Rivalries to Be Reignited in the Champions League Group Stage

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2013

Rivalries to Be Reignited in the Champions League Group Stage

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    Thankfully, UEFA's tedious Champions League draw ceremony is now behind us, and we know which European giants will be tackling each other head-on in the 2013-14 group stages.

    Although there is no clear "group of death" this year, we will be treated to many tantalising matchups as the biggest teams on the continent make their way toward the biggest prize in domestic football.  

    Here are some of the biggest Champions League rivalries to look forward to in the coming months...

Barcelona vs. Celtic

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    Billy McNeill was the captain of the Celtic side that famously triumphed over Inter Milan in the 1967 European Cup final, and the 73-year-old was back in the limelight this week, as he opened (and struggled with) some of the balls in the Champions League draw.

    McNeill played his part in helping The Hoops place in Group H, which is entirely made up of former winners. Among them is Barcelona, whom Celtic have played 10 times in their history, dating back to the 1964 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (in which McNeill participated).

    The rivalry between Barca and Celtic isn't exactly long and storied, but the Catalan giants will certainly have a score to settle after they were defeated, 2-1, at Parkhead last season in one of the Scottish champions' most famous nights. 

    Evidently, Gerrard Pique is either savouring or dreading his next trip to Glasgow. 

Barcelona vs. Milan

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    Group H is also home to a European rivalry that extends back over 50 years to 1959: Barcelona and AC Milan.

    The Spanish and Italian sides have played each other more frequently than some of their domestic opponents in recent seasons—they will have faced off eight times in three years by the end of this group stage.

    In the past two seasons, Barca have had the better of Milan out at the knockout stages, eliminating them in the round of 16 last season and the quarterfinals in 2011-12.

    The Catalan side will be wary of the surprise 2-0 defeat they suffered at the San Siro last February, while the Rossoneri will be keen to make amends for the 4-0 drubbing they received in the return leg at the Nou Camp.  

Arsenal vs. Borussia Dortmund

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    Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund have only ever faced each other four times, but their matchup should be the highlight of Group F.

    BVB and "The Gunners" also shared Group F in the 2011-12 competition, but the 2013 runners-up failed to beat the Londoners in both games, drawing, 1-1, at the Westfalenstadion and losing, 2-1, at the Emirates.

    That season, Dortmund were sent home, bottom of their group with their tails between their legs, while Arsenal progressed to the round of 16. 

    "The fact is, we've got a bit of a score to settle with Arsenal...," said BvB manager Jurgen Klopp, according to the BBC, immediately after the draw, emphasising the fact that Arsene Wenger's side are one of his continental bugbears. 

    This might also be billed as a "clash of the frugal," with both teams enjoying European success, despite a relative lack of spending. 

Borussia Dortmund vs. Marseille

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    Another reason for Borussia Dortmund's unceremonious exit from the 2011-12 Champions League was the schooling they received from Marseille.

    OM put three unanswered goals past a hapless BVB at the Stade Vélodrome in September 2011, and a 2-1 half-time lead in Dortmund became a 3-2 defeat, thanks to late goals from Andre Ayew and Mathieu Valbuena.

    This brace of games represented the only occasions the two sides have met, but Jurgen Klopp is desperately keen to enact some retribution on Les Phocéens.

    "...we have some revenge to get on Marseille," he said, according to the BBC, implying this is a year of European payback for Dortmund. 

Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich

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    Having been unwilling participants in the "group of death" for the past two seasons, Manchester City will feel more confident of progressing to the knockout round with CSKA Moscow, Viktoria Plzen and champions Bayern Munich keeping them company.

    Manuel Pellegrini's toughest challenge will be the Bundesliga champions, who helped City on their journey to the Europa League in the 2011-12 competition.

    That season marked the first and only pair of meetings between these two sides, with both games ending in 2-0 victories for the home team (incidentally, the game at the Allianz Arena was the one where Carlos Tevez decided not to make a substitute appearance before heading back to Argentina to improve his golf handicap).

    Once again, this isn't a fabled rivalry, but it sees a team with high expectations looking to improve their dismal European record against the untouchable title holders, whose new manager is still settling in. 

Real Madrid vs. Juventus

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    Group B had all the hallmarks of a "group of death," as Real Madrid and Juventus were the first names out of the pot. They were, however, joined by FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray, which makes the Spanish-Italian duel a clear highlight.

    Carlo Ancelotti and his assistant Zinedine Zidane were, of course, both former employees of the Old Lady—the Frenchman was in the Juve side that was defeated by Los Blancos in the 1998 final.

    The Madridistas will be looking to reverse the recent trend of results against the side whom Director of Institutional Relations Emilio Butragueno refers to as their "historical rivals."

    Madrid have lost all of their last three meetings with Juventus, with the last victory dating back to February 2005.

    Historically, these European giants are very closely matched, having beaten each other seven times. Don't expect a dull game between these two, as they have never drawn. 

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