The curtain is about to rise for the new season of UEFA Champions League 2021/22 as the play off stage and the group stage draw was completed this midweek. Two former champions, Barcelona and Liverpool, will have to struggle much earlier just to go through as they are seeded in the groups of death, E and B. The Catalan side is grouped with Bayern Munich, the Portuguese giant which just qualified from the playoff, Benfica and Dynamo Kiev, whereas The Reds are even included in the same pool with the Spanish champion, Atletico Madrid, the 1987 and 2004 champion FC Porto and the Italian giant which makes their return to UCL this season, AC Milan.
This season will mark the new era for Barcelona as their GOAT, Lionel Messi, had to leave the club earlier this month. While they are still coping for his loss, Ronald Koeman’s men will have to get ready for the next challenge at the group stage. Bayern is definitely the team they can not avoid to focus more, but Benfica could pose more threat too if Frankie de Jong and Co do not consider their potentials, and so can Dynamo Kiev. Their horrific 2-8 defeat against Die Roeten two seasons ago still lingers in their memory despite the fact that Hans Flick and Quique Setien, the two boss who led both sides at that time, are no longer with them. The last time Blaugrana and Bayern were in the same group was in 1998/99 season. Back then Rivaldo and Co suffered a loss in both fixtures and failed to progress.
Meanwhile, Jurgen Klopp’s side should be careful with their all three contenders, especially Atletico Madrid, which edged them out in 2020 and Europa League semi final in 2010. Los Rojiblancos seems to know how to tame The Reds. Moreover, Rossonerro is ready to come back strong with Olivier Giroud supported by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. These two veterans will be working hand in hand to stop Mo Salah and Co to progress. FC Porto can not be put aside as well.
The other favourites, such as the reigning champions Chelsea, the runner-up Manchester City and Real Madrid are relatively put in the fairly straightforward group. Chelsea only needs to worry more about Juventus’s threat, while Malmoe and Zenit St.Petersburg are competing more to stumble the Italian side. Manchester City is facing a tough challenge from PSG with Messi. RB Leipzig is not exactly a threat yet without Julian Nagelsmann in it and so is Club Brugge. Last but not least, Los Blancos are locking horns with Inter and Shakhtar Donestk again just like last season. Interestingly, all of them are now guided by the Italians, Ancellotti, Simone Inzaghi and the former Sassuolo boss, Roberto de Zerbi. The remaining team in their group is only the debutante Sheriff Tiraspol.
Here are the complete list of the groups and the fixtures below.
GROUP A: Manchester City (England), PSG (France), RB Leipzig (Germany), Club Brugge (Belgium).
GROUP B: Atletico Madrid (Spain), Liverpool (England), FC Porto (Portugal), AC Milan (Italy).
GROUP C: Sporting Lisbon (Portugal), Borussia Dortmund (Germany), Ajax (Netherlands), Besiktas (Turkey).
GROUP D: Inter Milan (Italy), Real Madrid (Spain), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), FC Sheriff Tiraspol (Moldova).
GROUP E: Bayern Munchen (Germany), Barcelona (Spain), Benfica (Portugal), Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine).
GROUP F: Villarreal (Spain), Manchester United (England), Atalanta (Italy), Young Boys (Switzerland).
GROUP G: Lille (France), Sevilla (Spain), RB FC Salzburg (Austria), VFL Wolfsburg (Germany).
GROUP H: Chelsea (England), Juventus (Italy), Zenit St Petersburg (Russia), Malmo (Sweden).
Matchday one: 14/15 September
Matchday two: 28/29 September
Matchday three: 19/20 October
Matchday four: 2/3 November
Matchday five: 23/24 November
Matchday six: 7/8 December