Champions League Draw: Tough group for City and Liverpool draw Real

The Champions League draw took place overnight and it managed to deliver some mouth-watering ties; although some of them give a sense of déjà vu.

Thanks to some unconventional heroics in goal, Lubogorets defender Cosmin Moti saved two penalties – after his goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov was sent off in the final moments of extra-time – to send the Bulgarian champions through to the Champions League group stage for the first time in their history.

Elsewhere, Bilbao came from behind against Napoli to force their way into the tournament-proper for the first time since 1998-99, and Arsenal signing Alexis Sanchez notched his first goal for the club in their 1-0 win over Besiktas.

The other qualifying winners were Zenit, Porto, Maribor, APOEL, BATE, Malmo and Leverkusen.

With the qualifiers confirmed the stage was set for the Group Stage Draw, held in Monaco at the Grimaldi Forum – which could probably be done in about 10 minutes but UEFA like to drag it out for nearly an hour, asking former winners questions like “how did it feel to win the tournament?” and so on.

Surprisingly, the consensus was that it was “wonderful” to win the Champions League, and it made the former winners “very happy”.

Football writer and Football Manager-obsessed Iain Macintosh’s commentary was fairly amusing if you were lucky enough to be following him on Twitter:

They did eventually get to drawing all of the teams, and there were some interesting results making for a few wide-open groups.

Manchester City must be cursing their luck as again, despite being in Pot 2, they’ve managed to be drawn in one of the hardest groups alongside 2013 winners Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow and Serie A runners up Roma in Group E.

Liverpool make their return to Europe’s biggest stage with a Group B glamour tie lined up against the defending champions Real Madrid. They met one another in the Round of 16 back in 2008-09 and Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool stunned Los Blancos with a 5-0 aggregate win, including a 1-0 at the Bernabeu. They also played one another in the 1981 final, with Liverpool again taking the spoils. Along with Real, the Reds will face former Socceroo Scott Chipperfield’s old side Basel and tournament new boys Ludogorets.

Arsenal, for the second year running, have again been paired with Dortmund, and will have to travel to Turkey for the second time this season with a clash against Galatasaray, with Anderlecht rounding out Group D.

Group A has managed to draw four domestic champions, with Atletico, Juventus, Olympiacos and Malmo, while Group C appears to be the most wide open with any of Benfica, Zenit St Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco realistic possibilities to make it into the knockout stages.

Chelsea have been granted their usual easy group – with their draw being 98.1 percent as favourable as it could have been mathematically. They’ve been drawn in Group G with Schalke, Sporting Lisbon and Maribor.

And finally, Group H is another relatively unpredictable one, with Athletic Bilbao making their return against 2004 winners FC Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and BATE Borisov.

The first group stage matches will kick off on September 16th (or early morning September 17th here in Australia).

Champions League Group Stage Draw

champions-league-groups

Champions League Group Stage Qualifying Results:

Zenit St Petersburg 3-0 Standard Liege (4-0 on aggregate); Porto 2-0 Lille (3-0 on aggregate); Celtic 0-1 Maribor (1-2 on aggregate); APOEL 4-0 Aalborg (5-1 on aggregate); BATE 3-0 Slovan Bratislava (4-1 on aggregate); Malmo 3-0 Salzburg (4-2 on aggregate); Ludogorets 1-0 Steaua Bucharest (1-1 on aggregate; Ludogorets won 6-5 on penalties); Arsenal 1-0 Besiktas (1-0 on aggregate); Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 Kobenhavn (7-2 on aggregate); Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Napoli (4-2 on aggregate).

About Mark Houston 86 Articles
Mark is an editor of The Blog FC and has also contributed to other sport and music sites. He predominantly writes about La Liga but also follows Europe's other top leagues and the local A-League. There's a special place in his heart for bearded deep-lying playmakers and he's a proud member of the Goalkeepers Union.