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Tottenham facing Real test in group

China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-26 07:20
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Defending champion Madrid will square off with Spurs, Dortmund

MONACO - Tottenham Hotspur will face defending champion Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League group stage, while five-time winner Barcelona was drawn with last season's runner-up Juventus on Thursday.

Real is chasing a third successive European title and fourth in five seasons after demolishing Italian champion Juventus 4-1 in Cardiff in June.

The record 12-time European champion also takes on APOEL of Cyprus in a testing Group H that will see Gareth Bale face Spurs for the first time since leaving for Real in a then world-record deal in 2013.

"We are the holder so there is always an extra motivation for the teams you face. It won't be easy at all, we'll need to play well and find our best form," said Real spokesman and former striker Emilio Butragueno.

"We've played a lot of times against Borussia Dortmund recently and know how good they are. Tottenham has shown in the past in the Premier League that they are a very strong team."

Tottenham forward Harry Kane said he was excited to line up against the defending champion.

"It's a great draw. You expect to play the best in Europe in the Champions League and it's exciting for us," said Kane.

"You want to test yourself against the best, and Real Madrid is the best at the moment."

Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 in the 2015 final but the Spanish club has endured a difficult month, with Neymar departing for Paris Saint-Germain in a mammoth $264 million deal.

It will also come up against Greek champion Olympiakos and Sporting Lisbon in a competitive Group D.

"It is a high level group with four historic teams. We will be fighting against a well known rival in Juventus, and the games against them will condition our chances in the group," said Barca general manager Pep Segura.

Juventus director general Beppe Marotta said Barca was a weaker side following the record-breaking sale of Neymar.

"Missing a player like Neymar weighs heavily. We'll have to see how they intend to replace him," Marotta told Italia 1.

"But Barcelona remains a top quality side with great individual players."

Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti will be reacquainted with old faces in Paris in a Group B that also features Celtic and Anderlecht.

"It's an exciting group with some great teams and Paris at the top," said Ancelotti.

"It's a nice story for me to meet my former club again. As everybody knows, Celtic has incredible support from its fans. And Anderlecht cannot be underestimated as Belgian champion."

PSG coach Unai Emery, looking to mastermind a much deeper run after last year's spectacular collapse against Barca, expects his side to join Bayern in the last 16.

"Bayern Munich is a very strong side, and we will be the two favorites," said Emery.

"After us, there are two teams who are going to want to create a surprise."

Chelsea, one of a record five English teams to qualify for the group phase, will meet Atletico Madrid in Group C as well as Roma and Qarabag, the first side from Azerbaijan to reach this stage of the competition.

Jose Mourinho will return to Portugal with Manchester United after his team was placed in Group A with Benfica, CSKA Moscow and Basel.

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City is in Group F, alongside Ukrainian champion Shakhtar Donetsk, Napoli and Feyenoord while Liverpool will square off with Spartak Moscow, Sevilla and Maribor in Group E.

"There are difficult groups with Barcelona, Bayern, Juventus and Real Madrid, and not to get them is of course more good than bad," said Klopp.

Agence France-presse

(China Daily 08/26/2017 page12)

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