Champions League draw: Reigning champs Chelsea to face Juve

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Istanbul, Aug 27 (IANS) Defending champions Chelsea will face Juventus while runners-up Manchester City are going to meet Paris Saint-Germain in the group stage of this season’s UEFA Champions League.

The draw was unveiled here on Thursday evening with Manchester City being clubbed in Group A with Paris Saint-Germain as the French giants are expected to be boosted by the presence of Argentine star Lionel Messi.

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Holders Chelsea will face Juventus in Group G while another Premier League side Liverpool are going to play AC Milan in Group B.

The group-stage competition will start on September 14 and finish on December 8. The final will be held in St Petersburg, Russia on May 28, Xinhua reports.

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German club RB Leipzig too slipped into the fascinating Group A with Manchester City and PSG.

While Leipzig’s realistic goal can only be the third group place, entitling them for the Euro League, reigning German champion Bayern Munich, German Cup-winner Borussia Dortmund, and the VfL Wolfsburg can be optimistic to survive their groups.

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The draw is providing the chance for German football to prove its international resilience despite the enormous investments made by other European leagues such as the Premier League, La Liga, the Ligue 1, and the Serie A.

Despite declining revenues due to the Covid-19 pandemic — English clubs spent more than a billion Euros — the German league is the only top European league earning a transfer surplus this summer.

Bundesliga’s reasonable spending policy might go at the cost of international success and reputation, but is securing the clubs’ financial stability. Bayern remains the only club assumed to have chances to reach the last-four.

Leipzig might not only be facing Messi but could well meet Cristiano Ronaldo. According to English media reports, Juve’s Portuguese star is in advanced negotiations with Man City.

Expectations for Bayern’s new coach Julian Nagelsmann don’t go too far to talking of a piece of cake when meeting wavering Spanish giant FC Barcelona aside from Benfica and Dynamo Kyiv.

“We face a Barcelona without Messi. It will be a new Barca, but still a squad full of top-class players. We want to finish the group as first despite some challenging issues ahead,” Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said.

For another German club Dortmund, the group’s favourite role is within reach when crossing swords with Sporting, Ajax, and Besiktas. The Black and Yellow star striker Erling Haaland was awarded UEFA Champions League Forward of the year for the 2020/21 season. The Norwegian striker scored 10 goals in eight games.

Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke spoke about “good chances for us” to proceed to the last-16 facing a group with no favourite. “We can’t complain considering the big number of very strong clubs in the draw,” Watzke added.

The draw

Group A: Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Leipzig, Club Brugge

Group B: Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Porto, AC Milan

Group C: Sporting Lisbon, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, Besiktas

Group D: Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sheriff Tiraspol

Group E: Bayern, Barcelona, Benfica, Dynamo Kyiv

Group F: Villarreal, Manchester United, Atalanta, Young Boys

Group G: Lille, Sevilla, Salzburg, Wolfsburg

Group H: Chelsea, Juventus, Zenit, Malmo.

–IANS

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