It may not be the same glamour group as last season, but Juventus haven't been dealt the easiest deck of cards going into this year's UEFA Champions League group stage.
Being one of the second seeds in the draw, Italy's Old Lady could've easily been matched against one of the four English teams or reigning champions Barcelona who were all in pot one. As the second teir of teams were announced, the names and the biggest teams went by without having Italy's most-storied team in the group.
In what Juventus manager Ciro Ferrara called a "balanced but tough group," the outcome of Thursday's Champions League draw pits Juve against German giants Bayern Munich, French champions Bordeaux, and Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa in Group A.
"The first impression is that of a well balanced group with teams who are currently going through a different situation," Ferrara told juventus.com. "Bayern are currently going through a bad patch and Bordeaux who last year did very well. It is a tough group but it also depends on when we will be playing the matches."
In his first season as Juve manager, Ferrara knows that there are a higher level of expectations compared to last season. Unlike last year, there is not just the happy feeling knowing that Juve are back in European football. There are expectations and hopes that Juve can go far in this year's tournament.
With Juve's closest rivals Inter and AC Milan being grouped with Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, Ferrara's boys may be Serie A's best chance to take the top spot in a group. And even though last year's against Chelsea matchup doesn't mean that taking the top spot equals an easier game in the knockout stages, winning your group should be the target every year for a club like Juventus.
Understandably, the biggest matchup in the group will be when Juve face Bayern. And the two teams have history in the Champions League against one another. The last time the two European powers faced one another was in the 2005 group stages, with both teams winning at home 2-1.
Another interesting storyline will surely develop when Juve face Bordeaux in their group opener in Turin as Ferrara will be opposed on the sidelines by former Napoli teammate Laurent Blanc. They may have been teammates for only one year in Naples, but there won't be much time for reminiscing with business to be taken of care of on the pitch between the two.
Maccabi Haifa make their first appearance in the Champions League since the 2002-03 season. They are the first Israeli side to make it into the Champions League for the second time after beating FC Salzburg 5-1 on aggregate in the qualification round.