Reds get Real; Tough for City

  • Last Updated: August 29 2014, 6:41 BST

Liverpool will make a glamorous return to the Champions League after being drawn against holders Real Madrid in the group stage.

  • Liverpool will take on Real Madrid
  • Manchester City face Bayern Munich and Roma 
  • Arsenal come up against Borussia Dortmund 
  • Schalke look the main danger for Chelsea 

The Reds will face defending champions Real as well as Basel and Ludogorets - the Bulgarian side who had a fairytale win in the play-offs - in Group B while there was a familiar look to the draw for the three other English sides.

Real Madrid may be a daunting prospect for Brendan Rodgers' side, but Liverpool beat the Spanish giants 5-0 on aggregate in 2009 including a 4-0 hammering at Anfield.

Manchester City have perhaps the toughest group. They will face Bayern Munich for the third time in four years plus CSKA Moscow, who they took on last season, and Roma in Group E.

Arsenal will play Borussia Dortmund for the second year running as well as Galatasaray and Anderlecht in Group D

In Group G, Chelsea will play German side Schalke for the second consecutive season plus Sporting Lisbon and Maribor.

Barcelona and Paris St Germain should dominate Group F, where they were drawn with Ajax and APOEL from Cyprus, while last season's beaten finalists Atletico Madrid are in Group A with Juventus, Olympiacos and Malmo.

Benfica, Zenit St Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco make up Group C, while Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao and Belarus side BATE Borisov will battle it out in Group H.

Liverpool's opponents Ludogorets enjoyed a charmed passage to the group stage after the most unlikely of wins over Romanian champions Steaua Bucharest in the play-off.

Defender Cosmin Moti went in goal after keeper Vladislav Stoyanov was sent off and saved two shoot-out penalties to send his club into the group stage for the first time.

The 29-year-old even scored the first spot-kick himself, while still wearing his gloves, before going in goal to provide more heroics.

Ludogorets had been trailing Steaua 1-0 from the first leg but forced extra-time thanks to a stunning last-minute volley from substitute Wanderson.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said he was "excited" by the draw, especially against Real.

He told the club's website: "That was last season's hard work, what we were working towards - getting Liverpool back into a competition where we are synonymous.

"To be back in it again, no matter who we were going to play, it was always going to be exciting. But to have Real Madrid in your group, the champions last season, is going to be special.

"I'm already thinking of Anfield on that night. But there are two other good teams in it along with us. It's a tough group but we'll really look forward to the challenge of getting out of the group."

Man City's director of football Txiki Begiristain insisted the club can cope with UEFA's financial fair play sanctions despite being handed the toughest draw.

The Premier League champions have had to cope with a transfer spending limit of £60million plus a fine of the same level and a reduction in their Champions League squad size from 25 players to 21.

Begiristain, speaking in Monaco after the draw, said: "It has not affected us in the transfer window, we have signed the players that we wanted. I don't think it will affect us in the final result.

"We knew where we wanted to improve and we got it."

He added that the group was the toughest of all eight in the Champions League for this season.

"Last season Bayern were first, we were second and we also played CSKA, but the fourth one was very tough, a very strong team in Roma. All the clubs try to play good football, so it will be an amazing group.

"It's a very tough group, they are all very tough. I think this is the toughest group, all the clubs try to play good football, Roma have done very well."

Begiristain ruled out City making any more signings but said some players may leave.

He said: "Incomings no, but there are some players who need to play who will have more opportunities at other clubs."

Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo - named as the European player of the 2013/14 season - told the draw ceremony in Monaco that he believes the club can become the first to successfully defend the Champions League trophy.

He said: "Why not - everything is possible. I had the opportunity to do it when I was at Manchester United and now for Real Madrid - the biggest clubs in the world so I am looking forward to getting a second chance."

Champions League group stage:

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiacos, Malmo

Group B: Real Madrid, Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets

Group C: Benfica, Zenit St. Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Monaco

Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray, Anderlecht

Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, Roma

Group F: Barcelona, PSG, Ajax, Apoel Nicosia

Group G: Chelsea, Schalke 04, Sporting, Maribor

Group H: FC Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao, BATE