FOOTBALL >Beşiktaş to face French, Portuguese German rivals in Champions League groupBeşiktaş, Turkey’s sole team in the UEFA Champions League, has welcomed an intriguingly competitive draw in the group stage of Europe’s top football competition.
In the draw held in Monaco late on Aug. 24, the Turkish defending champion was placed in Group G along with Monaco, Porto and RB Leipzig. The first round of fixtures will take place on Sept. 12 and 13, with the Black Eagles playing away against Porto on Sept.. 12.
In an ironic coincidence, former Beşiktaş striker Vincent Aboubakar will not be able to appear for Porto in the first game as he was sent off in the group stages of last year’s campaign while playing for Beşiktaş against Olympiakos and suspended for three games. He also did not appear in Beşiktaş’s two Europa League games against Olympic Lyon.
Porto has won three of its four games against Beşiktaş up until today, with the last match taking place in the UEFA Europa League group stage in 2010 and ending in a 1-1 draw.
Beşiktaş’s final game in the group will be against Germany’s Leipzig, a first timer in the Champions League, away on Dec. 6. Monaco and Beşiktaş have never before played against each other.
Elsewhere in the draw, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid, the record 12-time European champion that is chasing its third successive European title and fourth in five season, will take on Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham Hotspur and APOEL of Greek Cyprus. The tough Group H 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 holders 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 have shown in the Premier League they are a very strong team.”
Tottenham forward Harry Kane said he was excited to line up against the defending champions.
“You want to test yourself against the best and Real Madrid are the best at the moment,” said Kane.
Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 in the 2015 final but the Spanish club have endured a difficult month with Neymar departing for Paris Saint-Germain in a mammoth 222-million-euro ($261 million) deal.
They will also come up against Greek champions 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 were weaker 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. But Barcelona remain a top quality side with great individual players,” Marotta told Italia 1.
Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti will return to 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 the Italian.
“It’s a nice story for me to meet my former club again. As everybody knows, Celtic get incredible support from their fans. And Anderlecht can not be underestimated as Belgian champions.”
PSG coach Unai Emery, looking to mastermind a much deeper run after last year’s spectacular collapse against Barça, expects his side to join Bayern in the last 16.
“Bayern Munich is a very strong side. We will be the two favorites,” said Emery.
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 visit his native Portugal with Manchester United after they were placed in Group A with Benfica, CSKA Moscow and Basel.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are in Group F alongside Shakhtar Donetsk, Napoli and Feyenoord while Liverpool will play Spartak Moscow, Sevilla and Maribor in Group E.
“We want to be a football club where we are always there in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and getting to finals,” said City director of football Txiki Begiristain.
“We have refreshed the team and we are hoping that we can remember what we did two years ago when we got to the semi-finals and why not even more?”
Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp was pleased to have avoided Europe’s heavyweights, after being drawn in Group E with Spartak Moscow, Sevilla and Maribor.
“There are groups with Barcelona, Bayern, Juventus and Real Madrid, and not to get them is of course more good than bad,” said Klopp.