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Roma, Basel and Cluj

Tough but manageable Group E for Bayern

Bayern have been drawn in a tough but intriguing Champions League Group E with Italian runners-up AS Roma, Swiss double winners FC Basel, and Romanian cracks CfR Cluj, although the German double winners and 2009-10 finalists in Europe's elite competition will be happy to have avoided the likes of Real Madrid, Valencia and Olympique Marseille, all potential opponents at this stage.

“It could have been a great deal worse. But we’ll still need to focus extremely hard if we’re to progress from this group,” commented Bayern boss Louis van Gaal in a first reaction to Thursday’s draw. The coach said the most pleasing aspect to the fixture schedule “is that we’ve been spared the really long fights.” However, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge issued a warning against complacency. “We cannot take this group for granted. Both Roma and Basel are exceptionally hard to break down. We’ll need to watch ourselves.”

Opener at home to Rome

This week's ten play-off winners joined the 22 automatic entrants in Thursday's group-stage draw, which took place at its usual venue, the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. The draw was performed in part by former England striker and media personality Gary Lineker, assisted by freshly-crowned UEFA Player of the Year winners Julio Cesar, Maicon, Wesley Sneijder and Diego Milito, all of them from Italian treble winners Inter.

Bayern open their campaign at home to Italian giants Roma on 15 September. “They finished runners-up last season, but they kept the Serie A title race alive right to the end. These are tough opponents,” said assistant coach Hermann Gerland, who followed the draw from’s Säbener Strasse studios. “We have happy memories of Italian teams from last season – except in the final,” Gerland continued.

Reunion with Thorsten Fink

Two weeks later, on 28 September, Bayern travel to face Basel. “That's an interesting fixture,” commented Gerland. Basel boss Thorsten Fink is a former captain of Gerland’s Bayern reserve side. The sides last met in a friendly on 12 January, Bayern winning 3-1. “It's nice and easy to get to, but naturally, we mustn’t underestimate them.” Nevertheless, FCB had been handed a “great chance of making progress,” Gerland summarised.

Munich’s next fixture is at home to Romanian double winners Cluj on 19 October. The return against Cluj is on 3 November, with the trip to Rome on 23 November, and the final fixture at home to Basel on 8 December. The top two from each of the eight groups progress to the first knockout round, to be drawn in Nyon at midday on 17 December. The teams finishing third in their groups enter the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League.

Champions League 2010-11 group stage draw

Group A: Inter, Werder Bremen, Tottenham Hotspur, Twente Enschede

Group B: Lyon, Benfica, Schalke, Happoel Tel Aviv

Group C: Manchester United, Valencia, Rangers, Bursaspor

Group D: Barcelona, Panathinaikos, Copenhagen, Rubin Kazan

Group E: Bayern Munich, Roma, FC Basel, CfR Cluj

Group F: Chelsea, Marseille, Spartak Moscow, Zilina

Group G: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Ajax, Auxerre

Group H: Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk, SC Braga, Partizan Belgrade