It’s back. The Champions League draw isn’t as dramatic as the action on the pitch, but it’s always exciting to decide which teams will face off in the coming months.
The fates of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool were decided at the ceremony in Istanbul and the England teams will have mixed feelings about their respective combinations.
Pep Guardiola’s side will take on Paris Saint-Germain, a repeat of last season’s Champions League semi-final, while Liverpool face Atletico Madrid and AC Milan in their group.
The draw of the group stage of the Champions League took place in Istanbul on Thursday evening
The four English teams were given a mixed range of teams to compete against in the groups
Holders Chelsea are linked to Juventus, while Manchester United will face a reunion with Villarreal, who defeated them in the Europa League final in May.
Now that all groups have decided, Sports post takes a closer look at the English teams’ chances of progressing to the knockout stages…
Group A opponents: Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig, Club Brugge
First out of the hat in Istanbul was Manchester City, who have been linked with Lionel Messi and his all-star PSG squad that has been assembled this summer.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men have vastly improved their squad since losing to City in the last four in May, with Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi, Gini Wijnaldum and of course Messi moving to Paris.
Manchester City’s two ties to Paris Saint-Germain are the clear standout match-up this year
The move could also reunite Messi with longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who is reportedly in talks with Guardiola’s side over a shocking late transfer into this transfer window from Juventus.
PSG are ultimately one of the favorites to win the entire competition and although the two teams are linked in the groups, they can also meet in the final stages of the tournament, just like last year.
But neither side should find their groups too challenging in terms of qualifying for the last-16. In fact, the only real challenge for City is whether they can top this group over the all-star PSG squad.
RB Leipzig are a competent side with plenty of flair players such as Emil Forsberg and Dominik Szoboszlai – and they beat Manchester United in the groups last season – but City are much stronger than their Bundesliga opponents and should win easily.
PSG have added Lionel Messi (left) to their roster with Neymar (right) also on the attack
RB Leipzig (above) may cause problems, but City are too strong for them at Club Brugge
Meanwhile, Belgium’s Club Brugge have never made it out of the first stage of the Champions League in their eight appearances in this stage since the tournament was reformed from the European Cup, so City shouldn’t have to worry about this group.
However, it could be beneficial to get to PSG early on when the sides meet again later in the tournament, or dare we say – the final?
Opponents group B: Atletico Madrid, FC Porto, AC Milan
However, the same cannot be said of Liverpool, who have been placed in a very tough group at the start of their Champions League journey this season.
The Reds return this season to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, the site of their Champions League final in 2019, but the Reds will face a tough opponent in Atletico Madrid, who Jurgen Klopp’s men know all too well.
Liverpool are linked with Atletico Madrid, who defeated them in the knockouts of 2020
Diego Simeone’s (above) side will be compact and dangerous in such major European clashes
Diego Simeone’s Atleti defeated Liverpool from the Champions League in 2020, with the Spanish team always impressing in big games against high-level teams such as Liverpool.
The LaLiga champions are hard to break, especially with Jan Oblak in goal, while they have former Kop hero Luis Suarez, Angel Correa and Joao Felix up front.
The other two teams in this group bring their own challenges – and are, of course, both former winners of the competition.
Porto makes a habit of always getting out of the group stage. The Portuguese side have made it to the knockout stages in their last four Champions League campaigns and could cause a shock, as Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus discovered last year.
FC Porto shouldn’t be overlooked either, with the regulars of the Portuguese knockout stage
AC Milan also improved their team from last season with signings such as Olivier Giroud
But Porto has a terrible record against English teams, losing to the Reds, Chelsea, Manchester City and even Leicester City in this competition over the past decade.
AC Milan, meanwhile, were the only team trying to avoid everyone in pot four, where the lowest-ranked teams in the league were drawn.
The Rossoneri missed out on rivals Inter in the Serie A title race after leading the way for most of the season but tackling the backbone of the team over the summer with the likes of Olivier Giroud, Fikayo Tomori and goalkeeper Mike Maignan.
Liverpool are rightly favored to win this group and they should be, but Klopp’s men should know that these three teams can penalize them all if they are not in their game.
Group F teams: Villarreal, Atalanta, Young Boys
Of all the English teams, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be most satisfied with the Champions League group stage draw.
The Red Devils are ultimately clear favorites to reach the knockout stage as they are by far the strongest team in their group.
However, Solskjaer’s men will be wary of their recent record at Villarreal, with the Spanish side beating them in the Europa League final on penalties earlier this year.
Manchester United reunite with Villarreal, who defeated them in May’s Europa League final
The Yellow Submarine has Gerard Moreno up front who scored 30 goals for them last season
Unai Emery may have struggled at Arsenal, but he has found his way back to the Yellow Submarine, giving the club its first-ever major trophy last season.
The LaLiga side also has striker Gerard Moreno who is a major threat, having scored 30 goals in all competitions last season and this time being bolstered by a similar campaign.
Atalanta is another side that, although United are stronger than on paper, can cause problems.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s squad was the top goalscorer in the Italian top league last season, scoring 90 goals in 38 games and should not be taken lightly.
Atalanta was one of Europe’s top scoring teams last season with 90 goals in Serie A
Liverpool found that out last season when the Italian side won 2-0 at Anfield to add tension to the Reds’ group campaign in the Champions League.
Meanwhile, the Swiss champions met Young Boys United earlier in this competition in 2018, but failed to land a glove on the Red Devils and failed to score a goal.
This group is harder than it looks. United’s group alongside Istanbul Basaksehir, PSG and RB Leipzig proved too difficult for Solskjaer’s men last year, but they are appearing in every one of their matches and the Red Devils need not worry.
Group H teams: Juventus, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Malmo
Last season’s European champions are another side that doesn’t have to worry about qualifying for the knockout stage or even winning the group – even as Italian giants Juventus battle alongside them in Group H.
Juventus will be the biggest threat to Chelsea even if they sell Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester City
Thomas Tuchel’s squad is hoping for consecutive Champions League titles for the first time in the club’s history and this group should help them on their way to the final stages of the competition.
Juventus always face difficult challenges, especially with Massimilano Allegri back at the helm after leading them to two Champions League finals in his first stint, but the old lady who may lose Cristiano Ronaldo is a major blow to their hopes.
If Ronaldo manages to move to Manchester City, can players like Alvaro Morata, Paulo Dybala and Aaron Ramsey carry the flag in the Portuguese’s place?
New Chelsea signing Romelu Lukaku (left) has a history of hurting Italian teams up front
With Romelu Lukaku already settling back into life at Chelsea and having a track history of painful Italian teams, even the experience of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci can’t keep him at bay.
When it comes to the other two teams in the group, Tuchel’s side should actually be looking at six points.
Matches in Scandinavia and Russia can be tricky as the weather turns colder, but the West Londoners who make the last 16 need not worry.