The much-awaited draw for this year’s Champions League has been made in Monaco with those little blue balls being drawn from Giorgio Marchetti’s bowls. There are some intriguing match-ups for this year’s group stage involving Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund (sadly not Hoffenheim). Here’s the low-down on what it means for the Bundesliga’s finest.
Group B: Bayern Munich, Paris St Germain, Anderlecht, Celtic
Bayern have been drawn in group B and will come up against PSG and their world record €222 million signing Neymar. The German and French sides will see themselves as favourites, but will do well not to underestimate both Anderlecht and Celtic.
Paris St Germain, backed by the Qatari billions may well have added Kylian Mbappé by the time the two sides meet so Carlo Ancelotti, who coached the Parisians between 2011 and 2013, will have to be on his toes if FCB are to overcome the new kids on the block.
The Bavarians faced both Celtic and the Belgian giants Anderlecht back in the 2003/04 Champions League season. Bayern beat both sides at the Olympiastadion, but were held to a draw in both away ties as they finished second in the group to Lyon. Sadly for Bayern, they were eliminated by Real Madrid in the first knock-out round.
After the disappointment of last season’s loss to Real Madrid, Bayern will have their sights firmly set on European glory. A stroll through Group B will be the first step on the way.
Carlo Ancelotti: “It’s an exciting group with great teams and PSG the pick of them. That’s a nice story for me to come up against my former club. Celtic have great support as everyone knows and Anderlecht are the Belgian champions so not one to underestimate. Three different but difficult opponents.”
Manuel Neuer: “It’s an interesting draw. PSG is of course a cracker – I’ve never played them before so am really looking forward to it. I’ll also be facing Celtic for the first time. Celtic Park is known for its amazing atmosphere so this draw gets me excited for the fans too. Anderlecht aren’t easy opponents either and we can’t underestimate them. They’ve claimed some big scalps in the past so we have to ready for that.”
Group G: AS Monaco, FC Porto, Besiktas, RB Leipzig
Champions League debutants RB Leipzig have an interesting draw in group G, but one they will be confident about. A place in the knock-out phase is certainly not out of the question with Monaco, Porto and Turkish side Besiktas their opponents.
Last season’s surprise factor Monaco have sold Bernardo Silva, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Benjamin Mendy, and potentially Kylian Mbappé so it will remain to be seen what sort of challenge they pose.
Porto and Besiktas will provide a stern test, but one that an energetic and youthful Leipzig side will be confident they can pass. RB are the upstarts of Group G with Monaco having finished runners-up in 2004, Porto winners in both 1987 and 2004 and Besiktas quarter-finalist in 1987.
CEO Oliver Mintzlaff: “Nobody wanted us. But we have not been unlucky with the group. We’ll take the group and we look forward to it, but we’ll not underestimate any opponent. Overall we look forward to the group and to each adventure that awaits us.”
Willi Orban: “I think it could have been worse. They are all exciting teams. We have been looking forward to the Champions League and now we know which teams we are going to face.”
Group H: Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham, APOEL Nicosia
Dortmund have probably the toughest of the draws of the Bundesliga sides. Last season’s winners Real Madrid and Tottenham will provide a stern test for Peter Bosz’s men, while Cypriot outfit Nicosia are the rank outsiders.
Having become the first team in the modern era to defend their Champions League title, los Merengues will be seeking to go for the elusive trio. BVB met the Spanish giants in last season’s group stage drawing 2-2 at both the Signal Iduna Park and the Bernabeu.
BVB will take on Tottenham at Wembley as the North London side wait for their new stadium to be built, while the much smaller 22,859 seater GSP Stadium will be the venue when they travel to Cyprus.
Peter Bosz: “Real are the first team to defend their Champions League title. I also saw the last game against Barcelona and have to say that at the moment they are the absolute top team in football. For me it will be the first time in the Bernabeu. I have played against Tottenham before with Feyenoord and Nicosia complete an overall difficult group. We accept the challenge.”
Marcel Schmelzer: “This group is the most difficult of all groups. Even though we have done so well against Real Madrid, I would have wished to meet a different team. Tottenham are strong and we look forward to playing at Wembley again. We look forward to Nicosia- it’s another country and a new side to get to know.”
CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke: “It’s the toughest group but we’ve been in this situation before and won the group. Heroes are made in groups like these.”