Champions League draw: Familiar faces, foes headline loaded groups

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The road to Istanbul has been paved. The draw for the 2022-23 Champions League group stage was completed Thursday, as the 32 clubs involved learned their opponents for the opening round of the competition.

Group A

1 Ajax Netherlands
2 Liverpool England
3 Napoli Italy
4 Rangers Scotland

Instant analysis: As last season’s defeated finalists, Liverpool will be expected to once again make a deep Champions League run. The Reds face a challenging group, though, with Napoli and Ajax both talented and capable of staging upsets. Rangers, meanwhile, will bank on raucous support from their Ibrox faithful to ensure their return to the Champions League group stage is a memorable one after a trying 12-year absence.

Group B

1 FC Porto Portugal
2 Atletico Madrid Spain
3 Bayer Leverkusen Germany
4 Club Brugge Belgium

Instant analysis: Atletico Madrid should be relatively pleased with this outcome, considering some of the other possibilities. FC Porto and Bayer Leverkusen are no pushovers, but Diego Simeone’s battle-tested side will be expected to grind out the results in typical Atleti fashion and reach the knockout stages once again. Club Brugge have taken some big hits in the transfer window, but they still have an outside chance of advancing.

Group C

1 Bayern Munich Germany
2 Barcelona Spain
3 Inter Milan Italy
4 Viktoria Plzen Czech Republic

Instant analysis: Get the popcorn ready. Robert Lewandowski returns to Bayern Munich sooner than he ever expected, as the new Barcelona talisman will meet his former side shortly after his summer transfer. Barca will look to exact some revenge after they fell to Bayern in a pair of 3-0 losses during last season’s group stage. The proverbial Group of Death is topped off by Inter Milan, arguably the most dangerous team in Pot 3 for Thursday’s draw. Viktoria Plzen, the Czech champions, have a mountain to climb here.

Group D

1 Eintracht Frankfurt Germany
2 Tottenham Hotspur England
3 Sporting CP Portugal
4 Marseille France

Instant analysis: Is this the year Antonio Conte finally puts some of his past Champions League struggles behind him? He couldn’t have asked for a much better outcome to get that ball rolling. Tottenham should be the class of the quartet, but given Conte’s history and the relatively equal status of the other three teams in the group, how this will play out is anyone’s guess. Eintracht Frankfurt, the Europa League holders, Sporting, and Marseille should all have eyes on the knockout stage.

Lukas Schulze – UEFA / UEFA / Getty

Group E

1 AC Milan Italy
2 Chelsea England
3 Red Bull Salzburg Austria
4 Dinamo Zagreb Croatia

Instant analysis: AC Milan and Chelsea, two clubs familiar with one another at the boardroom level from their recent confirmed and reported transfer dealings, headline an intriguing section. Red Bull Salzburg made some waves last season before finally succumbing to Bayern Munich, so the two Group E heavyweights will need to be on high alert against the Austrian outfit. But everyone will want to keep an eye out for Dinamo Zagreb’s Mislav Orsic, who has a flair for the dramatic in European competition.

Group F

1 Real Madrid Spain
2 RB Leipzig Germany
3 Shakhtar Donetsk Ukraine
4 Celtic Scotland

Instant analysis: Familiarity was a key element of Thursday’s draw; reigning champions Real Madrid, the 14-time European Cup winners, will lock horns with Shakhtar Donetsk for the third consecutive season. Carlo Ancelotti’s men will likely be most wary of the threat posed by RB Leipzig. Meanwhile, Celtic, back in the group stage for the first time in five years, have every chance to sneak into second place and reach the knockout phase.

Group G

1 Manchester City England
2 Sevilla Spain
3 Borussia Dortmund Germany
4 FC Copenhagen Denmark

Instant analysis: So, about those familiar faces. Erling Haaland, still pretty fresh off his big move to Manchester City, will be back at the Westfalenstadion when his new team meets his former club, Borussia Dortmund. Europa League savants Sevilla will aim to translate their success from the sister competition onto the main stage, while FC Copenhagen were surely hoping for a more generous outcome from the football gods.

Group H

1 Paris Saint-Germain France
2 Juventus Italy
3 Benfica Portugal
4 Maccabi Haifa Israel

Instant analysis: By the time Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus meet, a pair of Argentines may have swapped the French capital for Turin. Angel Di Maria left PSG for Juve this summer after seven seasons, and Leandro Paredes could soon join him. That’ll be the standout match in Group H, but Benfica, even without Darwin Nunez, will provide a stern test, especially for a Juventus team that remains unsettled. Don’t discount the Portuguese club’s chances of advancing. Maccabi Haifa’s dramatic playoff victory to reach the group stage will likely be the highlight of their European campaign.

Champions League schedule

This season’s tournament kicks off in just 12 days, with the final slated for June 10, 2023, at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.

In a change facilitated by the upcoming men’s World Cup, the entire group stage of the Champions League will be completed in the space of nine weeks to accommodate the tournament in Qatar, which starts Nov. 20.

  • Matchday 1: Sept. 6-7
  • Matchday 2: Sept. 13-14
  • Matchday 3: Oct. 4-5
  • Matchday 4: Oct. 11-12
  • Matchday 5: Oct. 25-26
  • Matchday 6: Nov. 1-2

The full fixture list will be revealed by UEFA at a later date.

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