Breaking Down Real Madrid's Champions League Group Stage Opponents

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2014

Breaking Down Real Madrid's Champions League Group Stage Opponents

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    Paul White/Associated Press

    It doesn't stop at 10.

    Real Madrid scored three goals in extra time against Atletico Madrid last season to get their hands on their 10th European cup.

    However, after a long wait for the fabled La Decima, they now go in search of their 11th European title.

    Iker Casillas brought the trophy along to the draw in Monaco on Thursday, before it was revealed who Los Blancos will face when they get their Champions League defence underway next month.

    The following slides take a look at the three teams placed in Group B with Carlo Ancelotti's men.

FC Basel

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    Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

    Based: Basel, Switzerland

    Founded: 1893

    Ground: St. Jakob-Park (38,512)

    Swiss Super League 2013/14: 1st

    Champions League 2013/14: Group stage

    Europa League 2013/14: Quarter-final

    Manager: Paulo Sousa

    Notable player(s): Walter Samuel

    Real Madrid were among the top seeds in Thursday's Champions League draw, so they were always set to avoid some of Europe's biggest hitters.

    However, there were still some dangerous teams in the second pot. Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund were all possible rivals, so they will have been happy to see FC Basel join them in Group B.

    Not that the Swiss side will be a walk-over.

    In last season's Champions League they beat Jose Mourinho's Chelsea home and away, although they could only manage to finish third in the group.

    Dropping into the Europa League, they progressed to the quarter-finals, where they were knocked out by Valencia.

    Paulo Sousa, once a player for Benfica, Juventus and Inter Milan, manages Basel, and the 43-year-old will be hopeful of causing an upset against Madrid when the two sides meet at St. Jakob-Park.

    After those famous wins against Chelsea, though, the Blues, suitably impressed, snapped up the Rotblau's best player, Mohamed Salah. 

    There is still one particularly notable name in the Basel squad: Walter Samuel. The Argentine defender, who made 40 appearances for Madrid nearly a decade ago, was signed on a free transfer this summer.

Liverpool

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    Based: Liverpool, England

    Founded: 1892

    Ground: Anfield (45,276)

    Premier League 2013/14: 2nd

    Champions League 2013/14: n/a

    Europa League 2013/14: n/a

    Manager: Brendan Rodgers

    Notable player(s): Steven Gerrard, Mario Balotelli

    When Liverpool and Real Madrid last met in the Champions League, the Spanish side left Anfield with their tails between their legs.

    After Yossi Benayoun had scored a late winner at the Bernabeu in the first leg of the last 16 clash between the two sides, Madrid travelled to England knowing they needed to win well.

    They didn't even come close.

    Fernando Torres opened the scoring after 16 minutes, Steven Gerrard added two more and Andrea Dossena scored a fourth as the match neared its completion.

    Five years later, things should be different this time round—Madrid will certainly hope so, at least.

    Liverpool are returning to Europe's elite competition following a four-year absence after Brendan Rodgers steered them to a second-place finish last season.

    However, like Basel, they have lost their most important player: Luis Suarez signed for Barcelona earlier this summer.

    In Steven Gerrard they still hold memories of their previous Champions League glories, while in new signing Mario Balotelli they are hopeful of creating more history in a competition they have already won five times.

PFC Ludogorets Razgrad

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    Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press

    Based: Razgrad, Bulgaria

    Founded: 2001

    Ground: Ludogorets (8,000)

    A Group: 1st

    Champions League 2013/14: Qualifying rounds

    Europa League 2013/14: Last 16

    Manager: Georgi Dermendzhiev

    Notable player(s): Cosmin Moti

    The name PFC Ludogorets Razgrad is unlikely to strike fear into this season's Champions League participants, but even European champions Real Madrid should be cautious of them.

    Only formed in 2001, the Bulgarians made their first appearance in Europe's top competition in 2012, losing to Dinamo Zagreb 4-3 on aggregate in the second qualifying round.

    In 2013 they went further, but lost 6-2 on aggregate to Basel in the final qualifying round.

    That meant they dropped into the Europa League, where they won their group—including home and away wins against PSV Eindhoven—and then beat Lazio in the last 32 before exiting the competition to Valencia.

    This season they've gone one better again, beating Steaua Bucharest in an enthralling penalty shootout on Wednesday night.

    Romanian defender Cosmin Moti was the star of the show. With the goalkeeper, Vladislav Stoyanov, sent off in extra time, Moti went in goal for the penalties, saving two and scoring one as Razgrad progressed to the Champions League group stages for the first time in their short history.

    The Ludogorets Arena in the Bulgarian city of Razgrad, which only holds 8,000 fans, won't be a particularly nice place for Carlo Ancelotti's side to visit.