Real Madrid draw Manchester City, Ajax & Borussia Dortmund in Champions League Group D

The Primera Division champions have been pitted against the English titleholders, the Eredivisie's finest and the Bundesliga powerhouse
SEASON 2011-12
Europe: Champions League semi-finalists
Coach: Jose Mourinho

Appointed: 2010

Santiago Bernabeu

Capacity: 85,454

Best Champions League performance: Winners nine times (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002)
Cristiano Ronaldo

The attacker is one of the best players in the world and enjoyed a sensational 2011-12 season. Ronaldo scored 46 goals in La Liga, helping Real Madrid to the title. He scored 10 more goals in the Champions League, including goals in the round of 16 against CSKA, in the quarter-finals against APOEL, and in the semi-final against Bayern Munich. He also impressed at Euro 2012 with three goals as Portugal reached the semi-finals.

Alberto Pinero, Spanish football writer

Luck is clearly not with Real Madrid this time around as they have been drawn in the toughest group with nothing but champions. Madrid are the favourites to progress, but will realise that a tough task awaits. The match against Manchester City promises to be an enthralling encounter between a traditional club like Madrid and newly rich Man City. Los Blancos met Ajax four times in the the past two seasons and have won all games without too much problems. However, the fact that what's seen as the weakest team is still a four-time winner of the competition says a lot about the strength of this group.

SEASON 2011-12
Europe: Champions League group stage; Europa League round of 16
Manager: Roberto Mancini

Appointed: 2009

Stadium: Etihad Stadium

Capacity: 47,805

Best Champions League performance: Third in group stage (2011-12)
Yaya Toure

Many thought leaving Barcelona was a step down for the Ivorian, but he has flourished in Manchester, becoming the roaring engine of the City machine. His relentless drive was arguably what saw his side over the line to win the Premier League last season and he already knows how to win the Champions League. City can lose Sergio Aguero and fall back on Carlos Tevez; there is no substitute for Toure.

George Ankers, English football writer

Manchester City will be desperate to do well here for all sorts of reasons. It’s almost the toughest group imaginable but, after being eliminated early last time around, Roberto Mancini’s men will be aiming to prove that they are every bit the match for the best of the best.

They’ll also be itching to improve their Uefa coefficient with a successful campaign this year so as to make it into Pot 1 of future draws and avoid this kind of nightmare. The pressure will be on in every game; Ajax look small by comparison but City cannot afford a single slip now.

SEASON 2011-12
Europe: Champions League group stages, Europa League round of 32
Manager: Frank de Boer

Appointed: 2010

Amsterdam ArenA


Best Champions League performance:
Winners four times (1971, 1972, 1973, 1995)
Christian Eriksen

The Danish playmaker is regarded as one of Europe's biggest talents and has already shown what he’s capable of in the past few seasons.

Eriksen is still only 20, but has already won two Eredivisie titles, as well as one KNVB Beker. The young midfielder impressed last term with a phenomenal assist in the 4-0 home win over Dinamo Zagreb.

Stefan Coerts, Dutch football writer

Ajax will be not amused with the outcome of the draw. Not only were they paired with Real Madrid for the third year in succession, but they also got the strongest teams from pots 2 and 4. In normal circumstances, the Eredivisie champions don't stand a chance against Madrid, as the results from the past two seasons proved. The same can be said about Manchester City. Although the Citizens failed to impress in 2011-12, they will be desperate to do better this term, and the individual quality they possess should prove too much for Ajax.

Borussia Dortmund are a team quite similar to Ajax, and Frank de Boer and his men will be hopeful of getting two good results against the Bundesliga champions in order to secure third spot in the group, and thus Europa League football.

SEASON 2011-12
Europe: Champions League group stage
Manager: Jurgen Klopp

Appointed: 2008

Stadium: Signal Iduna Park

Capacity: 80,720

Best Champions League performance: Winners (1996-97)
Mario Gotze

After missing much of the tail end of last season through a series of furstrating injuries, the 20-year-old is fit and raring to go. He hardly featured during Germany's Euro 2012 campaign, but has started the season well, setting up a goal in his country's friendly loss to Argentina and scoring the winner against Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. Having endured last season's Continental failure and missed much of the domestic double, he will be all the more eager to make his mark on the biggest stage.

Luke Matthews, Dortmund expert

Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke put on a brave face after BVB were pitted in the group of death alongside Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax, claiming it was an "incredibly attractive" draw for the Bundesliga champions. However, surely the general consensus amongst the Dortmund faithful is one of disappointment. Despite completing their first domestic trophy double last season, Jurgen Klopp’s men will be up against two of the favourites in the competition in Madrid and City.

Yet with the likes of Mats Hummels, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski, Dortmund have the class and talent needed to overcome their dreadful Champions League campaign last season, when they finished bottom of their group. If BVB can bring their Bundesliga form onto the European stage, you can’t rule out the Germans emerging as top dogs in the group of champions.