The 2012/13 Champions League groups are now set, and Chelsea fans now know the three teams that they'll be bunched with as they attempt to defend their first ever Champions League title. Chelsea have been draw into group E with the following teams: Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, and Nordsjaelland. It's a tough draw, but it certainly could have been worse.
The scheduled times and dates for Chelsea's Champions League contests should be released shortly, and we will have those for you as soon as we know. We'll also have the results of the other draw for you later today, as Chelsea will learn where and who they'll be playing as they enter the Capital One Cup. For now though, we'll keep the discussion to the group we've just drawn for the Champions League. After the jump you can find what was written about these three clubs when we previewed the pots yesterday.
Shakhtar Donetsk - Several years ago, Shakhtar were pretty much unknown to all but the most diehard of footie fans. They burst onto the scene with a deep Champions League run though, and riding that run they are now firmly established as a pot two team for the foreseeable future. Shakhtar won the Ukrainian Premier League again last season, and they've been a perfect seven for seven to start this season as well.
Most of you probably know the key names in this squad, but their best players are certainly Willian and Darijo Srna. Eduardo, Douglas Costa, Luiz Adriano, and Razvan Rat are also names to keep in mind when discussing the Ukrainian side.
At the moment, the squad is more or less the same one that we've seen for the past several years. Marko Devic and Maicon Oliviera have arrived to provide depth at the striker position, but the big name involving this club is certainly Willian. Willian wants to leave, and Tottenham have been linked. Should Willian leave, this will be a much weaker squad than it has been for the past several seasons. Should he stay, Shakhtar will again be a very scary opponent that can focus on the CL due to a relatively weak domestic league.
Juventus - Juventus have been notably absent from the Champions League for the last several years. One of the traditional powerhouses of Italy (and probably the only top team in the league this season), Juve have pounced upon the financial struggles of clubs like Inter and AC Milan to build a club that managed an unbeaten season in Serie A last year. The reigning champs again look strong, and I'd expect them to challenge for a 29th domestic title this season.
Anyone familiar with the Italian national team will likely recognize most of the Juve roster. Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon are still fantastic, and Sebastian Giovinco may be the shortest sort of decent player on earth (although he's now injured). Notable non-Italians in the roster include Stephan Lichtsteiner and Arturo Vidal.
Juve have been extremely active this summer as well, adding several talented players to add depth to the squad.Paul Pogba, Lucio, Marin Caceres, Kwadwo Asamoah, and Mauricio Isla should all be significant contributors to the Juve squad this year. Milos Krasic and Eljero Elia are the only notable departures, and I'm not sure I'd count either as particularly important to the Italian champs. They still lack an elite striker, but they've been pushing hard in the transfer market and may yet add one by Friday. Without question, Juve are a much better squad than the one that won Serie A last season.
FC Nordsjaelland - The Danish outfit punched their ticket by surprisingly winning the Danish Superliga last season. They have relatively little recent history in Europe to speak of, so they will be among the bottom seeds in the tournament.
The team has lost two of their best players, but they still bring back the bulk of their squad. Jores Okore is easily the best returning player on the roster, and at 20, a good showing could see him moving to a much bigger club. Mikkel Beckmann, Morten Nordstrand, Kasper Lorentzen, and Jesper Hansen will also likely be players to watch.
As mentioned in the last paragraph, Nordsjaelland have lost two of their three best players. Andreas Bjelland has left for FC Twente, and he'll likely be a fairly solid player in the Eredivisie. Tobias Mikkelsen has also left the club to take his talents to the Bundesliga. They've added a bit of additional squad depth, but they haven't likely added anybody who will turn this club into a European power.
When all was said and done, this should be a thoroughly entertaining group. Shakhtar are an awful lot of fun to watch, and they play a very attacking brand of football. Juventus are very much the opposite, but they are one of the biggest names in Europe and have an awful lot of quality in the squad. Nordsjaelland should be the minnows of the group, and unfortunately they're not overly likely to secure a single point. It will be difficult, but this is certainly a group from which Chelsea should progress. Discuss away, and we'll have the dates and times for you shortly.