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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW

Mixed matches for Liga clubs

Real and Barça to face Juventus and Milan in Champions League group stage

Juventus' Fernando Llorente did not have to wait long for a chance to play in Spain again.
Juventus' Fernando Llorente did not have to wait long for a chance to play in Spain again.Kevork Djansezian (AFP)

The Champions League draw took place in Nyon Thursday, with four Spanish teams in the mix for glory in Europe's premier club competition. Real Madrid and Barcelona, semifinalists last year and with 13 titles between them, were seeded in the first pot and drawn into Groups B and H respectively.

That was as far as their luck held; Real will have been particularly unhappy to see the name of Italian champion Juventus plucked out of the tombola: the Italian champion added Carlos Tevez and former Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente to its ranks during the summer and boasts individual talent of the caliber of Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, with the evergreen Andrea Pirlo still pulling the strings in midfield.

Barça, meanwhile, will renew its annual rivalry with AC Milan. In the past three Champions League campaigns the sides have met in the group stage, the last 16 and the quarterfinals, with Barcelona mounting a stunning comeback in the second leg last season after being beaten 2-0 in the San Siro.

Following the Italian giants out of the lottery were Galatasaray, a nasty little trip to "hell" for Real, and Ajax, who after three consecutive seasons of being beaten in the Bernabéu will now have to travel to Camp Nou to face Barça, where Bojan Krkic, on loan at the Amsterdam club, will be reunited with his erstwhile teammates.

Real Sociedad's Xabi Prieto was granted his wish to play at Old Trafford

Also drawn against Barcelona was Celtic, which caused the then-champion all sorts of problems in the group stage last season. In Glasgow, Neil Lennon's side won 2-1 and it required a Jordi Alba goal in the 94th minute at Camp Nou to deny the Scottish side a deserved point in the other meeting.

Making up the numbers in Real's group is FC Copenhagen, the Danish champion, which has played twice in the Champions League, finishing bottom of its group in 2006-07 and reaching the last 16 in 2010-11 after taking a point off Barça in the opening round.

Atlético Madrid was handed a kinder draw than its Liga rivals, while Real Sociedad, making its return to the competition after a 10-year absence, will also fancy its chances of progress.

La Real captain Xabi Prieto said ahead of the draw that he wanted Manchester United and he was granted his wish when the team name was read out next to Group A. The Basques will also play Shakhtar Donetsk and Bayer Leverkusen. If the team performs to the standard it did in seeing off Lyon in the playoff phase, with some glorious goals for a 4-0 aggregate win, none of the teams in its group can consider the specter of Real Sociedad as a safe three points.

Atlético will play FC Porto, Zenit St Petersburg and Austria Vienna in Group G, a fairly navigable route to the knockout stages. The Calderón club has not participated in the Champions League since the 2009-10 season, when it failed to get out of a group containing Chelsea, Porto and Apoel Nicosia. It did, however, go on to win the Europa League after dropping into the second-tier tournament by dint of finishing third.

In the meantime Atlético has won the Europa League again, the King's Cup and the European Supercup, avenging a 4-0 drubbing by Chelsea in its last Champions League campaign.

On Wednesday night, though, Barcelona narrowly edged Atlético to win the Spanish Supercup, a bruising 0-0 tie just enough for the home side after the 1-1 result in Madrid in the first leg.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
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