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Real? Basel? Bursaspor?

FCB eagerly await Champions League draw

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Year after year, when the group stage draw determines Bayern’s first steps on the road to Champions League glory, Germany’s most successful club send a tried and trusted pair as representatives. Once again, Karl Hopfner (deputy chairman) and Andreas Jung (board member) will be present at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on Thursday evening to witness the drama in person. And as so often, Bayern could yet be handed exceptionally tough opposition to open their campaign, although a good number of the biggest-name clubs cannot be drawn against last season’s finalists.

Louis van Gaal’s team are again among the eight top-seeded clubs, and cannot therefore meet Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Inter Milan, AC Milan or Olympique Lyon until the knockout stages. However, there are dangerous floaters aplenty among the remaining clubs.

The Real threat

For example, Bayern could end up in the same section as Real Madrid. Other potential opponents include AS Roma, Athens-based Panathinaikos or Glasgow giants Rangers. A particularly attractive match-up from a Bayern point of view would be a meeting with Swiss double winners Basel, coached by former FCB stalwart Thorsten Fink, or Van Gaal’s home town club Twente Enschede. Trips into less familiar territory would be provided by Russian champions Rubin Kazan, shock Turkish champions Bursaspor, or Israeli cracks Hapoel Tel-Aviv.

“A year ago, we found out how difficult it can be in the group phase,” recalled Philipp Lahm. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was of a similar opinion: “We should take it all step-by-step. The first of those steps is to get through the group phase and make the last sixteen.”

Among the favourites

The chairman is certain that opponents will be doubly determined to register prestige victories over last season’s finalists. “We made the final as underdogs last term, but Bayern will be taken a little more seriously this season. People are going to regard us as somewhere among the favourites.”

The German champions are hoping to go one better than last season and bring the trophy home this time. “It would be fantastic if we achieved that in the next one or two seasons,” said Rummenigge. The players are certainly looking ahead to Thursday’s draw with some confidence. “We’re not favourites to win the competition,” commented Mark van Bommel, “but there are plenty of clubs who won’t want to play us.”

Teams through to the Champions League group stage:

Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Bayern, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Olympique Lyon, Werder Bremen, Real Madrid, Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk, Benfica, Valencia, Olympique Marseille, Panathinaikos, Rangers, Schalke, Basel, Sporting Braga, Spartak Moscow, Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Twente Enschede, Rubin Kazan, CFR Cluj, Partizan Belgrade, Bursaspor.

Playing Wednesday:
Tottenham - Young Boys Bern
AJ Auxerre - Zenit St. Petersburg
Ajax - Dynamo Kyiv
Copenhagen - Trondheim
MSK Zilina - Sparta Prague

Check back here on Thursday morning, when publishes the final list of the 32 group stage participants split into the four pots for the draw.