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Champions League preview: Holders visit the Old Lady

Juventus are back at Europe’s top table and will hope to start off by humbling the reigning champions.

Image: Getty Images

CHELSEA BEGIN THE defence of their UEFA Champions League title with a tough Group E fixture against Italian outfit Juventus.

Chelsea  surprised the football world with a series of terrific aggregate wins in the competition before defeating Bayern Munich on penalties in the final.

It was the first time the West London club had been crowned champions of Europe, something which will make their task of defending their title almost ‘impossible’ according to manager Roberto Di Matteo.

“Every opposition is going to play with extra motivation against the holders,” Di Matteo said.

“So it makes our lives more difficult. Even in the Premier League, I’m sure (QPR manager) Mark Hughes would have tried to motivate his team on Saturday by telling them they’re playing the European champions.

“I’m aware no team has defended the trophy and I’m not surprised because it’s such a difficult competition to win. To win it twice in a row has proven impossible so far, because it’s so competitive.”

Chelsea have been in good domestic form and top the Premier League table with three wins and one draw from their four matches so far.

Particularly crucial in the club’s success has been the form of Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard, who has already contributed a string of assists for Spanish striker Fernando Torres.

Hazard – who moved from Lille for a reported fee of 32 million pounds – was not the only piece of big business Chelsea did in the off-season.

Brazilian midfielder Oscar (25 million pounds), Nigerian attacker Victor Moses (nine million), German midfielder Marko Marin and Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta (both seven million) also joined the club, with Di Matteo’s signings looking astute to date.

Juventus won Serie A last term and are also top of their league, with the Turin-based club having won all three of their matches so far.
Goals from Emanuele Giaccherini, Mirko Vucinic and Kwadwo Asamoah in the second half saw them come from behind to beat Genoa 3-1 on Sunday.

Juve have also made a host of off-season signings, with the likes of Sebastian Giovinco, Mauricio Isla, Asamoah, Martin Caceres, Lucio and Nicklas Bendtner arriving at the club.

Nordsjaelland

Qualification into the knockout stages is not assured for either side though, with the presence of Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine sure to cause problems during the group stages.

Shakhtar proved their worth in the 2010/11 season when they embarked on a run to the quarter-finals, only to be knocked out by eventual champions Barcelona while they won the last ever UEFA Cup (now the Europa League) in 2009.

The presence of Brazilians; Willian, Douglas Costa and Luiz Adriano in addition to Darijo Srna, Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Razvan Rat and Eduardo mean the Shakhtar squad cannot be taken lightly.

They open their campaign with a home clash against FC Nordsjaelland of Denmark.

Nordsjaelland sit third in the Superliga with forward Joshua John having scored six goals in five league appearances for the club this season. They will be up against it though, particularly at the Donbass Arena, a stadium which Shakhtar have made a fortress in recent years.

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