CHRIS SUTTON on the Champions League draw: PSG will be fearing what Manchester City can do to them, Liverpool must use Anfield to spur them on this time and while Chelsea have a nice group, United are trying to avoid another embarrassment
- The Champions League group stage draw was made on Thursday afternoon
- Manchester United and Chelsea were handed ‘easier’ ties in the Istanbul draw
- Liverpool must face Atletico, AC Milan and Porto while Man City have PSG
- Sportsmail’s CHRIS SUTTON gives his verdict on how the groups will pan out…
The Champions League group stage draw was made on Thursday with four English teams discovering their fates for the start of their European journeys this season.
Title holders Chelsea were handed 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 contests with Paris Saint-Germain to look forward to, with RB Leipzig and Club Brugges waiting for them in the autumn, while Liverpool have to play AC Milan, Porto and Atletico Madrid.
Chris Sutton gives his verdict on how English teams will do in this year’s Champions League
Chelsea are the reigning champions of Europe after beating Manchester City in May’s 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 Italian side Atalanta and Swiss champions Young Boys will be making their way to Old Trafford as well.
With the draw now finalised, Sportsmail columnist CHRIS SUTTON gives his verdict on how the English sides will fare in this season’s group stage…
Manchester City, PSG, RB Leipzig, Club Brugges
Manchester City’s Cristiano Ronaldo against Paris Saint-Germain’s Lionel Messi, anyone?
Pep Guardiola has indicated he’ll be leaving in 2023, so time is running out for him to fulfil his goal of winning City the Champions League.
He’s never failed to make it out of the groups and though this is a challenging collection of teams, City should be making it into the knockout stages.
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 do lose Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid, PSG are a team packed with talent under Mauricio Pochettino.
Jesse Marsch is an exciting appointment at RB Leipzig, and Philippe Clement’s Club Bruges are the Belgian champions.
But can City make it out of this group? Absolutely. Every opponent, even PSG, will fear what they could do to them.
Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Porto, AC Milan
There is no shortage of storylines in this group, are there?
Atletico Madrid are the LaLiga champions who have Luis Suarez up front. Now he’ll be looking to sink his teeth (sorry, couldn’t resist) into his old club.
And there’s Liverpool versus 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 get to see who comes out on top away from neutral venues. The atmospheres 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 didn’t go to plan for Jurgen Klopp.
But the supporters are back at Anfield and Klopp can inspire his players once more.
Manchester United, Villarreal, Atalanta, Young Boys
There will be awkward pressure on Manchester United after the way they exited the Champions League group stage last season.
They were top of Group H, sitting pretty having won three of their four games — and then they imploded.
Back-to-back defeats against PSG and RB Leipzig meant they dropped down into the Europa League. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won’t want to see any of that this time around, especially as this group is inviting for United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (right) hopes his Man United side can make it through the group this time
They can even use their penalty-shootout defeat by Villarreal in the Europa League final last season as extra motivation to exact revenge.
Young Boys have won four Swiss Super League titles in a row but United should be beating them. Atalanta are dangerous but again, they’re beatable.
Anything other than progression to the Champions League’s knockout stages should be classed as a disappointment for Solskjaer and United.
Chelsea, Juventus, Zenit St Petersburg, Malmo
Nice group for Chelsea, this. They avoided the likes of PSG, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Barcelona… Juventus are the obvious tricky opponents, but maybe they won’t have dangerman Cristiano Ronaldo to trouble them.
Malmo and Zenit St Petersburg — another long journey for supporters — should be considered winnable games.
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea must face Juventus this autumn as the Blues try to defend their title
Overall, if I was a Chelsea fan, I’d be pretty pleased. During 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 they’ve only gotten stronger with the addition of Romelu Lukaku.
This year’s final will be played at Saint Petersburg’s Krestovsky Stadium. The last time Russia hosted the final was in 2008, when Chelsea faced Manchester United.
I’m sure Tuchel will be targeting another appearance in the showpiece. At the very least, they have to make the knockout stages.
THE OTHER CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUPS
Sporting Lisbon, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax Besiktas
Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sheriff Tiraspol
Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Benfica, Dynamo Kiev
Lille, Sevilla, RB Salzburg, Wolfsburg
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