Rangers will face Liverpool in their return to the Champions League for the first time in 12 years after being drawn against Jürgen Klopp’s side in Group A, while Erling Haaland will play for former Borussia Dortmund at Manchester City .
Having struggled through two qualifying rounds following defeat in last season’s Europa League final, the reward for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side is a tough group that also includes Dutch champions Ajax and Napoli, who they lead the initial Serie A standings after two games.
However, it could have been even worse for Rangers if former Bayern Munich and Turkey midfielder Hamit Altintop had drawn them in a group containing Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Internazionale. Instead, Czech champions Viktoria Plzen have the unenviable task of trying to find a way past three teams who have won the competition 14 times between them.
Liverpool have never met Rangers in a competitive match before, although they have met in friendlies most recently in October 2011 when the Scottish side won 1-0 at Ibrox .
Klopp was in no doubt about the task ahead. He said: “The first thing to say is that this is a suitable challenge. The difference this year is that the group stage will be shorter than usual, so we will have to be prepared not only for the quality of the ‘opposition but also because of the different demands and rhythms.
“It’s only been a couple of years since we played two really tough games against Ajax and they draw us against Napoli quite regularly, so we know a lot about them and they know a lot about us. However, I know there will also be some new lessons to learn.
“Rangers are a new opponent for us, but we also know them. Their history over the last few years has been very interesting and they have done very well to qualify for the group stage, considering the teams they came up against in the qualifying matches.”
Tottenham, on the other hand, will fancy their chances of progressing into their first Champions League campaign since 2019/20 after drawing with Eintracht Frankfurt, who beat Rangers in the final Europa League to qualify for this season’s competition, Sporting and Marseille in Group D.
“We have some really tough games but now everyone knows each other in European football and we have a squad that I think could be a force to be reckoned with,” said Tottenham ambassador and former captain Gary Mabbutt.
“We’re playing against the elite in Europe and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Chelsea will face Milan, FC Salzburg and Dinamo Zagreb in what also looks like a welcome draw for Thomas Tuchel’s side in Group E, while Norway striker Haaland will be reunited with his former teammates Borussia Dortmund following their £53m summer move after City were placed with City. the German team, Sevilla and FC Copenhagen in Group G.
“It will be a special game, especially for Erling Haaland and Ilkay Gündogan,” City chief executive Ferran Soriano said.
“I think they’ll both enjoy it. It’s a fantastic stadium – the last time we went there it was empty because of Covid, so it will be a great experience for our fans, both in Dortmund and in Manchester.”
Asked if winning the Champions League for the first time was City’s priority this season after being knocked out by Madrid in the semi-finals last season after losing to Chelsea in the 2021 final, Soriano added: “No, never . Our priority is always the Premier League: that’s why we work hard every week and it’s our bread and butter. The Champions League is of course an aspiration, but it’s not an obsession. We’ll win it, I’m sure.”
Celtic face a tough challenge against Real Madrid, RB Leipzig and Shakhtar Donetsk.
Celtic, managed by Ange Postecoglou, last faced the 14 winners in 1980, a European Cup tie which saw the Spanish side prevail after going down 2-0 in a moment
Porto, Atlético de Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Club Bruges make up Group B, with Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Benfica and Maccabi Haifa in Group H.
England manager Sarina Wiegman, winner of Euro 2022, was also named UEFA Women’s Coach of the Year, with Beth Mead missing out on Barcelona midfielder Alexia Putellas in the player of the year award ‘year.
“It’s great to receive this great award, I’m honored and humbled,” said Weigman. “This award is really for everyone involved with the England team, the FA, the staff and most importantly the players. Our fans have been really great too so thank you to the fans for giving us so much support . Hopefully we qualify for the World Cup and enjoy the game.” Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti won the men’s award, with Karim Benzema named men’s player of the year.
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