32 teams learned their fate in the UEFA Champions League group stage draw on Thursday, and some are happier with their path to the knockout stage than others. The likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Real Madrid will be thrilled that they have simple paths to a top seed and a quarterfinal appearance. Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Juventus and Manchester United will be less thrilled.
Here’s how the draw shook out and what you need to know.
Must watch: Ronaldo vs. United
Cristiano Ronaldo has faced off against his former club just once in the UEFA Champions League, in the Round of 16 in 2013. He knocked them out of the competition too, scoring in both legs. It’ll be exciting to see him grace the Old Trafford pitch again, and just like in 2013, he’ll be expected to get the better of the club where he became a star. Juventus and United will play twice, with the exact dates still TBA.
Toughest: Group C
Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool might have both been strongly favored to win their groups in a different draw. 538 has both rated as top-7 teams in the world. They’ll not only have to deal with each other, but also with Napoli, who retained all of its key players after giving Juventus a run for its money in Serie A last season. Someone is going to be very bitter when they get knocked out, and will become the instant favorite to win the Europa League.
Runner up: Group B
While not as top-heavy as Group C, Group B does not have a weak link like Red Star. Instead, all three of the teams below Barcelona will feel like they can fight for second place. Tottenham Hotspur is the favorite, but Inter Milan added big names like Radja Nainggolan, Stefan de Vrij, Sime Vrsaljko and Keita Balde this summer. PSV held onto “Chucky” Hirving Lozano despite interest from bigger clubs, and he’s scoring at will in the Netherlands. No one will have an easy game in this group.
Hipster’s choice: Group A
If you’re more interested in up-and-coming stars and fun games than big names, Group A is where it’s at. Atlético Madrid might have its strongest squad ever, Christian Pulisic is still balling for Borussia Dortmund, and AS Monaco has reinvested the Kylian Mbappe money into a slew of entertaining young talents.
LOL: Group D
A couple years ago, UEFA changed the draw rules to give automatic Pot 1 placements to the champions of the top seven leagues. The seventh best league in Europe is the Russian Premier League, and its champion is Lokomotiv Moscow, who doesn’t have an impressive recent history in this competition. They got lucky in the draw too, so two of Lokomotiv, Porto, Schalke and Galatasaray are guaranteed to make the round of 16. If none of those teams makes the quarterfinals, expect increased calls for serious changes to the Champions League group stage.
UEFA Champions League groups