Champions League: Manchester City draw PSG, Liverpool land in tough group

Manchester City face an awkward start to their latest attempt to win the Champions League under Pep Guardiola after drawing a Lionel Messi-enhanced Paris Saint Germain in this season’s group stage. Liverpool were also handed a difficult group at a protracted draw ceremony in Istanbul.

The two Gulf-state owned clubs, who met in last season’s semi-final, were joined in Group A by RB Leipzig and Belgian champions Club Brugge, ensuring there will be no easy passage to the knockout stage for two of the richest clubs in the world and tournament favourites. The draw also raises the prospect of Messi confronting Cristiano Ronaldo should City pull off a sensational move for the former Manchester United star. Guardiola’s team beat PSG 4-1 on aggregate in last season’s semi-final en route to losing the final to Chelsea.

Thomas Tuchel, named Uefa men’s coach of the season for winning the Champions League four months after his arrival at Chelsea, will start his team’s defence of the title against Juventus, Zenit St Petersburg and Malmo. The holders may consider that a more straightforward group in comparison to their Premier League rivals.

Liverpool landed in a group loaded with European pedigree. Jürgen Klopp’s team will face Atlético Madrid, who knocked the then holders out of the competition over two legs in 2020. Atlético’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, however, was the venue for Liverpool’s sixth triumph in the competition in 2019. Former champions Porto and Milan, Liverpool’s final opponents in Istanbul in 2005 and two years later in Athens, comprise the remainder of a finely balanced Group B.

Manchester United avoided such European heavyweights but face a reunion with their Europa League final conquerors Villarreal. The Spanish club beat Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side in an epic penalty shootout in May – when goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli saved the 22nd attempt of the night from opposite number David de Gea – to secure their first major trophy and a place in this season’s Champions League. Atalanta, who finished third behind both Milan clubs in Serie A last season, and Young Boys, managed by former Huddersfield coach David Wagner, were also drawn in Group F.

Elsewhere, Sheriff Tiraspol’s reward for being the first team from Moldova to reach the group phase includes trips to Real Madrid and Internazionale. Barcelona’s post-Messi era opens in a difficult group with Benfica, Dynamo Kyiv and Bayern Munich, who humiliated the Catalan club 8-2 in the 2020 quarter-finals.