Manchester United were handed a daunting draw on their return to the Champions League and will have to face Bayern Munich in Group A as well as Copenhagen and Galatasaray. Arsenal, who are back in Europe’s top competition for the first time in seven years, were given a relatively comfortable draw, facing Europa League winners Sevilla, PSV and Lens in Group B.
Christian Pulisic’s AC Milan were placed in what is surely the ‘Group of Death’ and will have their work cut out getting out of a Group F containing Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle United.
Holders Manchester City were handed a straightforward draw. They will meet Red Star Belgrade, RB Leipzig and Young Boys in Group G.
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Real Madrid, who have won the competition a record 14 times, were placed in Group C alongside Serie A champions Napoli, Braga and Champions League debutants Union Berlin.
Barcelona, who exited the competition in the group stage in the last two seasons, should fancy their chances of reaching the knockout stage after being placed in Group H with Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Royal Antwerp.
Bayern Munich,Manchester United Copenhagen, Galatasaray
United failed to qualify for last year’s competition and have been thrown straight back into the deep end, facing Bayern Munich. The match will be special for Erik ten Hag as he was in charge of the Bavarian giants’ reserve side for two years, while there will be extra focus on Kane, who has hit the ground running with Bayern, after United opted against signing the England captain in the summer, instead landing Rasmus Hojlund.
Sevilla, Arsenal, PSV Eindhoven, Lens
Arsenal have not been in the Champions League since the 2016-17 season but they will be hopeful of making it through the group stage on their long-awaited return. Mikel Arteta’s side will be very pleased with this draw, landing arguably the weakest of all the top-seeded teams in Sevilla, who have lost their opening three matches in La Liga.
Napoli, Madrid, Braga, Union Berlin
Real Madrid versus Napoli is the headline fixture in Group C. Napoli won their first league title since 1990 last season and have kept the majority of the players who helped their historic triumph, including top scorer Victor Osimhen and breakout star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Real have lost their great talisman Karim Benzema and picked up injuries to key players such as Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militao and Vinicius Junior. However, they have a new star in Jude Bellingham, who has scored four goals in his opening three matches of the season, the first Real player to do so since Cristiano Ronaldo.
Union Berlin will be taking part in the Champions League for the first time ever.
Benfica, Inter, RB Salzburg, Real Sociedad
Inter put up a real fight in last season’s Champions League final against Man City, having fought their way out of a tough group containing Bayern and Barcelona. In Group D they face a rematch with Benfica, who they dumped out in the quarter-finals, winning 5-3 on aggregate.
RB Salzburg are group stage veterans but have only reached the knockout stage once before, in 2022. Real Sociedad are making their return to Europe’s top competition for the first time in 10 years.
Feyenoord, Atletico Madrid, Lazio, Celtic
Group E is the least intriguing of the eight groups and Atletico Madrid will fancy their chances of topping it. Diego Simeone’s side failed to qualify from their group last season and also missed out on the Europa League after one of the craziest ever finishes, losing to Porto after missing an injury-time penalty.
They will face stiff competition from Lazio and Eredivisie champions Feyenoord, while Celtic will guarantee a raucous atmosphere in their home matches.
Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Newcastle United
This is the most exciting group of all, with all four teams capable of reaching the knockout stage. PSG will be favourites and have a Champions League winning coach in Luis Enrique as well as a refreshed squad after parting with Neymar and Lionel Messi but keeping Kylian Mbappe.
Newcastle will be looking to make an impact on their return to the competition for the first time in 20 years and will also bring the noise in their three matches at St James’ Park. Christian Pulisic’s AC Milan will have a tough time finishing in the top two and the USMNT star gets a reunion with Borussia Dortmund, his first club in Europe
Manchester City, RB Leipzig, Red Star Belgrade, Young Boys
City normally coast through the group stage and will be expected to finish top of Group G with little trouble. Their toughest opponent is likely to be RB Leipzig, who they trounced 8-1 on aggregate last season in the last-16.
Barcelona, Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Royal Antwerp
Barcelona’s last two ventures in the Champions League have been hugely disappointing, with the Catalans failing to get out of the group stage since the 2020-21 campaign.
Xavi’s side can have no excuses for not making the knockout stage this time, however. Their toughest test will come from Porto, while Antwerp are making their first appearance in the European Cup for 66 years.