It will be a baptism of fire for Rudi Garcia's Roma, but it's also the perfect return to Europe's biggest competition for the Giallorossi because long term, competing with the likes of City and Bayern is exactly where Roma want to be.
Roma return to the UCL for the first time since being knocked out in the Round of 16 by Shakhtar Donetsk. That year they also found themselves in the group with Bayern, and actually beat the Germans in a thrilling 3-2 encounter at the Olimpico.
Their three-year absence left them in Pot 4, with the lowest-ranked sides, and made a taxing draw almost inevitable. But even though getting out of the group will be an incredibly difficult task for Garcia, the tough opposition will work to the benefit of Roma in the long run because the sooner his younger players get used to the biggest stage, the better.
The likes of Daniele De Rossi, Francesco Totti, Maicon and Ashley Cole have all enjoyed success at the highest level either with club or country, but for most of Garcia's squad this will be a new experience. If the Giallorossi are to become one of the top sides in the world—a stated aim by their ownership—then they'll have to face the likes of Bayern at some point.
Without wanting to sound too Machiavellian, those kind of battles can't be avoided if Roma want to succeed, they can only be postponed to the advantage of others. So it's best to dive right in and see if this current roster will sink or swim.
The Scudetto will be chief among the Lupi's aims this term, but having some marquee games in Europe at the same time can provide them with extra impetus, even if it will put strain on the squad.
Speaking to Fifa.com, the manager was keen to point out that he relishes challenges and is always looking for new ways to motivate his players. He was also adamant that his attractive, attacking style of football wouldn't be sacrificed for results. He said:
It doesn't strike me as possible to win anything over the long term without playing well. For me, the type of football that's rooted in possession and passing is the one that gets the best results.
A coach has to question himself all the time, just like the players. We mustn't let up, and we need to maintain our thirst for victory. When things are going well, a squad can sometimes be tempted to drift along with the current. I'll make sure there's always a bit of a storm there to keep them awake.
In the same interview, star midfielder Miralem Pjanic revealed that it was exactly that kind of mentality that convinced him to stay at the Olimpico, even though he had several other big clubs chasing him.
"I got a lot of very big offers," said the Bosnian playmaker, "but I decided to stay at Roma, not just to win the Scudetto but also because I have an excellent relationship with Garcia and share the same vision of how to play the game."
That unity, focus and belief in their methods will be key for Roma, and could prove enough to escape from this season's most difficult UCL draw. Bayern, CSKA and City were also in the same group last term, but the Germans and the current Premier League champions have both strengthened over the summer and Roma's inclusion makes it incredibly competitive.
Bayern are the overwhelming favourites, but Roma will fancy their chances against everyone at home, but won't be scared of City, who were convincingly beaten home and away by an under-par Barcelona in the 2013-14 Round of 16.
Both have stronger squads on the whole than Roma's, but the Giallorossi's best XI is capable of causing anyone trouble and once Garcia can keep his best players fit, he'll be cautiously optimistic about causing an upset.
And if he doesn't, it won't be the end of the world because after 14 seasons without a league title, the Scudetto remains the main target. As they continue to rebuild, invest in the transfer market and make big plans for the future, the Lupi will be expected to start causing waves in Europe before too long. But on their first season back as a small fish in the biggest pond, for now it will be enough for them to test the water.
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