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Bayern to play Barcelona in Champions League group stage, Man City to meet Dortmund





Bayern Munich were placed in the same section as Robert Lewandowski’s Barcelona in Thursday’s draw for the UEFA Champions League group stage in Istanbul, while Erling Haaland will face his former club as Manchester City were paired with Borussia Dortmund.

Bayern and Barcelona will also come up against Inter Milan in Group C, which is completed by the Czech champions Viktoria Plzen.

Bayern beat Barcelona 8-2 in a one-off quarter-final in Lisbon in 2020, while the Catalans also lost 3-0 twice to the Germans last season as they were eliminated in the group stage.

Lewandowski, 34, signed for Barcelona during the close season for a fee that could reach 50 million euros ($49.9m) after scoring 344 goals in eight years at Bayern.

“Only football writes such stories,” said Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.

“Barcelona have got stronger. ‘Lewy’ is there. They’ve done a thing or two in the transfer market. There will be some exciting games.”

Haaland left Dortmund for Premier League champions City in the close season. Those sides will also face Sevilla and Danish champions FC Copenhagen in Group G.

City and Dortmund last met in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2021, with Pep Guardiola’s side advancing 4-2 on aggregate. City also beat Sevilla twice in the group stage in 2015/16.

– Liverpool face Rangers –

Last season’s beaten finalists Liverpool will play Ajax, Napoli and Rangers in Group A, while reigning champions Real Madrid will face Celtic as well as RB Leipzig and Shakhtar Donetsk in Group F.

It is the third season running in which Real and Shakhtar have been placed in the same group.

With war continuing to rage in Ukraine, Shakhtar will play their home games in the Polish capital Warsaw.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side faced Ajax in the group stage just two years ago, while the Anfield outfit came up against Napoli in 2019.

Meanwhile, Rangers are back in the group phase of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in 12 years — in the 2010/11 season they held Manchester United to a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford but in 2012 they were demoted to the Scottish fourth tier when mounting debts forced them into liquidation.

After reaching last season’s Europa League final, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side knocked out PSV Eindhoven in the play-offs on Wednesday to reach the group stage.

“The first thing to say is this is a proper, proper challenge,” Klopp told Liverpool’s official website.

“We did not ask for any favours and we have not been given any but this is not a competition where you can look for easy ways through because the standard is always unbelievably high.”

– PSG among favourites, again –

Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain — who again start among the favourites to win a trophy that has continued to escape them since the Qatari takeover of more than a decade ago — will meet Juventus as well as Benfica and Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa in Group H.

Chelsea, winners in 2021, will take on Serie A champions AC Milan as well as Red Bull Salzburg and Dinamo Zagreb in Group E, while Tottenham Hotspur will face last season’s Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt along with Sporting Lisbon and Marseille in Group D.

Porto and Atletico Madrid meet for the second season running in Group B, which also features Bayer Leverkusen and Belgian champions Club Brugge.

This season’s group stage will begin with the first round of games on September 6 and 7.

The match calendar is expected to be released following the draws on Friday for the group stages of the Europa League and Europa Conference League.

All six matchdays will be played in the space of nine weeks, finishing much earlier than usual on November 1 and 2, with UEFA needing to complete the group stage before the World Cup begins on November 20.

The final will be played on June 10 next year at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, which was supposed to host the final in 2020 and again in 2021 — on each occasion UEFA moved the game to Portugal due to pandemic-related restrictions.

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