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Benfica, Zenit and Bayer fear Monaco factor

European regulars SL Benfica, FC Zenit and Bayer 04 Leverkusen are braced for a very even group after being drawn with Pot 4 danger men AS Monaco FC, runners-up in 2004.

Radamel Falcao's Monaco will be ambitious in Group C
Radamel Falcao's Monaco will be ambitious in Group C ©AFP/Getty Images

Group C: SL Benfica, FC Zenit, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, AS Monaco FC

• Monaco are playing in Europe for the first time since 2005/06. This is their first UEFA Champions League group stage foray since 2004/05, when they got as far as the round of 16; they had been runners-up the previous year.

• Zenit beat Leverkusen in the quarter-finals of their victorious 2007/08 UEFA Cup campaign, largely thanks to a 4-1 first-leg win in Germany. The Russian club progressed despite a 1-0 home defeat.

• Zenit advanced from last term's group stage with just six points – the lowest 'successful' total in UEFA Champions League history.

• Benfica have been runners-up in the last two UEFA Europa League seasons having transferred from the UEFA Champions League group stage. The Portuguese side overcame Zenit 4-3 on aggregate in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League round of 16.

• Leverkusen lost to Benfica in the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League round of 32, going down 1-0 at home and 2-1 in Portugal. The German outfit also came off second best when the teams met in the 1993/94 European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals, defeated on away goals after a 5-5 draw.

Nuno Gomes, Benfica director for foreign relations

It is a very balanced group. The four teams will start with the same ambition, which is go through to the next phase. We will also fight for that. We know that we will be reunited with some good friends [Zenit pair Javi García and Axel Witsel, plus Bernardo Silva at Monaco], but our only ambition is to be in the next round. We will fight in every game so that we can move on in this competition. The journey to Russia will be long, but that cannot be an excuse for a poor result there. Zenit usually have good campaigns in this competition and have great financial power, but we want to go through.

André Villas-Boas, Zenit coach
This shows the level of the Champions League. All four teams in our group are top sides; everybody has the ambition and desire to qualify. Zenit definitely have everything necessary to compete with any of our opponents. I am sure the coming games will be very exciting for our fans.

Javi García, Zenit midfielder
We have a very even group; I would say the most even there is. All four teams have the same chance of going through. As for me, I'm happy as I get the chance to play in Lisbon once again.

Rudi Völler, Leverkusen sporting director
The quality of a Champions League group is often determined by the weakest opponent. Our group has become very complicated with the addition of AS Monaco. We have a score to settle with Benfica and also lost to Zenit in the UEFA Cup once. It is a difficult but still somewhat balanced group.

Radamel Falcao, Monaco forward
This is quite a tight group, with all the teams having a chance to advance. Some teams are more experienced than us, but we will defend our chances with a lot of drive. Our club has a great history in the Champions League and we will do everything to live up to that.

Leonardo Jardim, Monaco coach
This is a group without a favourite team but with four attractive, skilful sides. It's open to everyone and that's a good thing. With focus and hard work, we can go through to the last 16. Hopefully the stadium will be full and many fans will be there to support us.