Happy now Pique? Barcelona AND Madrid will have to do it the hard way

The Catalan defender mocked Real's route to the last Champions League final on Wednesday, but both teams have been handed tough sectors this time


Be careful what you wish for. Gerard Pique mocked Real Madrid during a Twitter Q&A on Wednesday, but both Barcelona and the defending champions have been handed tough tests following the Champions League draw on Thursday evening.

Asked by one of his followers on the social networking site what he would like from the Champions League this season, Pique replied: "An easy group. Last 16 against the third team from Italy, quarter-finals the eighth from Germany, semis the fourth from England. With the return always at home."

That was a clear reference to Real's route to the final last season, when Los Blancos faced Malmo and Shakhtar Donestk in the group (as well as Paris Saint-Germain), before meeting Roma, Wolfsburg and Manchester City in the knockout stages ahead of their victory on penalties against Atletico (who had knocked out Barca in the last eight over two legs) in Milan.

But Pique may well wish he had not mentioned the fourth team in England, because the team that finished in that position in 2015-16 was City, now coached by Pep Guardiola. And they will be facing Barca in the group stages this time around. Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic make up a competitive Group C, even though the Catalans will remain big favourites to advance in top spot.

Madrid, meanwhile, will be up against Borussia Dortmund, Sporting CP and Legia Warsaw in Group F. The Germans, in particular, represent a tough rival for Zinedine Zidane's side, while the Lisbon team came close to claiming the Portuguese title in 2015-16 as they finished two points behind Benfica. It is not easy either, although Madrid will be expected to emerge as winners too.

Pique was clearly not impressed with what he saw and tweeted: "Another day at the office". But other than City, Barca should have few problems in advancing to the second round - even though Gladbach are a decent team (having finished fourth in the Bundesliga last term) and Celtic have provided a stern test to the Blaugrana in previous editions of this tournament.

In reality, the Spain defender can have little cause for complaint. Neither group is straightforward, with tough tests included for the two teams in 2016-17. But the past two champions - and two richest clubs in the world - should both progress comfortably to the last 16 of the Champions League. And that is when the draw can have a greater impact - just as it did last season.