The draw for the 2013 UEFA Champions League group stage has now been completed, and in some respects, FC Barcelona can count themselves a little fortunate. Drawn into Group H alongside a couple of familiar foes in AC Milan and Celtic, as well as a long-term "partner" AFC Ajax, Barcelona’s group is likely to be highly competitive and will thoroughly test Gerardo Martino’s squad, but at least the Blaugrana avoided the dreaded "Group of Death".
Each and every year, there is always one, and once again, this year’s "Group of Death" includes Barcelona’s arch-rivals, Real Madrid. Los Blancos have been paired with Serie A winners Juventus, last season’s quarter-finalists Galatasaray and Danish Superliga champions Copenhagen in Group B. Elsewhere, Real Sociedad were handed a place in Group A with David Moyes’ Manchester United, Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk and Bayer Leverkusen, while Supercopa de España runners-up Atletico Madrid will take on UEFA Europa League runners-up FC Porto, Russian league runners-up Zenit St. Petersburg and Bundesliga winners Austria Wien in Group G.
Being tied with both AC Milan and Celtic is likely to bring back memories of Barcelona’s underwhelming 2012-2013 UEFA Champions League campaign, although thankfully, Celtic have since sold on a few key players and struggled to eliminate Shakhter Karagandy in the play-off round. Milan on the other hand lost their opening Serie A fixture to newly-promoted Chievo Verona last weekend, and really, shouldn’t rival Barça for top spot in the group.
Somewhat surprisingly, the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, did not pick up the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, as French winger Franck Ribery somehow earned nearly three times as many votes as the four-time Ballon d’Or winning Argentine. Yeah, I didn’t get it either. The draw is listed in full below: