Ian DeMartinoAll materialsThe Champions League Draw was held in Istanbul, Turkey on Thursday. The same city will host the final game in June 2023.With the Champions League draw concluded, Champions League Group play will feature some marquee matchups and high-profile players returning to face their old clubs.In Group C, the best club in the world according to FiveThirtyEight’s SPI ranking, Bayern Munich will be joined by Barcelona, Inter Milan, and Viktoria Plzen. That means Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski will soon face his former team, Bayern Munich. Lewandowski joined Barcelona in a €50 million deal in July after playing for eight years with Bayern Munich. The breakup was turbulent, with both sides taking shots at each other.Last year, with Lewandowski playing for Bayern, they swept Barcelona in Group play, defeating them 3-0 in both matchups.Meanwhile, the best young striker in the world, Erling Haaland, will play against his old team when Manchester City face Borussia Dortmund in Group G. Haaland joined City in a €60 million deal in June. City and Dortmund will be joined by Sevilla and FC Copenhagen. City has the world’s second highest SPI ranking.
Lionel Messi’s ‘Enemy’ Robert Lewandowski Set to Take Over His Role at Camp Nou22 July, 14:38 GMTThe toughest group by SPI is Group A which includes Ajax, last year’s runners-up Liverpool, Napoli, and the Rangers, who are returning to group play for the first time in 12 years.“All of the clubs have quality, they all have pedigree and I would say they all have a chance,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said on the club website (via ESPN). “The good thing is we do also, so it makes sense for us to look forward to the challenge and give it a try.”Group E also sees some players returning to face their former clubs. Chelsea recently sold Fikayo Tomori and Olivier Giroud to AC Milan so it will be an interesting matchup to watch. They will be joined in Group E by RB Salzburg and Dinamo Zagreb.
Moving over to Group B, FC Porto, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, and Club Brugge will face off. The key matchup to watch is Atletico versus Porto, as Bayer Leverkusen has struggled to start the season.Group F sees the returning Cup holders Real Madrid with a relatively easy group of RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Celtic, of those, Leipzig is most likely to give them trouble, though they have gotten off to a slow start in the Bundesliga.Group H is the weakest group by SPI but has one marquee matchup, with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain facing off against Juventus. While Juventus is not the team they once were, they are still a high-profile team and their matches against PSG should draw some eyeballs as the Paris club has the household name players of Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappe. Benfica and Maccabi Haifa round out the group. According to SPI, Benfica have a good chance at finishing second and sending Juventus to the Europa League.Meanwhile, Group D includes two teams that have reason to fear they may struggle in Europe. Tottenham Hotspur, arguably the best team in the group, is managed by Antonio Conte who, despite finding success in domestic leagues, has struggled in European competition. Marseille has also struggled in Europe recently, they have lost 15 of their last 20 games in Europe. They are joined by Eintracht Frankfurt, winners of the Europa League but finished 11th in the Bundesliga, and Sporting CP.This season’s Champions League will be truncated to nine weeks to accommodate the 2022 World Cup that begins in November. Group play will begin on September 6.