Reaction to the draw

The manager, sporting director and players all agree: Chelsea are the favourites in Group G, Sporting Lisbon will be uncomfortable opponents and Maribor should not be underestimated. gathered the thoughts of Jens Keller, Horst Heldt, Benedikt Höwedes, Julian Draxler and Ralf Fährmann on the upcoming European opponents.

Head coach Jens Keller:

It had long been clear that we would face tough tasks. Chelsea are certainly the favourites in the group and will provide us with two very hard games. I think that we will be fighting Sporting Lisbon for second place. It’s generally never easy to play a Portuguese side. Maribor are the underdogs on paper, but it would be a big mistake to underestimate an opponent. Our aim is to still be in the competition come the winter break.

Sporting director Horst Heldt:

We want to get through the group stages, just as we have in recent years. Of course, we have a score to settle with Chelsea – we’re looking forward to that. Sporting Lisbon are a club full of tradition. They will be two really intensive battles. Plus, Maribor provided their quality in the play-offs and knocked out Celtic. We’ll be coming up against some familiar faces, but also some new ones with Sporting and Maribor. Chelsea are without a doubt the favourites. We hope that we’ll be above the other two teams come the end and at least finish in second.

Captain Benedikt Höwedes:

From our own experience from last year, we know that Chelsea is an amazing draw to get. Sporting are technically good and play quick football. NK Maribor are the big unknown for me. It’s a doable group for us, but it doesn’t come without its dangers. 

Julian Draxler:

The group is really interesting. We undersold ourselves twice against Chelsea last season. We want to do better this time and show what we’re capable of. Sporting Lisbon have been one of Portugal’s top clubs for years, so we know what awaits us with them. Maribor are difficult to judge I feel. But they beat Celtic in the play-offs and are in the group phase for a reason. Our goal, as in recent years, is to reach the knockouts.

Ralf Fährmann:

I’m really looking forward to facing off with Chelsea because they’re my favourite team in England. I tend to pick them when I play FIFA on a console (laughs). I didn’t get to play against Chelsea in either meeting last season so I’m even more fired up for the games. Maribor are definitely the outsiders on paper, but we absolutely can’t afford to make the mistake of underestimating them. Sporting Lisbon play quick and technical football. We really want to come out on top and end up in one of the first two spots so that we can advance to the last 16.