Liverpool handed plum tie against Real Madrid

Brendan Rodgers’ side set to face reigning holders on their return to Champions League action

David Silva of Manchester City takes a free kick during the Champions League clash against Bayern Munich at the Etihad Stadium last October. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty

David Silva of Manchester City takes a free kick during the Champions League clash against Bayern Munich at the Etihad Stadium last October. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty

Real Madrid will kick off their defence of the Champions League at home to Basel on September 16th after being drawn in a group with the Swiss champions, Liverpool and Bulgarian debutants Ludogorets 1945.

The Spaniards would be expected to progress fairly easily through to the knockout stages given the line up. The draw, though, was more significant for Liverpool who, having been third seeds look to have been presented with a real chance to to make an impact on the competition they last won in 2005.

“To be back in it again, no matter who we were going to play, it was always going to be exciting,” said manager Brendan Rogers afterwards. “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.”

The other English clubs were all top two seeds and none was handed anything that should be beyond them with Chelsea probably faring best. They face Sporting Lisbon, Schalke 04 and Maribor. Manchester City may have to show continued improvement at European level if they are to avoid any slip-ups in a group that also includes German champions Bayern Munich, Roma and CSKA Moscow.

On the face of it, the logistics of the trip to Russia on Tuesday, October 21st would be particularly unwelcome although the club is fortunate that its league game against Spurs had already been moved forward to lunchtime the previous Saturday for television purposes.

What the broadcasters give, though, they also take away and things will be complicated slightly ahead of the return CSKA fixture on November 5th as the Manchester derby has been pushed back 24 hours to the previous Sunday afternoon.

Their campaign

Arsenal, like both Chelsea and City, find themselves facing German opponents they have come up against very recently in the competition and Arsene Wenger’s side will start their campaign away to Borussia Dortmund. Galatasaray and Anderlecht complete that group.

The value of the Londoners’ success in the play-off round this week and price of Celtic’s failure is underlined by the prize money figures for last season with Arsenal collecting just short of €30 million for their efforts last season and the Scots €19.7 million while Seville, who won the Europa League, made just €14.6 million which was still far more than any of their rivals in that tournament.

Irish involvement in the premier event, will almost certainly be limited to Cillian Sheridan, the Cyprus-based striker whose club, APOEL, were landed with the daunting task of taking on Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Ajax. “Easy” tweeted the 25-year-old as Group F was completed.

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