Newcomers Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC can expect a testing introduction to UEFA Champions League group-stage football after being drawn alongside last season's semi-finalists Olympique Lyonnais plus European stalwarts SL Benfica and FC Schalke 04 in Group B.
The section features the champions of Israel and Portugal as well the runners-up from France and Germany last term, with Benfica the only previous competition winners after claiming the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1960/61 and 1961/62. They will take on top seeds Lyon keen to repeat their success against Les Gones' Ligue 1 rivals Olympique de Marseille in March this year, when they triumphed 2-1 in France to complete a 3-2 aggregate success in the UEFA Europa League round of 16.
Bernard Lacombe, Lyon special adviser
The team I'm most afraid of are Benfica. I saw them play very well last season against Marseille, especially away from home. They are a good team who play fine football. Schalke have a fantastic side as well as a fantastic stadium, which has given us ideas for our upcoming new stadium. Schalke's Raúl González is a player we've had success against with Real Madrid and hopefully that will continue. Hapoel are from a country whose teams are improving fast. They have many interesting foreign players and it will be very intriguing.
Rui Costa, Benfica sporting director
Benfica have every chance of going through. We know the difficulty level of this competition and there will be lots of tough moments against strong teams. It's a closely-matched group without any big names. Our goal is to get through the group stage and go as far as possible. We will take it step by step and the first one will be to get out of the group.
Felix Magath, Schalke coach
It was clear to us that we would get a tough group. Lyon managed to eliminate Real Madrid in the Champions League last year and Benfica secured the Portuguese championship very confidently last season. Hapoel Tel-Aviv are certainly a team that we can beat. Securing a result in our three home games will be very important. We will go into the Champions League keen to secure a spot in the first knockout round, but it's definitely not an easy draw for us.
Eli Gutman, Hapoel Tel-Aviv coach
Its an interesting group with attractive clubs. There is no Manchester United or Barcelona, but we will do everything we can to represent the club with dignity.
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