Champions League: Holders Real Madrid get favourable draw in group stage

Real Madrid
In this file photo from May 29, 2022, Real Madrid's Brazilian defender Marcelo lifts the Champions League trophy. Photo: AFP/ Gabriel Bouys

Istanbul: Holders Real Madrid will take on RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk and Celtic in the Champions League group stage while Barcelona will face Bayern Munich and Inter Milan following the draw on Thursday.

Real captured a record-extending 14th European crown when they beat Liverpool in last season's final and, on paper, Carlo Ancelotti's side should have few problems in making the last 16 from Group F.

Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski will take on his former side in the group stage after the five-times champions were drawn with Bayern in Group C along with Inter and Viktoria Plzen.

Manchester City forward Erling Haaland will also face his former employers as the English champions were drawn in Group G with Borussia Dortmund. Sevilla and FC Copenhagen completed the group.

Qatari-owned Paris St Germain begin their quest for a maiden trophy in Europe's elite club competition in a tricky Group H with Juventus, Benfica and Maccabi Haifa.

Last season's runners-up Liverpool meet Ajax Amsterdam, Napoli and Rangers in Group A.

The Champions League group stage will begin earlier than usual on Sept. 6 and conclude ahead of this year's World Cup finals which take place in Qatar from Nov. 20.

The Champions League knockout stages begin in February, with the final taking place in Istanbul's Ataturk Olympic Stadium in June.

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