Champions League Draw 2012: 6 Most Enticing First-Round Matchups
Kevin Lee/Getty Images
Each year, 32 teams dream of taking home the Champions League trophy. Each year, the journey starts with the first round.
The group stages have been drawn, and now we know who will face off in an attempt to get their title march underway. For some, the group stage represents an accomplishment in and of itself that symbolizes a rise to the elite of soccer. For others, it is but a stepping stone.
Either way, the best in Europe match up and provide insight into their form and skill. Here are the most enticing showdowns we will see before the direct elimination rounds.
PSG vs. Porto
Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrating a goal
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
Not many clubs have made as big of a splash this offseason as Paris Saint-Germain. They acquired Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Lucas Moura and, according to Goal.com, are close to signing Dutch defender Gregory Van Der Wiel.
These signings add to a squad already blessed with talents such as Thiago Motta, Jeremy Menez, Nene, Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi. This sort of lavish spending obviously comes with high expectations.
However, the French side will need to gel quickly to face the experienced Porto side. Despite the Yahoo! Sports report of Joao Moutinho's departure to Tottenham, the club has managed to keep their roster relatively intact.
Porto won the Liga Europa two seasons ago and are the defending Portuguese champions. Paris will be favored, but they will need their stars to perform to take Group A.
Real Madrid vs. Manchester City
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Anytime the La Liga champion faces the Premier League champion, it's a showdown not to be missed. This matchup will be the biggest attraction of the first round and will resemble an All-Star game.
Madrid's recent victory over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup has to place them as favorites in this group, but City's array of talent will make it interesting.
Both squads have offensive firepower most teams can only dream of, so make sure to circle this one on your calendar.
Real Madrid vs. Borussia Dortmund
Robert Lewandowski controlling the ball
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
When your name isn't Bayern Munich, winning consecutive Bundesliga titles is a rare accomplishment. The fact that Borussia Dortmund did this by setting a record for points in a season tells you just how skilled this club is.
The midfield of Marco Reus and Mario Gotze is very young and talented. They are dangerous offensively and have the benefit of serving Robert Lewandowski up top.
Lewandowski is a supremely talented striker who cannot be underestimated.
Madrid do have the best keeper in the world in Iker Casillas to protect an already solid defense, but the explosiveness of Dortmund could cause problems.
Expect a battle that will end with whoever finishes best that day.
Manchester City vs. Borussia Dortmund
Mario Balotelli discussing with Roberto Mancini
Michael Regan/Getty Images
This matchup is extremely important because it will likely decide who goes through to the next round and who goes to the Liga Europa.
Both squads would be heavily favored to play in the round of 16 were they in any other group, but one of them will have to settle for chasing the secondary European title.
In order to avoid that fate, both squads have no choice but to up the tempo offensively. Samir Nasri and David Silva will need to find Edin Dzeko, Balotelli and Tevez up front while creating chances for themselves with their dribbling.
For Dortmund, it will be about Lewandowski. He plays best with space, so Reus and Gotze have to erase defenders and create openings.
Chelsea vs. Juventus Turin
Eden Hazard dribbling the ball
Michael Regan/Getty Images
It's easy to forget about Juventus Turin being a European power since the match-fixing scandal rocked the club back in 2006. However, Juventus are the defending champions of Italy and they did it without losing a single match all season.
Andrea Pirlo demonstrated at Euro 2012 that he is still one of the best maestros in the world and Yahoo! Sports has reported that he will get to serve Danish star Nicklas Bendtner up front next season.
However, Juventus faces a steep challenge against the defending champion. Chelsea are looking to repeat and upgraded their already prolific squad with the arrival of Eden Hazard.
Hazard has been stupendous thus far with Chelsea and seems to be creating chemistry with Fernando Torres at a rate that alarms opponents.
The battle for Group C will likely come down to these two, and it is sure to be a thriller.
Bayern Munich vs. Lille
Arjen Robben and Mario Mandzukic celebrate
Victor Fraile/Getty Images
Rare are defeats more painful than the one Bayern Munich suffered at the hands of Chelsea in the Champions League final last May. In front of their home crowd, Munich let the title slip away from them three separate times.
Now, they are looking for revenge. That all starts by winning their group and avoiding the trap that is Lille. Crippled by the loss of Eden Hazard, Lille still maintain talent with players such as Marvin Martin and Salomon Kalou.
However, the skill of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Mario Mandzukic, Thomas Muller, Mario Gomez, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger will be overpowering. Munich has immense skill and have to be considered among the favorites to win the whole tournament.