Borussia Dortmund are relishing taking on Barcelona in this season’s Champions League group stage following Thursday’s draw, with Marco Reus claiming the Spanish giants are exactly who the Bundesliga side wanted to face.Barca, Dortmund and Inter were paired alongside Czech champions Slavia Prague in Group F, with the action set to get under way in mid-September.Dortmund captain Reus said he and his team-mates had been hoping to end up alongside La Liga holders Barca, who have not reached the final in any of the past four years. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? “A few of us from the team were stood together at breakfast this morning and we all agreed that we’d love to draw Barcelona,” Reus said on UEFA’s official website.”Buzzing that it’s actually happened! Obviously the group is extremely difficult; we’re coming up against teams who we’ve not tested ourselves against in recent years.”The games against Barcelona will have a party atmosphere for us and our fans! We believe in our quality and our aim is to go through.”Serie A side Inter have been drawn in the same group as Barcelona for the second successive season.Inter finished third behind group winners Barca last term, but Nerazzurri vice-president Javier Zanetti feels they can thrive under new head coach Antonio Conte.”Barcelona have been protagonists in the Champions League for a very long time, they have players of extraordinary value but there are also two other strong opponents in the group,” Zanetti told Inter’s official website.”We will have to play our cards and see what happens on the field. We are a well-built team, we have purchased experienced players and we must aim for a good group stage to make the round of 16. There are the conditions to do well, we face great teams but we are Inter.”Against Lecce [a 4-0 win] I saw a team that will always try to make the match theirs. It is an important point: the coach is very happy with the work of the boys, he knows that a demanding season is waiting for us, but he has brought the right mentality.”You know how Conte lives football. He transmitted to the team all his enthusiasm and his desire to win.”
Zinedine Zidane hailed Federico Valverde’s form for Real Madrid after a 4-2 win over Granada on Saturday.Valverde, 21, made his third straight La Liga start for Madrid, setting up a goal for Eden Hazard as Zidane’s men moved four points clear at the top.The Uruguay international’s display was lauded by Zidane, who praised the midfielder’s energy. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Are Chelsea this season’s Ajax? Super-subs Batshuayi & Pulisic show Blues can dare to dream Time for another transfer? Giroud’s Chelsea spell set to end like his Arsenal career “I’m happy for him. He deserves it, he’s a player that’ll always prove just how good he is,” the Madrid coach told a news conference.”He’s improving, he’s doing exceptionally well and he’s always moving forward, he wants to get on the ball and he had a hand in the goals. “This is a team game and that first-half performance was brilliant in every sense. We did really well in terms of getting out of our half with the ball.”That’s the kind of player he [Valverde] is. He’s a bit of a modern player, he’s got a fantastic engine on him, it’s not only in attack because he puts in just as much work in defence too and that’s important in the modern game and he’s doing well, just as many of them are.”I’m delighted for Fede because he’s getting game time and he deserves it.”Valverde gained possession a game-high nine times for Madrid against Granada, while he made three tackles and provided an assist.The midfielder began his career with Penarol before moving to Real in 2016 where he initially linked up with their B-team. After impressing Julen Lopetegui during pre-season last year, Valverde was promoted to the first-team and made 16 La Liga appearances for the club last season. On Saturday, the young Uruguayan assisted Hazard’s first goal for the club with the Belgian grateful to finally find the back of the net. “It’s always difficult to get that first goal, but once you get it you have greater confidence to shoot and I hope to score lots of goals for this great club,” Hazard said.“It was important for me to score today.”Zidane’s side are currently four points clear at the top of La Liga and have yet to lose in the league this season.