Istanbul: Two of Europe’s leading strikers will take on their former teams as Manchester City’s Erling Haaland faces Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski meets Bayern Munich after the Champions League group-stage draw was made on Thursday.
Holders Real Madrid, who captured a record-extending 14th European crown when they beat Liverpool in last season’s final, will play RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk and Celtic in Group F.
But while Carlo Ancelotti’s side should have few problems in making the round of 16, at least on paper, their Spanish rivals and five-time European champions Barca face a tough test against Bayern, Inter Milan and Viktoria Plzen in Group C.
Fuel club's bid
Supporters will also look forward to Lewandowski’s return to Bayern, where the Poland international won eight league titles, three German Cups, the Champions League and Club World Cup.
Premier League champions Manchester City were drawn in Group G with Dortmund, Sevilla and FC Copenhagen, and their Spanish coach Pep Guardiola will hope Haaland’s arrival can fuel the club’s bid for a first European Cup crown.
“City are naturally a force to be reckoned with in the Champions League. We’re looking forward to it just as much as we are to the reunion with Erling Haaland,” Dortmund midfielder Marco Reus said.
Qatari-owned Paris St Germain begin their hunt for a maiden trophy in Europe’s elite club competition in Group H with Juventus, Benfica and Maccabi Haifa.
Last season’s runners-up Liverpool meet Ajax Amsterdam, Napoli and Rangers in Group A.
“The first thing to say is this is a proper challenge,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp told the club’s website. “All of the clubs have quality, they all have pedigree and I would say they all have a chance.
“The good thing is we do also, so it makes sense for us to look forward to the challenge and give it a try.” Chelsea, the 2020-21 winners, will meet Italian champions AC Milan in Group E along with RB Salzburg and Dinamo Zagreb.
Final in Turkey
Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt were paired with Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting Lisbon and Olympique Marseille in Group D.
The Champions League group stage begins earlier than usual on September 6 and conclude ahead of this year’s World Cup finals which take place in Qatar from Nov. 20.
The Champions League knockout stages begin in February, with the final taking place in Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium in June.