— Arsenal face Cologne, Red Star Belgrade in Europa League
Holders Real Madrid will face Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League group stage while five-time winners Barcelona were drawn with last season’s runners-up Juventus on Thursday.
Zinedine Zidane’s side are chasing a third successive European title and fourth in five seasons after demolishing Italian champions Juventus 4-1 in Cardiff in June. The record 12-time European champions also take on APOEL of Cyprus in a testing Group H that will see Gareth Bale face Spurs for the first time since leaving for Real in a then world record deal in 2013.
“We are the holders so there is always an extra motivation for the teams you face. It won’t be easy at all, we’ll need to play well and find our best form,” said Real spokesman and former striker Emilio Butragueno. “We ve played Borussia Dortmund a lot of times recently and know how good they are. Tottenham have shown they are a strong team in the Premier League.”
Tottenham forward Harry Kane said that he was excited to line up against the defending champions. “You want to test yourself against the best and Real Madrid are the best at the moment,” said Kane.
Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 in the 2015 final but the Spanish club have endured a difficult month with Neymar departing for Paris Saint-Germain in a mammoth 222-million-euro ($261 million) deal. They will also come up against Greek champions Olympiakos and Sporting Lisbon in a competitive Group D.
“It is a high level group with four historic teams. We will be fighting against a well-known rival in Juventus and the games against them will condition our chances in the group,” said Barca General Manager Pep Segura. Juventus director general Beppe Marotta said that Barca were weaker following the record-breaking sale of Neymar.
“Missing a player like Neymar weighs heavily. We’ll have to see how they intend to replace him. But Barcelona remain a top quality side with great individual players,” Marotta told Italia 1. Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti will return to Paris in Group B that also features Celtic and Anderlecht. “It’s an exciting group with some great teams and Paris at the top,” said the Italian.
“It’s a nice story for me to meet my former club again. As everybody knows, Celtic get incredible support from their fans. And Anderlecht cannot be underestimated as Belgian champions.”
PSG coach Unai Emery, looking to mastermind a much deeper run after last year’s spectacular collapse against Barca, expects his side to join Bayern in the last 16. “Bayern Munich are a very strong side. We will be the two favourites,” said Emery.
Chelsea, one of a record five English teams to qualify for the group phase, will meet Atletico Madrid in Group C as well as Roma and Qarabag, the first side from Azerbaijan to reach this stage of the competition. Jose Mourinho will visit his native Portugal with Manchester United after they were placed in Group A with Benfica, CSKA Moscow and Basel.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are in Group F alongside Shakhtar Donetsk, Napoli and Feyenoord while Liverpool will play Spartak Moscow, Sevilla and Maribor in Group E.
“We want to be a football club where we are always there in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and getting to finals,” said City director of football Txiki Begiristain. “We have refreshed the team and we are hoping that we can remember what we did two years ago when we got to the semi-finals and why not even more?”
Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp was pleased to have avoided Europe s heavyweights. “There are groups with Barcelona, Bayern, Juventus and Real Madrid, and not to get them is of course more good than bad,” said Klopp. French champions Monaco, who reached last season s semi-finals, face Porto, Besiktas and debutants RB Leipzig in Group G.
The opening round of matches will be played September 12-13.
Arsenal face Cologne, Red Star Belgrade in Europa League
Arsenal face a tricky Europa League group stage with ties against Cologne and Red Star Belgrade as Arsene Wenger’s side play in Europe’s second-tier competition for the first time since 1997.
The Gunners were also paired with Belarus club Bate Borisov in Friday’s draw that was kinder to another European giant, AC Milan, who face Austria Vienna, AEK Athens and Rijeka of Croatia.
Wayne Rooney’s Everton have a stern test in a group containing French club Lyon, whose Groupama Stadium will host the final on May 16. Italian side Atalanta and Cypriot minnows Apollon round out Everton’s group.
French club Nice, who have strengthened their star-studded squad with the addition of Dutch veteran Wesley Sneijder this summer, drew a big-name Italian opponent in the shape of Lazio. Nice also face early Dutch league leaders Vitesse Arnhem and Zulte Waregem of Belgium.
Paul Pogba of last season’s winners Manchester United was voted the best player of the 2016-2017 competition and received the trophy in a pre-recorded video message shown at the draw in Monaco.