City are the odd team out however; the only team to have never won Europe's Premier competition; but their ability to pick up results against Real Madrid should see them escape this tricky group ahead of the free-flowing Ajax and immensely talented Borussia Dortmund.
Champions League best: Winners (9) 1955-56, 1956-57, 1957-58, 1958-59, 1959-60, 1965-66, 1997-98, 1999-2000, 2001-02.
Qualified: Spanish champions
More illustrious opponents are pretty hard to come by in the Champions League as Real Madrid start off the ‘Group of Champions’ as favourites to progress. Last season was massive for Los Merengues after toppling Barcelona at the top of Spanish football but Jose Mourinho’s men have so far struggled to continue such form into the new season.
However the team is oozing quality and the desire to claim a first continental honour since 2002 has the Madrid faithful salivating.
Another institution on the European stage however in recent years they have failed to live up to their own lofty expectations. Becoming a selling club has obviously not helped buck that modern trend with Vurnon Anita, Jan Vertonghen and Gregory Van Der Wiel all leaving this summer.
Frank de Boer and assistant Dennis Bergkamp really have re-introduced the ‘total football’ mentality to the club where they first excelled and the result was plain to see in an excellent passing performance against Manchester United in last season’s Europa League in which they were unlucky not to advance.
They looked to be out of the title race toward the end of last season but after winning 14 games on the stretch they claimed the Eredivisie title ahead of nearest rivals Feyenoord.
Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Siem De Jong are influential for de Godenzonen and they have started this season undefeated heading into the game with Dortmund and are desperate to replicate their previous success in Europe this season.
They will look to the next generation of stars such as Ricardo van Rhijn, Lorenzo Ebecillio and summer signing Tobias Sana for an element of surprise.
Champions League best: Winners (4) 1970-71, 1971-72, 1972-73, 1994-95.
Qualified: Dutch champions
Champions League best: Winners (1): 1996–97
Qualified: German champions
Manchester City are the odd ones out in this Group, as while all the members are their nations current domestic champions, City are the only team not to have won the pinnacle of European football as a Dortmund side including Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert did in 1997.
Dortmund lost Shinji Kagawa this summer but have added more meat to their muscle with the arrival of Marco Reus. Along with keeping their trio of Polish stars Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski in the ranks they also have a fearsome centre-back partnership in Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic.
Manchester City must not underestimate the Bundesliga side if they are going to advance.
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image: © alfonso jimenez