Champions League preview: Groups E-H
Published: 17.09.12 / Written by: David Gold
Away from the group of champions, there were other intriguing draws.
Juventus will be delighted at their draw, with Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Nordsjaelland. They should be favourites to progress ahead of the European champions after their unbeaten season in Serie A last year, although they are without suspended coach Antonio Conte for the season. Shakhtar are no pushovers, but Chelsea's quality should prove too much for them. The Danish champions will be no pushovers having won the league ahead of FC Copenhagen, but at the same time they will have to do something quite special to qualify.
Manchester United received a draw similarly kind, although they will be determined not to exit a winnable group as they did last year. Braga are a talented and useful team who knocked out Udinese in qualifying, so cannot be underestimated, and Galatasaray is a trip no team will enjoy making. But United are well equipped to deal with either, and face the Romanian champions for a second year in a row after being given CFR Cluj. A handy team, but again one which whilst tricky, should not pose Sir Alex Ferguson too many problems. You can imagine Ferguson's side being revved up for the season ahead, particularly in Europe, with the team looking to prove a point.
Barcelona meet Benfica, Spartak Moscow and Celtic. Benfica are a very good team, as they showed last year by winning Manchester United's group and being unfortunate to lose to Chelsea in the quarter finals. They will be favourites to make it through the group with Barcelona, who will be expected to dazzle as they usually do. Celtic will have a very difficult task on to make it to the last 16, but Spartak have hope. They have invested well this summer, brought in Unai Emery as coach from Valencia, and signed the likes of Kim Kallstrom and Romulo, who will give them bite and quality in midfield.
Bayern Munich and Valencia resume their rivalry just over a decade after they met in the Champions League final. Valencia are not the same team now that they were then though, and having been forced to sell their best player once again this season will be very much second favourites in this particular battle. Bayern are favourites, but Lille will hope to do better than last year and make it through the first round. They have the ability and players to really test Valencia, who are there for the taking. Completing the group is BATE of Belarus, who have been here for a few years now, but have never really made their mark previously.
Predicted group winners: Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Predicted runners up: Chelsea, Lille, Benfica, Galatasaray