Bayern face tricky Champions League defense | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 29.08.2013
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Bayern face tricky Champions League defense

European champions Bayern Munich have to travel to Moscow and Manchester City in their Champions League group. The 2012/13 competition will include four German-English ties in the preliminary round.

Philipp LAHM (M) jubelt mit Pokal, Fussball Champions League Finale 2013 / Borussia Dortmund (DO) - FC Bayern Muenchen (M) 1:2. Saison2012/13, WEMBLEY Stadion, 25.05.2013.

Bildergalerie Vorschau Bundesliga 2013 2014

This season's Champions League will feature no fewer than four English-German ties in the group stage, with holders Bayern Munich drawn to meet Manchester City again, and the other German finalists - Borussia Dortmund - pitted in a re-match against Arsenal.

Bayern, who also face CSKA Moscow and Victoria Plzen in group D, beat City at home in the group stage two years ago and only lost in Manchester after already being assured of advancing.

But Bayern will not take the Mancunian side for granted. Manchester City have performed dismally in Europe since they returned to elite competition in 2011, and improving that record is one of the main tasks expected of new coach Manuel Pellegrini.

The Chilean has taken two Spanish sides - Villarreal and Malaga - to the latter stages of the Champions League in the past, and came up against Pep Guardiola's Barcelona when in charge of Real Madrid in 2009-10.

"Manchester in particular will try to do better against German teams than they did in the last two years," commented Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. "But of course it's our aim to reach the second round."

'A brilliant, well-balanced group'

Dortmund, in lowly Pot 3, ended up with a fairly reasonable draw from Pots 1 and 2 - Arsenal and Olympique Marseille - only to draw arguably the most dangerous team in Pot 4: Napoli. The Italians have boosted their squad considerably over the summer, and will represent a serious challenge.

"This is a brilliant, well-balanced group," commented Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp after the draw.

But he might have a few bad memories, too. Two years ago, Dortmund ended up at the bottom of a group that contained Arsenal and Marseille. As BVB CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke put it: "A very difficult group, but maybe the chance to put right the elimination against Arsenal and Marseille in 2011."

Schalke and Leverkusen

Another German team, Bayer Leverkusen, will face the more famous half of Manchester in Group A, where they were pitted against the Red Devils, along with Ukrainians Shakhtar Donetsk and Spanish club Real Sociedad.

The German side, now coached by former Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia, beat United in the 2002 semi-finals in a legendary season that saw them lose in the final to Real Madrid.

But despite Leverkusen's modest European record since then, United coach David Moyes will not be taking the opposition lightly in what will be his first Champions League campaign. Nevertheless, the English champions are the clear favorites to qualify for the last 16.

Elsewhere, Jose Mourinho, prodigal coach at Chelsea, will cross swords with Schalke in group E, which also features Basel and Steaua Bucharest. The draw was relatively kind to the 2012 champions from London, though Swiss side Basel have proved a stumbling block for English teams in the past, knocking Manchester United out of the group in 2011.

Schalke, who only scraped into the competition after winning a tight play-off against Greek side Saloniki, may face Chelsea with some trepidation, but they will feel they have at least a fighting chance against Basel and Bucharest.

"The situation is clear," said the Royal Blues' Sporting Director Horst Heldt. "Chelsea are the favorites, and the other three teams will be fighting for second place."

Mouth-watering heavyweight duels

The competition will also feature the familiar spectacle of Barcelona playing AC Milan - a duel that seems to have become a staple of the Champions League. Barca run into Milan for the third straight season, while they face two other former European champions in Group H - Ajax and the Scottish side Celtic, who famously beat Barca at home a year ago at the same stage. The four teams amass 16 titles in the competition.

Elsewhere, perennial European favorites Real Madrid - now under Carlo Ancelotti - will face Italian giants Juventus in Group B - a true clash of European titans.

This season's competition kicks off on September 17 and 18 - with the top two from each group advancing into the knockout stages and the third-place finishers continuing in the Europa League.