The UEFA Champions League group stage draw marked Schalke's official return to the top table of European club football after a four-year hiatus.

Royal Blue eyes watched on anxiously as the big names from pots one and two slotted into their groups, and there may have been a sense of relief when their name was placed in Group D, with Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto and Galatasaray.

With Schalke's Champions League return scheduled for 18 September at home to Porto, bundesliga.com has compiled a guide to their Group D opponents.

Lokomotiv Moscow

Perhaps the club everybody was hoping to draw from the top seeds, the Russian champions still cannot be considered pushovers by any stretch of the imagination. Having clinched their third Russian Premier League title last term, 14 years on from their last domestic triumph, Yuri Semin's side also reached the last 16 of the Europa League for the first time in their history, defeating Nice before succumbing to eventual winners Atletico Madrid.

Their last foray into the Champions League also saw them progress to the last 16, where they were beaten by eventual finalists Monaco. Previously, the Railroaders reached the semi-finals of the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1998 and 1999.

Key player – Jefferson Farfan

A man who will need no introduction to Schalke fans having made 170 Bundesliga appearances and scored 39 goals for the Royal Blues. Now 33, the Peruvian has not lost any of his blistering pace as he continues to terrorise full-backs.

Jefferson Farfan is a familiar figure for Schalke fans. © imago / Ulmer

Farfan is also one of Lokomotiv's most experienced campaigners in the Champions League, having played 56 times and scored nine goals in the competition.

Key to the games

Farfan is not the only former Schalke star on Lokomotiv's books, with Benedikt Höwedes making the move to Russia this summer and facing a swift reunion with his former team-mates. This familiarity with players in key positions will nevertheless help Domenico Tedesco prepare the two fixtures with a side who boast many otherwise unfamiliar names.

FC Porto

Veteran Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas now stands between the Porto posts. © gettyimages / Carlos Rodrigues

With a total of seven continental cups, Porto are Portugal's most successful club, although you have to go back to 2011 for their last title – the UEFA Europa League, which they won as part of a treble with the domestic league and cup. Previously, Jose Mourinho guided them to the Champions League title in 2004, a year after they had won the UEFA Cup.

Follow Matchday 1 against Porto HERE!

Their success did dry up a little in recent years, though, until they ended an almost five-year trophy drought by winning their 28th Portuguese league title. Now back in the Champions League, they – like Schalke – will be keen to leave a mark.

Key player – Yacine Brahimi

Porto's biggest threat comes down their left wing, through Algerian international Yacine Brahimi. He has supplied 31 goals in the Portuguese league, and almost as many assists in four seasons. Previously, he gained experience in Spain's La Liga at Granada and France's Ligue 1 with Rennes, but it is in Portugal where he has really picked up his pace.

Key to the games

Getting off to a winning start, especially in front of their own fans, is going to be particularly important for Schalke, who then have away games in Moscow and Istanbul before returning to the Veltins Arena again. The emotion of returning to European football's elite club competition will ensure a full house in Gelsenkirchen, and the Royal Blues' 12th man may make the difference.

Galatasaray

Galatasaray's last Champions League clash with Bundesliga opponents was with Schalke's local rivals Borussia Dortmund.

Turkey's most successful club and the only with European trophies in their cabinet, with the UEFA Cup from 2000 and the UEFA Super Cup picked up just a few months later. Those days may be decades ago but they have continued to fly the flag for Turkey in Europe, and this will be their 25th campaign in the Champions League.

Last term, they lifted the Turkish Super Lig title for a record 21st time, and a first since 2015, booking their return to the UCL.

Key player – Eren Derdiyok

The former Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim forward Eren Derdiyok has been plying his trade in Turkey since 2014, although he joined 'Gala' two years later. The 30-year-old Swiss forward suffered slightly in his second season having scored ten in his first, but he has rediscovered his goalscoring instinct with two goals in the first handful of games in the current campaign.

In the Bundesliga, he scored 27 goals in 127 appearances, while his two goals in the 2011/12 Champions League group stage helped Leverkusen through to the last-16, where they were beaten by Barcelona.

Eren Derdiyok previously appeared in the Bundesliga for Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen.

Key to the games

Just like Schalke can expect a lift from their fans at the Veltins Arena against Porto, Galatasaray's Türk Telekom Arena is an intimidating place to visit, albeit not as much as the club's former Ataturk home was. Many Gala fans reside in and around Gelsenkirchen, though, so Schalke may not necessarily have such a strong advantage when they play at home in the return fixture, as they found out in 2013 when they went down 3-2 in Germany.

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