Champions League Draw Provides Juicy Storylines For Group Stage

The Champions League draw has yielded some tasty matchups for football fans around the globe. Storylines abound from the eight groups of competition, and it all begins at the top.

In Group A, Paris Saint-Germain will presumably be in a fight with Arsenal for the spot atop the group and through to the knockout round. Ludogorets will be thought of as the underdogs, while FC Basel have a hill to climb to upend either of the two favorites. Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka brings the main element of intrigue to this quartet, with his club’s meeting against his old squad Basel bringing a strange dynamic.

Group B sees two return participants in the Champions League, with Benfica having exited in the quarterfinals last year and Dynamo Kiev bowing out in the Round of 16. Serie A squad Napoli will actually be thought of as the second favorites in this group, with Turkish side Besiktas having a lot to prove. This Champions League group looks quite even on paper, with three of the four clubs being domestic champions as Napoli are the only outlier.

The heavyweights in Group C are bound to produce some fireworks, with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola’s former club Barcelona setting up one of the marquee matchups of the group stages.

[Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images]

“We have to treat [the reunion with Guardiola] as something that just happens in the football world,” Jordi Mestre, Barcelona vice-president told of the draw. “I think City have already changed under Pep, but we’ll have to see how good they are when we play against them. Both games will be really difficult.”

Although this is the primary storyline of Group C, Champions League aficionados should not discount Borussia Monchengladbach or Celtic.

First-timers FC Rostov of Russia will be the punching bag in Group D, as they join three clubs who all made it out of the group stages a year ago. Although PSV Eindhoven made it just to the Round of 16, Atletico Madrid were the ones who upended Bayern Munich in their run to the semifinals last season. Bayern’s Philipp Lahm offered his take on the draw via Twitter.

The variety in Champions League Group E for this campaign is notable, with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen and the English Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur representing the big names. But both PFC CSKA Moskva of Russia and AS Monaco of France have been to the UCL more recently than Tottenham, so that experience has to count for something.

[Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images]

Group F headliners Real Madrid enter this competition ranked No. 1 in the UEFA coefficient ranking from the end of the 2015-16 campaign. This Champions League group will seemingly come down to Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, who are returning to the draw after a one-year hiatus. Sporting CP of Portugal and Legia Warszawa of Poland will in all likelihood be looking to steal points rather than challenge to move on to the Champions League group stages.

Group G of the Champions League draw sees first-timers Leicester City bring their Cinderella Premier League run to the UCL. Porto offer the stiffest competition in this group, with Belgium’s Club Brugge and Kobenhavn of Denmark unlikely to ruffle many feathers along the way. Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri is not letting his players rest on their laurels after last season’s magical run, though.

“I want to see my players fight against the best in Europe,” Ranieri told “Every team in the competition will fight like champions and we must give 100 percent to make our supporters proud. Last season was wonderful but I want more. Now we are in the Champions League and we have another wonderful opportunity to show our quality.”

In Group H, the Champions League draw brought some serious intrigue by pitting Juventus and Sevilla together for the second year in a row during the group stage. They split their meetings home and away last season. Lyon are also back in the UCL after exiting from the group stages last season, while Dinamo Zagreb of Croatia will have a tough time taking any points from these three giants.

Although predictions are hard to make at this young stage of the season, it seems safe to lean toward the clubs with proven pedigrees to advance from the group stages. But there are always a few surprises when the best in Europe come together for the Champions League, so don’t get too comfortable with what you think you know about this draw just yet.

[Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images]

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