August 24, 2017 / 5:35 PM / a month ago

Champions Real up against Dortmund and Spurs in group stage

(Reuters) - Holders Real Madrid will start their attempt to win a record third straight Champions League title in a group with Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham Hotspur and Apoel Nicosia after Thursday’s draw.

The Group H draw will see Real’s Welsh international Gareth Bale face his former club Tottenham for the first time since his 2013 move to Madrid.

Real were drawn in the same group as Dortmund last year and drew 2-2 both home and away as the Germans topped the group.

Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke said: “It’s the toughest group but we’ve been in this situation before and won the group. Heroes are made in groups like these.”

Former Real striker and current Director of Institutional Relations Emilio Butragueno said he expected a tough challenge for the champions.

”The group won’t be easy; we’ll have to play well and give our all every game. We know that just 10 bad minutes can cost you dearly. We’ve played Borussia Dortmund before and they always give you a tough time.

“Tottenham have shown that they are one of the best teams in the last few years in the Premier League. APOEL will also cause us a lot of problems, especially at their place,” he said.

Manchester United will face their opponents from their 1968 European Cup final triumph, Benfica, and were given a relatively kind draw with Switzerland’s FC Basel and CSKA Moscow also in Group A.

The world’s most expensive player, Brazilian Neymar, will be up against Bayern Munich, Anderlecht and Celtic in Group B as his club Paris Saint Germain look for their first Champions League title.

“I‘m very happy with the draw. Bayern are a very strong team and we and them will be the two favourites,” said PSG coach Unai Emery.

“But the other two will want to create an upset. Celtic are very dangerous at home, just like Anderlecht, whom we respect a lot. We want to finish first in the group.”

Lionel Messi and Barcelona will face last year’s beaten finalists Juventus in Group D, as well as Olympiakos Piraeus and Sporting Lisbon.

Group C throws up some interesting games with 2012 winners Chelsea up against Atletico Madrid, beaten finalists in 2016 and 2014.

AS Roma will also fancy their chances of progressing from Group C and Qarabag, the first team from Azerbaijan to qualify for the group stage, will relish the big-name opponents.

Liverpool face familiar rivals in Sevilla, who beat them in the final of the 2016 Europa League, but Juergen Klopp’s team will be confident against Spartak Moscow and Slovenia’s Maribor.

Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Clare Fallon

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