The group stage draws season’s Champions League took place at the UEFA Headquarters in Monaco, on Thursday.
The UEFA Champions League group stage draw took place on Thursday when 32 teams went into the draw to find out their fate in Europe’s elite club competition. First time participants Leicester City were handed a favourable draw, while fellow English side were drawn into a daunting group that features five-time champions FC Barcelona.
Defending champions Real Madrid and German giants Borussia Dortmund will be a part of Group F, and their encounter is poised to be a treat for the neutral.
North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have been handed favourable draws and are expected to move into the next round without any major hassles.
Last season’s semi-finalists Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich have been drawn in the same group, which could see the fight for top spot go down to the wire.
The draws in full:
— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 25, 2016
Here are TheHardTackle’s takeaways from the Champions League group stage draw:
A dream draw for debutants Leicester City
Last season, Leicester City defied all odds to win the Premier League title. The Foxes began the season with odds of 5000:1 to achieve the improbable, but due to Claudio Ranieri’s masterful tactics they made their way to the top.
With only three losses in the league, Leicester were England’s most consistent side. However, the UEFA Champions League is an entirely different ball game. Premier League sides have struggled in this competition with the last winner from England coming in 2012.
That being said, the Foxes have been handed a favourable group going into their maiden Champions League campaign. They have been drawn with FC Porto, Club Brugge and Kobenhavn. With Porto seeming the toughest opposition in the, Ranieri’s side will expect to pick up at least four points from both the other sides in the group and also have a go against the Portuguese giants.
With a number of key additions to the side this summer, Leicester can be optimistic of their chances of progression into the knockout stages and then begin to take one game at a time.
Tottenham Hotspur avoid facing the European heavyweights
Much like Leicester, Tottenham too have been granted a relatively favourable group. Spurs went into the draw with their name in Pot 3 as they were the lowest ranked English club. However, lady luck smiled in their faces as they avoided the likes of FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Paris St. Germain and Juventus.
In stead, they were pitted in Group E along with Russian champions CSKA Moskva, German side Bayer Leverkusen and French outfit AS Monaco joined the trio . Mauricio Pochettino may be pleased with the draw and will hope to guide his team into the Round of 16.
Cristiano Ronaldo is coming home
Before becoming one of the world’s best players at Manchester United and Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo began his career at Portuguese side Sporting CP.
At the age of 16, Ronaldo was promoted into Sporting’s first team as he showed tremendous progress with the youth setup. He then went on to play for the club’s under-16, under-17, and under-18 and the first team, all within one season.
He then completed a huge move to Manchester United after Euro 2004 where he achieved legendary status under Sir Alex Ferguson. The Portuguese then completed a “dream” move to Real Madrid and where he won two Champions League titles.
On Thursday, after Madrid were drawn with Ronaldo’s former side Sporting CP, a dainty grin could be seen on the face of the Portuguese attacker. He will undoubtedly relish the opportunity to return to his home town and play in front of the fans that gave him the confidence to become an international superstar.
Newcomers Rostov can prepare for the worst
Unfortunately, Champions League newcomers Rostov did not see the same fate as Leicester City. The Russian side have been drawn in Group D which features two of last season’s top four in Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid.
Also part of the fray, are Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven. Last season, they did the unassailable task of finishing ahead of Manchester United, eventually knocking the Red Devils out of the competition.
With an array of world-class players in all of their three opposition sides, Rostov will struggle to pick up a victory let alone get through to the knockout stage.
Barcelona, Man City, Gladbach and Celtic make up the Group of Death
Group C features La Liga champions FC Barcelona, English heavyweights Manchester City, German workhorses Borussia Monchengladbach and Scottish giants Celtic – which on paper is poised to be the Group of Death.
While Barcelona are favourites to go through, their task would not get any easier as City have appointed former Barca manager Pep Guardiola as the man to guide the time in right direction. Guardiola built a legacy at the Camp Nou and would be wary of all the strengths and weaknesses of his former side.
Celtic famously pulled off a miraculous 2-1 upset over Barcelona in 2012 and will be hoping to pull off something similar when the two sides square off this time around. Also, manager Brendan Rodgers would be knowing a thing or two about Manchester City due to his time spent in the Premier League with Swansea and Liverpool.
Monchengladbach have been busy in the transfer market and have roped in a number of quality players in Christoph Kramer, Jannik Vestergaard and Laszlo Benes. Also, given the attacking capability in their ranks, the German side will make it extremely difficult for the opposition to beat them.