ISTANBUL – Barcelona face another tough Champions League group after drawing with Bayern Munich and Inter Milan on Thursday as it tries to avoid a second straight group stage exit after losing Lionel Messi. .
Barcelona also faced Bayern in the group stage last season when the German club won 3-0 both home and away as the Spanish giants dropped to third place and failed to reach the knockout stages.
However, Barcelona have since recruited former Bayern forward Robert Lewandowski – a two-time FIFA player of the year who will now face his former team-mates – despite the financial crisis affecting their ability to sign and retain players. have done
Inter Milan is another former champion in a group with a combined 14 European Cup or Champions League titles. Viktoria Plzen of the Czech Republic is the fourth team in Group C.
Real Madrid have 14 titles to their name and will defend the trophy in a group with Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk and Celtic.
Shakhtar will not be able to play during the Russian military invasion of Ukraine and will play “family” games in neighboring Poland. UEFA has banned all Russian teams from their competitions.
Messi will try for a second year to bring a first European title to Paris Saint-Germain, who are drawn in a group with two former two-time champions – Juventus and Benfica – and Maccabi Haifa.
Another reunion after a blockbuster off-season move will see Manchester City star Erling Haaland return to his old club Borussia Dortmund. The group also includes Sevilla and Copenhagen.
Liverpool and Rangers will have a rare England-Scotland clash in the Champions League, in a group that also includes Ajax and Napoli.
The group stage of the Champions League starts earlier this season on September 6 and ends on November 2, five weeks earlier than usual because of the World Cup in Qatar which starts on November 20.
After six rounds of play that last just eight full weeks, a three-month break is taken before the Round of 16 begins in February.
Fixture confusion due to Europe’s first World Cup being played in winter means the Champions League final is on June 10 at Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium.
It is the last scheduled final since the inaugural European Cup Championship in 1956.
The 32 teams will share about 2 billion euros ($2.57 billion) in UEFA prize money.
Each team receives a base fee of €15.6 million ($20.1 million) for each win in the group stage, plus €2.8 million ($3.61 million) and €930,000 ($1.2 million) for each win. The payouts increase to progress through each knockout round.
It all adds up to the eventual champion receiving around 125 million euros ($161 million) in UEFA prize money.
Group A: Ajax (Netherlands), Liverpool (England), Napoli (Italy), Rangers (Scotland).
Group B: Porto (Portugal), Atletico Madrid (Spain), Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), Club Brugge (Belgium).
Group C: Bayern Munich (Germany), Barcelona (Spain), Inter Milan (Italy), Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic).
Group D: Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany), Tottenham (England), Sporting Lisbon (Portugal), Marseille (France).
Group E: AC Milan (Italy), Chelsea (England), Salzburg (Austria), Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia).
Group F: Real Madrid (Spain), Leipzig (Germany), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), Celtic (Scotland).
Group G: Manchester City (England), Sevilla (Spain), Borussia Dortmund (Germany), Copenhagen (Denmark).
Group H: Paris Saint-Germain (France), Juventus (Italy), Benfica (Portugal), Maccabi Haifa (Israel).