Spanish four face tough Champions draw

Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad have all been handed tough Champions League group stage draws for 2013-14.

Barcelona, who are bidding to make at least the semi-final stage of the competition for what would be a seventh consecutive year, face Milan for a third season in a row in the competition.

The Catalans, who eliminated the Rossoneri at the Round of 16 last year and the quarter-final stage the season before that, have played no other team more times in European competition.

Competing in Group H, La Blaugrana will also play Bojan Krkic’s latest club and four-time Champions League winners Ajax. Curiously, this will be a first competitive meeting between Johan Cruyff’s two former clubs.

The group is rounded off by Celtic, who notably defeated Barcelona at home in this same stage of the competition last season.

Real Madrid, who have made the final four of the Champions League in each of the last three seasons, are drawn in Group B against Italian outfit Juventus, League champions in Italy in each of the last two years.

Los Blancos have an even record in the European Cup against the Bianconeri, but most recently have lost four of the last five matches held, including both group stage games in the 2008-09 tournament.

Madrid’s task is made no easier with Galatasaray also drawn. Whilst the Spanish eliminated the Turks in last year’s quarter-finals, Gala threatened at one stage a dramatic comeback in the second leg at home.

Wesley Sneijder’s current side also have the edge in overall meetings against Los Merengues historically, with three wins to Madrid’s two from five played.

FC Copenhagen complete the group for a first meeting with Los Blancos.

Atletico Madrid will meet Porto in Group G, opponents they faced when they were last in the group stages of the Champions League back in 2009-10. Atleti have not beaten the Portuguese since their first European meeting in 1963, in the Fairs Cup.

The draw, held at the Grimaldi Forum centre in Monaco as part of the UEFA Gala, also handed Diego Simeone’s side a tough test with Russian side Zenit St Petersburg, who Los Colchoneros have competitively never met before.

Austria Vienna complete the group, as a team that Atleti have met once before over two legs back in the 1970-71 edition of the competition.

Real Sociedad, who are in the competition for a second time in their history after safely navigating through the Play-off round past Lyon, have been handed a challenging draw.

The San Sebastian outfit have been paired with three-time competition winners Manchester United, Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk and Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen.

Jagoba Arrasate’s men will meet each of the three teams for the first time at competitive level.

Group stage matches are to be played in the midweeks of September 17/18, October 1/2, October 22/23, November 5/6, November 26/27 and December 10/11.

Champions League group stages

Group A – Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, REAL SOCIEDAD

Group B – REAL MADRID, Juventus, Galatasaray, FC Copenhagen

Group C – Benfica, Paris Saint-Germain, Olympiacos, Anderlecht

Group D – Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Manchester City, Viktoria Plzen

Group E – Chelsea, Schalke, Basel, Steaua Bucharest

Group F – Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli

Group G – Porto, ATLETICO MADRID, Zenit St Petersburg, Austria Vienna

Group H – BARCELONA, AC Milan, Ajax, Celtic