UEFA Champions League Group B preview

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Three strong teams were drawn into Group B of the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League, with only Danish champion Copenhagen set to struggle for relevance in a powerful quartet.

source:  Real Madrid

How they qualified: La Liga second place, directly into group stage

Best finish: Winner (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002)

Home stadium: Estadio Santiago Bernabéu / Madrid, Spain

Coach: Carlo Ancelotti

Outlook: This is Real Madrid’s 17th consecutive season in the Champions League, where it will look for a record 10th title. New manager Carlo Ancelotti joined from Paris Saint-Germain, where he led a similarly star-studded squad to the Ligue 1 title last year. However, two narrow victories against much weaker opponents in the opening La Liga matches show that there is work to be done for Real to realize its full potential.

source:  Juventus

How they qualified: Serie A champion, directly into group stage

Best finish: Winner (1985, 1996)

Home stadium: Juventus Stadium / Turin, Italy

Coach: Antonio Conte

Outlook: Buying Carlos Tévez and Fernando Llorente over the summer gives Juventus an attack to fear, with the ageless Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings in midfield. This is perhaps Juventus’ strongest squad in several years, which is saying a lot considering the comfortable nine-point margin by which it won the league last year. European glory is the next step for Antonio Conte’s men, who have won the last two Scudettos.

source:  Galatasaray

How they qualified: Süper Lig champion, directly into group stage

Best finish: Semifinals (1989)

Home stadium: Türk Telekom Arena / Istanbul, Turkey

Coach: Fatih Terim

Outlook: Galatasaray always manages to stay relevant in the European game despite playing in the generally inferior Turkish league. It’s an ambitious club that is willing to spend as much as the Western European powers to buy players such as Wesley Sneijder, Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Eboué, who have made Gala a force to be reckoned with in the past year.

source:  FC Copenhagen

How they qualified: Superliga champion, directly into group stage

Best finish: Round of 16 (2011)

Home stadium: Parken Stadium / Copenhagen, Denmark

Coach: Ståle Solbakken

Outlook: The real outlier in a fairly strong group, FC Copenhagen will struggle to stick with the other three teams in Group B. Despite not dropping out of the top three in Denmark’s highest division since the 1999-2000 season, Copenhagen has also never won a European competition, only advancing beyond the group stage a handful of times in its existence.

Group outlook

Juventus and Real Madrid will be favored to advance to the knockout rounds out of Group B, but Galatasaray could mount a serious threat in its first full year with Drogba and Sneijder. Third place is still the likeliest finishing spot for the Turkish champion, while Copenhagen could steal points from visiting teams in Denmark, but it will struggle to muster any sort of challenge abroad.

Cisse arrested in sex tape investigation

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Former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse is embroiled in a bizarre investigation into the extortion of a sex tape.

The 34-year-old French striker has been arrested by French police who have confirmed that are investigating attempts to bribe another international footballer.

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Unconfirmed reports from France claim that the individual in question is France and Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, a former teammate of Cisse at both Marseille and with the French national team.

According to Reuters news agency, Cisse was questioned because he was familiar with the people involved and in total four individuals were arrested as it is alleged they plotted to ask for money from Valbuena for the sex tape to not be released. It is unclear if the tape is of Valbeuna and his partner Fanny Lafon, or if other individuals are involved.

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Cisse won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool and scored 24 goals in 79 games during his three-year stay at Anfield until 2007. He also had spells with Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League, while he is currently out of contract after being released by Ligue 1 side Bastia following nine goals in 41 appearances. Cisse is due to appear on the French version of “Dancing with the Stars” in the coming months.

Further reports from France say that Cisse is expected to be “exonerated” and that the existence of the video is “not proven” at this point.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?