"Three illustrious names in European football"
Bayern were handed a glamorous but also achievable draw in the group stage of the 2018/19 Champions League on Thursday. Benfica, Ajax and AEK Athens stand in the German champions' way en route to the knockout stages. "The aim is of course the last 16 but we cannot underestimate any of these three sides," warned CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. "Our fans can look forward to three great Champions League nights at the Allianz Arena. From a footballing point of view I'm very pleased," commented coach Niko Kovac. Captain Manuel Neuer said: "We're up against three illustrious names in European football."
Reaction to the draw:
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: "It's an attractive group which we're looking forward to very much. The aim is of course the last 16 but we cannot underestimate any of these three sides. We've played against Benfica a few times in the past and have good memories of those encounters. Ajax are an old acquaintance, and we're meeting AEK Athens for the first time. But none of that matters anymore. All three proved last season in their leagues how strong they are and we have to be very focused in our work if we want to reach the next round."
Hasan Salihamidzic: "There are no easy opponents at Champions League level, but after the draw I'm confident we can finish top of the group."
Niko Kovac: "It's an interesting group with clubs with great history. Our fans can look forward to three great Champions League nights at the Allianz Arena. From a footballing point of view I'm very pleased. We're the favourites but we'll need to play our best in every game to progress to the next stage."
Manuel Neuer: "We're up against three illustrious names in European football. We have a bit of unfinished business with Benfica away. In Greece there's always a great atmosphere at the stadiums and we'll also need a top performance against Ajax if we're to finish top and play against a second-placed team in the last 16."
Edwin van der Sar (Ajax general manager): "Bayern are favourites in the group, we're fighting for second place."