WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2013 — Out of the frying pan and into the money-making oven. Scottish team Celtic, that clinched a place in the lucrative 2013-2014 UEFA Champions League group stage on Wednesday with a stoppage-time goal over Shakhter Karagandy, found itself placed in the “Group of Death” after Thursday’s draw.
A winner in 1967, Celtic will face four-time champions Barcelona, seven-time winner AC Milan and four-time winner Ajax in Group H. While the challenge to advance from the group will be daunting, the club is certain to make a lot of money in the process. Manchester City, despite finishing last in its group in the the 2012-13 event, earned $38 million.
Barcelona are currently the bookmaker’s favorite, followed by Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Chelsea, and Mancheter United.
Group F also looks tough. Arsenal, runners-up in 2006, face 1993 victor Marseille, Borussia Dortmund (2013 runners-up and 1997 winner) and Napoli.
Manchester United, winners of three titles, the last in 2008, appear to have an easy route to the last 16 in Group A, with games against Ukrainian champs Shakhtar Donetsk, 2002 runners-up Bayer Leverkusen and Spanish team Real Sociedad.
Holders Bayern Munich also look to have an easy job in reaching the knockout round in Group D where they face CSKA Moscow, big-spending Manchester City and Czech club Viktoria Plzen.
The weakest, and most open group on paper, appears to be Group G. It includes two-time winner Porto, 1974 finalists Atletico Madrid, Zenit St Petersburg, and Austria Vienna.
Chelsea, which won the title in 2012 downing Bayern in Munich, take on Schalke, Basel and 1986 winner, Steaua Bucharest, in Group E. In Group C, big spending Paris St-Germain, play top seed Benfica - winners in 1961 and 1962 - Olympiakos and Anderlecht.
Nine-time European champion Real Madrid face two-time champ Juventus, Galatasaray and Copenhagen in Group B.
Group A: Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Sociedad
Group B: Real Madrid, Juventus, Galatasaray, Copenhagen
Group C: Benfica, Paris St-Germain, Olympiakos, Anderlecht
Group D: Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Manchester City, Viktoria Plzen
Group E: Chelsea, Schalke, Basel, Steaua Bucharest
Group F: Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli
Group G: Porto, Atletico Madrid, Zenit St Petersburg, Austria Vienna
Group H: Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax, Celtic
John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times for 20 years. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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