KEIR RADNEDGE in Monte Carlo: Holders Chelsea will face former Europa League winners Shakhtar Donetsk and Juventus in the first, group stage of their defence of the Champions League which they won in the most dramatic fashion possible against Bayern in Munich last May.
The glamour pairing of the draw saw record nine-times European champions Real Madrid matched with big-spending English champions Manchester City. Madrid had won their first trophy of the season on Wednesday when they beat Barcelona on away goals in the Spanish Supercup.
Chelsea were able to pay particularly close attention to the draw since it was organised by European federation UEFA in the Grimaldi Forum here, three miles from the Stade Louis II where the Blues face Europe League holders Atletico de Madrid tomorrow/Friday in the Supercup.
Shakhar play in the magnificent Donbass Arena which was one of the main host venues for Euro 2012 last June – and where England, with Chelsea’s Ashley Cole, defeated co-hosts Ukraine in a controversial group stage decider.
Juventus return to the Champions League after winning the Italian league title last season for the first time since before being forcibly relegated in 2006 as punishment for a matchfix scandal. They may face Chelsea without one of their most iconic players, Alessandro Del Piero, who is being released and may even join Scottish Champions League contenders Celtic.
The draw was conducted by Gianni Infantino, UEFA’s general secretary, assisted by Steve McManaman, Denis Law, George Weah, Ruud Gullit and Fabio Cannavaro.
Draw so far . . .
Group A: Porto, Kyiv Dynamo, Paris Saint-Germain, Dinamo Zagreb
Group B: Arsenal, Schalke, Olympiacos, Montpellier
Group C: Milan, Zenit St Petersburg, Anderlecht, Malaga
Group D: Real Madrid, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund
Group E: Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, Nordsjaelland
Group F: Bayern Munich, Valencia, Lille, BATE Borisov
Group G: Barcelona, Benfica, Moscow Spartak, Celtic
Group H: Manchester United, Braga, Galatasaray, CFR Cluj.
= = = =