Joan Laporta believes FC Barcelona will rise to the challenge after the 2006 winners were pitted against Sporting Clube de Portugal, FC Basel 1893 and FC Shakhtar Donetsk in Group C.
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FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta believes his side will rise to the challenge after the 2006 winners were pitted with Sporting Clube de Portugal, FC Basel 1893 and FC Shakhtar Donetsk in UEFA Champions League Group C. The Catalan club reached the semi-finals last season, losing to eventual winners Manchester United FC, and Laporta is optimistic a third European Champion Clubs' Cup could be attainable. Basel, in the group stage for the first time since 2002/03 and only the second overall, are hopeful of springing a surprise while Sporting and Shakhtar are older hands – in the last 32 for the third year running, yet still full of excitement.
Joan Laporta, Barcelona president
On paper it looks like a manageable group, but we have enough experience to know we need to be attentive and not over-confident. We have to respect all our rivals and work hard. Nothing is easy and we'll take this very seriously. We have a team that will attempt to win every competition they enter. To do that, we have to offer hard work, quality football and commitment. We have a very good squad because we've made lots of signings under our new coach, but we still have to prove it. We're very confident in our chances though. We have a new coach who knows the club extremely well and knows football like nobody else.
Paulo Bento, Sporting coach
This group is different from the one last year, where there were two favourites. Things are more even this season even though there is one clear favourite. However, we cannot think it's an easy task ahead. Last year we eliminated the Swiss champions [in the UEFA Cup Round of 32] and Shakhtar were not able to get through the group stage. We have to fight tenaciously if we want to get into the first knockout round, where Sporting have never been before. It's going to be six hard matches for us.
Christian Gross, Basel coach
We have worked hard to reach this stage. It's a tough draw, but you're never without a chance. At first glance, all three teams play better football than us, but if we have the right commitment we can grow while playing any opponent. Playing Barcelona is always appealing and prestigious and playing at the Camp Nou is a highlight for any player. We also want payback against Sporting for ousting us in last season's UEFA Cup and we know Shakhtar very well from friendlies.
Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Shakhtar defender
I can't say I'm disappointed with the draw despite the fact the famous Barcelona are one of our opponents. Their team are still one of the best in the world, even if their results were not great last year. Sporting and Basel are no better than we are, so we have a good chance to get through. Our president Rinat Ahmetov and head coach Mircea Lucescu have set that goal for us. All the teams have equal chances. It's really important for us not to repeat the mistakes of last season, when we made a great start to the group stage but were really poor at its end.