After the extremely well-balanced UEFA Champions League draw in Monaco on Thursday, plenty of reaction has started to filter through.
Europe stood still to watch on as giants from England, Spain, Italy, Germany and elsewhere found out which sides they would face in the group stages of the 2013-14 Champions League.
Of all the British sides Arsenal were handed the toughest draw as they face Marseille, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli in group F.
Chelsea’s boss José Mourinho will be happy that his side avoided any huge European rivals, as they were placed with Schalke, Basel and Steaua Bucharest. And Manchester City’s fans will breathe a huge sigh of relief as they managed to skip the dreaded “Group of Death” for the third-straight year. However Manuel Pellegrini’s side do face reigning Champions Bayern Munich and tricky tests against Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow.
While Celtic only qualified for the group stages in dramatic circumstances on Wednesday evening by overturning a 2-0 first leg deficit against Kazakhstan side Shakhter Karagandy in the play-off round. James Forrest’s last minute strike sealed a 3-0 win to book the Glasgow clubs place in this seasons competition.
Here’s what Hoops manager Neil Lennon had to say after the draw.
“I think it’s the best and the worst draw we could’ve got,” Lennon said. “In terms of glamor I don’t think it comes any better than Barcelona, Ajax and AC Milan. In terms of football it was probably the most difficult group we could have got. We can really go and enjoy this tournament now.”
Last season Celtic beat Barcelona 2-1 at home in the group stages and advanced to the last 16 where they were defeated by Italian champions Juventus. Lennon is looking forward to more great European nights this term.
“They are three great footballing arenas, three great clubs with fantastic pedigree in the competition,” Lennon said. “Locking horns again with Barcelona and we’re really looking forward to three more great nights at least at Celtic Park.”
However the difficulty of Celtic’s task isn’t lost on the Northern Irishman, as Lennon hopes to lead his side to the knockout stages for the second season in a row.
“There’s just so much to savor form the draw. But from a footballing point of view it’s going to be difficult to come through the first phases of the group.”
Three-time European Cup winner and Dutch legend Johan Cruyff spoke about his hometown side Ajax and their incredibly tough draw in group H alongside AC Milan, Celtic and Barcelona.
“They’re all old winners, it looks to me like a really exciting group,” Cruyff said. “I think it’s a fantastic thing for football that these people get to play against each other. “
Ajax finished third in the group stages last year to qualify for the UEFA Europa League and finished above Manchester City. Cruyff wants to go one better.
“That’s the aim, we have a very young group and they play nicely together,” Cruyff said. “Last season they showed that they are capable of knocking Manchester City out of European football so let’s hope we do that again.”
Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany seemed to be pretty content with his sides draw this season. The 27-year-old Belgian skipper took to Twitter as City aim to make it past the group stage for the first time since qualifying for Europe’s Premier club competition.
While Arsenal’s French striker Olivier Giroud acknowledged the tough group the Gunners have been handed as they face last years runners-up Dortmund as well as Rafael Benitez’ Napoli side and Marseille in group F.