Champions League guide to Group H: Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax, Celtic

Following the draw in Monaco, we guide you through the sides that make up Group H

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The Independent Football

Team-by-team guide to the sides that make up Group H in this season's Champions League...

FC BARCELONA

A European power-house, Barcelona have reached the semi-finals in seven of the last eight seasons and will be expected to continue their success in this years competition under new-coach Gerardo Martino who will be partaking in his maiden Champions League campaign.

Key Player – Lionel Messi: The record-breaking four-time Ballon d’Or winner sits at number two in the list of all-time record scorers in the competition.

Manager – Gerardo Martino: Argentine coach embarking on his first season with Barcelona following Tito Villanova’s resignation due to ill health.

Champions League best finish: Champions; 1992, 2006, 2009, 2011

 

AC MILAN

Milan reached three finals in five years during the 2000’s; winning two of them, but they have been unable to recapture such dominant form in recent tournaments. Their domestic form has also been hampered by the return of Juventus as well as the emergence of Napoli. Milan surprised many last season by beating Barcelona 2-0 in the round of 16 to give them a chance of progressing in the competition. Unfortunately, they were beaten 4-0 in the return leg and the Nou Camp. Milan qualified following a slim victory over Dutch side PSV.

Key player – Mario Balotelli (Italy): Balotelli will be well known to English fans following his turbulent spell at Manchester City. With the circus that often surrounds his personal life it can become easy to forget the supreme talent of the Italian. Balotelli is extremely skilfull and can find the net from seemingly impossible positions, but he also has a tendency to lose his head and Milan will rely upon him heavily this season.

Manager – Massimiliano Allegri (Italy): Allegri had an extremely good start to life as the manager of The Rossoneri, winning the league title and Italian cup in 2011. However, he has struggled to propel the team to another title with the return of Italian giants Juventus to the league.

Champions League best finish: Champions: 1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003 & 2007 

 

AJAX

Last season reemphasised Ajax’s dominance in Dutch football with their third league title in a row and therefore booked a place in the Champions’ League group stage.. Ajax will be hoping for a better group draw than the group of death they faced last term.

Key player – Siem De Jong (Netherlands): De Jong is equally comfortable in attacking midfield as well as up front and has been deployed there on many occasions following the sale of former Ajax talisman Luis Suarez in 2011.

Manager – Frank de Boer (Holland): De Boer is a club legend after having won the Dutch league five times as a player and the Champions League. As a manager, De Boer has led Ajax to three straight league titles.

Champions League best finish: Champions; 1971, 1972, 1973 & 1995

Did you know? Ajax are one of the most successful clubs in the history of the competition with four wins.

 

CELTIC

Last week, Celtic’s hopes of qualifying for the group stage hung by a thread after they were beaten 2-0 away in Kazakhstan by Shakhter Karagandy. But an excellent performance by the Scottish side and a last-minute goal by James Forrest gave them a 3-2 aggregate win. Celtic had an excellent campaign last season, which involved a win against Barcelona. They will be hoping to reach the quarterfinals for the first time.

Key player – James Forrest (Scotland): A mercurial winger with excellent pace and delivery. Many have called Forrest the light in the dark of Scottish football.

Manager – Neil Lennon: Lernnon had an extremely well decorated career with the Scottish side as a player, winning five league titles and four Scottish Cups. In his first managerial appointment he has so far won the league title twice and Scottish cup twice.

Champions League best finish: Champions: 1967

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