Chelsea begin their defense of the UEFA Champions League final in a group that presents challenges, but that they will be expected to get out of. They're facing Juventus in the Old Lady's return to Europe's biggest club competition, and it's difficult to predict exactly how they'll perform outside of Italy. Shakhtar Donetsk should be a threat as always, while FC Nordjaelland is probably just happy to be here.
Juventus might have a deeper side than Chelsea and they're coming off an impressive Scudetto campaign, but the Blues are a known quantity in Europe. Didier Drogba is gone, but their entire first choice starting XI has played at this level, either with Chelsea or some other club. The Blues have looked excellent in league play thus far and Eden Hazard looks like a legitimate superstar player.
Going Through: Juventus
Even if Juventus don't have much Champions League experience in their squad, they're still a stronger and more proven side than Shakhtar Donetsk. New acquisitions Kwadwo Asamoah, Mauricio Isla and Sebastian Giovinco all give Juventus big upgrades in both quality and depth, and they might have been the difference between the Old Lady getting to the knockout rounds and bowing out early.
Europa League Bound: Shakhtar Donetsk
If Shakhtar hold onto Willian and play their best football, there's no reason to believe that they can't challenge Chelsea and Juventus. Many of the players on their team were part of the UEFA Cup winning side, as well as the team that beat Roma in the knockout stages of Champions League. Willian, Alex Texeira, Dentinho and Henrikh Mkhitaryan aren't youngsters anymore. This is a strong and experienced side, but they will need to improve on last season's performances. Shakhtar was extremely disappointing in a very winnable group in 2011.
Dead Last: FC Nordsjælland
The draw didn't fall too kindly to Nordsjaelland. The good news for them is that they haven't drawn any of the teams that possess the talent and style of football to crush them 6-0. They're going to struggle to get any points, but they're more likely to be on the wrong end of 2-0 losses that are not as close as the score indicates than they are to get outright whooped.
Best Player: Eden Hazard
With all apologies to the large group of very solid players on Juventus, Hazard is the best player in this group without a doubt. He's been dominant in his first three games in a Chelsea shirt, and based on his spectacular performances for Lille over the past couple of years, this probably isn't an anomaly. Arturo Vidal of Juventus is going to have his hands full attempting to keep him in check, since Andrea Pirlo won't be chasing him around.
Emerging Star: Sebastian Giovinco
Last season, Juventus went through a carousel of forwards and didn't have much in the way of creativity in an advanced position. Giovinco returned to the team from Parma during the summer, and he's a perfect fit for the second striker role in Juventus' 3-5-2 and should be the focal point of most of their attacks.
Must-Watch Game: Juventus vs. Chelsea
If Juventus can nick all three points off of Chelsea at home, this group will be very interesting.