The draw for the Champions League group stage took place on Thursday with four English teams discovering their destiny before the start of their European journeys this season.
Title holders Chelsea got two dates with Italian giants Juventus after winning last season’s competition in May, with Malmo and Zenit St. Petersburg the other two sides in their group.
Meanwhile, Premier League champions Manchester City have some high-profile matches with Paris Saint-Germain to look forward to, with RB Leipzig and Club Brugge waiting for them in the fall, while Liverpool must face AC Milan, Porto and Atletico Madrid.
Chris Sutton gives his verdict on how English teams will fare in this year’s Champions League
Chelsea are reigning champions of Europe after beating Manchester City in the May final
Manchester United have a reunion with Unai Emery’s Villarreal later this year after losing to the Spanish side in the Europa League final, while Italy’s Atalanta and Swiss champions Young Boys will also make their way to Old Trafford.
Now that the draw is final, Sports post columnist CHRIS SUTTON gives his verdict on how the English teams will fare in this season’s group stage…
Manchester City, PSG, RB Leipzig, Club Brugge
Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester City v Lionel Messi of Paris Saint-Germain, anyone?
Pep Guardiola has indicated he will leave in 2023, so time is running out to achieve his goal of winning City the Champions League.
He never managed to get out of the groups and while this is a challenging collection of teams, City should make it to the knockout stage.
City will face Paris Saint-Germain again after beating them in last season’s semi-finals
Of course it won’t be easy. Even if they lose Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid, PSG are a team full of talent under Mauricio Pochettino.
Jesse Marsch is an exciting appointment at RB Leipzig, and Philippe Clement’s Club Brugge is the Belgian champion.
But can City get out of this group? Absolute. Any opponent, even PSG, will be afraid of what they can do to them.
Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Porto, AC Milan
There’s no shortage of storylines in this group, right?
Atlético Madrid are the LaLiga champions with Luis Suarez up front. Now he’ll want to sink his teeth (sorry, couldn’t resist) at his old club.
And there’s Liverpool vs AC Milan, part three. Their first meeting was that 3-3 draw in the final in Istanbul in 2005. Their second meeting was the 2-1 defeat in the final in Athens in 2007.
Jurgen Klopp’s (right) Liverpool will take on Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid later this year
Now we’ll see who comes out on top, away from neutral locations. The atmosphere in those group games will be electric, I’m sure.
Meanwhile, Liverpool have never lost to Porto. This is a difficult group – full of potential trip-ups – and last season did not go according to plan for Jurgen Klopp.
But the supporters are back at Anfield and Klopp can once again inspire his players.
Manchester United, Villarreal, Atalanta, Young Boys
Manchester United will come under uneasy pressure after the way they exited the Champions League group stage last season.
They topped Group H, were sitting nicely after winning three of their four games – and then they imploded.
Due to successive defeats against PSG and RB Leipzig, they fell to the Europa League. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won’t want to see any of that this time around, especially as this group is inviting to United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (right) hopes his Man United side can make it through the group this time around
They could even use their penalty shootout defeat to Villarreal in last season’s Europa League final as extra motivation to take revenge.
Young Boys have won four Swiss Super League titles in a row, but United should beat them. Atalanta are dangerous, but again, they are defeatable.
Anything but progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League should be seen as a disappointment to Solskjaer and United.
Chelsea, Juventus, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Malmo
Nice group for Chelsea, this. They avoided PSG, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Barcelona… Juventus are the obvious tough opponents, but maybe they don’t have danger man Cristiano Ronaldo to harass them.
Malmö and Zenit St Petersburg – still a long journey for supporters – should be regarded as winable games.
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea face Juventus this fall as the Blues try to defend their title
In general I would be quite happy if I were a Chelsea fan. In Thursday’s draw, Thomas Tuchel was named Men’s Coach of the Year, while Jorginho was named Player of the Year.
They won the Champions League last season and have only grown stronger with the addition of Romelu Lukaku.
This year’s final will be played at the Krestovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg. The last time Russia hosted the final was in 2008, when Chelsea faced Manchester United.
I’m sure Tuchel will focus on another appearance in the showpiece. They should at least make it to the knockout stage.
THE OTHER CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUPS
Sporting Lisbon, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax Besiktas
Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sheriff Tiraspol
Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Benfica, Dynamo Kyiv
Lille, Seville, RB Salzburg, Wolfsburg