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Champions League group stage draw: Newcastle handed tough European return

The draw for European club football's most prestigious competition, the Champions League, was made on Thursday with 31 of the best clubs on the continent aiming to knock reigning champions Manchester City off their perch.

Doing so will be tough, however, with Pep Guardiola's treble winners 2/1 to retain their European crown at Wembley on 1st June next year.

City are housed alongside RB Leipzig, Crvena Zvezda and Young Boys in Group G.

Arsenal, second to City in last season's Premier League, are 10/1 to conquer the continent on their return to Europe's top table, while Manchester United will face Harry Kane's Bayern Munich in Group A.

Newcastle, appearing in the group stage for the first time in two decades, have the toughest draw of any British side. They will meet European powerhouses Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan in a stacked Group F.

Scottish champions Celtic take on Dutch counterparts Feyenoord, Atletico Madrid and Lazio in Group E.

WhatChampions League
WhenTuesday 19th September, 2023 - Saturday 1st June, 2024
How to watchTNT Sports
OddsMan City 2/1, Bayern Munich 11/2, Real Madrid 8/1, Arsenal 10/1, Barcelona 14/1, PSG 16/1, Man Utd 20/1, Newcastle 25/1

Champions City land plum draw

Manchester City finally earned the mantle of European champions last season and the kings of the continent will be extremely content with how Thursday's draw unfolded.

City will face RB Leipzig, Crvena Zvezda and Swiss champions Young Boys in Group G, and will no doubt be eyeing a repeat of last season's group stage when they sauntered into the last 16 with 14 points from their six matches.

The reigning champions actually met group-stage foes Leipzig in last term's last 16, when after drawing the first leg 1-1 in Germany they ran riot at the Etihad, scoring seven goals without reply.

Erling Haaland scored five of those seven goals and he is 6/5 to be the leading marksman in Europe's premier club competition for the second season in succession.

Daunting return for Toon

If City were handed the best possible draw then things couldn't have been any worse for Newcastle's chances of progression to the knockout stage.

The Toon, preparing for their first Champions League group campaign in 20 years, will have to do it the hard way to make the last 16 after being drawn alongside PSG, Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan.

A 25/1 shot to win the competition, Newcastle are 14/1 to be the last Premier League club standing in this season's competition, reflecting the magnitude of the task facing them in Group F.

Kane back on British shores

Old Trafford was mooted as a potential destination for England captain Harry Kane this summer.

And while Kane eventually settled on a big-money move to Bayern Munich, he will be back at the Theatre of Dreams sooner than he may have envisaged after the German champions were paired with Manchester United in Group A.

Bayern are 11/2 second favourites behind City in the outright betting and 4/7 to top the section.

Meanwhile, United, who beat Bayern in dramatic circumstances in the 1999 Champions League final at Camp Nou, are 20/1 to become European champions for a fourth time this season and 15/8 to win Group A.

Copenhagen and Galatasaray round out the quartet in Group A.

Gunners handed tricky assignment

Only City, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are shorter in the outright betting than Arsenal, who will take on Europa League winners Sevilla, PSV Eindhoven and Lens in Group B.

The Gunners are returning to the top table of European club football for the first time since the 2016-17 season and are 10/1 to win the Champions League.

They are 8/15 to win Group B and 3/1 to progress the furthest of the Premier League quartet, which shows that if they can negotiate their section they won't be a side to be taken lightly.

Mikel Arteta's men will at least know one of their group opponents well having met PSV in the group stage of last season's Europa League. The Gunners were 1-0 winners at the Emirates but lost 2-0 in Eindhoven a week later.

European powers await Celtic

Scottish champions Celtic are 200/1 to win the title but just getting out of Group E will represent great success for the Bhoys.

Brendan Rodgers' men will face Dutch champions Feyenoord, Champions League regulars Atletico Madrid and Lazio in Group E.

They are 2/1 to make the knockout stage and 4/11 to exit the competition in the group stage.

La Liga powerhouses likely to be happy

Of the remaining three groups, Spanish royalty Barcelona and Real Madrid appear to have fared best.

Barca are in Group H with Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Royal Antwerp, who were crowned Belgian champions for the first time in 66 years last term.

Napoli look the biggest threat to 14-time Real Madrid in Group C. Los Blancos are 8/1 to extend their record as the most successful club in European Cup history with Serie A kings Napoli 25/1 shots to reign at Wembley next year.

They are joined in their section by Braga and Union Berlin.

Last season's beaten finalists Inter will take on Benfica, Salzburg and Real Sociedad in Group D.

Group stage draw

Group A: Bayern Munich, Manchester United, FC Copenhagen, Galatasaray

Group B: Sevilla, Arsenal, PSV Eindhoven, RC Lens

Group C: Napoli, Real Madrid, Braga, Union Berlin

Group D: Benfica, Inter Milan, Salzburg, Real Sociedad

Group E: Feyenoord, Atletico Madrid, Lazio, Celtic

Group F: PSG, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Newcastle

Group G: Manchester City, RB Leipzig, Crvena Zvezda, Young Boys

Group H: Barcelona, Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Royal Antwerp

Champions League: format, odds

The Champions League is the premier competition in European club football, with the top sides battling it out on an annual basis to be crowned the best team on the continent.

Currently in its 69th season, or 31st since being rebranded as the Champions League in 1992, the competition has grown exponentially over the years, with further changes set to come into play ahead of the 2024/25 campaign.

What is the Champions League?

The Champions League is Europe's premier club competition and for the 2023/24 season 78 teams from 53 of the 55 UEFA member associations have taken part.

Most countries only have one representative, although depending on UEFA's coefficient ranking, as well as who the previous season's Champions League and Europa League winners were, some nations can have as many as five teams involved.

There are five qualifying rounds just to reach the Champions League proper, with teams entering at various stages of qualifying depending on their country's coefficient, while clubs from the higher-ranked nations secure automatic places in the group stage.

In total, 32 teams make it through to the group stage where they are split into eight groups of four, with the top two in each section progressing to the knockout rounds.

All ties during the knockout stage are played over two legs in a home and away format, with the exception being the final, which is staged at a predetermined neutral venue that changes on an annual basis.

What is the history of the Champions League?

The idea of a continent-wide knockout competition was first introduced ahead of the 1955/56 season, with Spanish giants Real Madrid winning the inaugural European Cup, beating French club Reims 4-3 in the final.

The competition remained in the same format for the next 36 years, with only the defending champions and winners of the previous season's domestic leagues eligible to play.

However, that all changed ahead of the 1992/93 season, as UEFA rebranded the competition, renaming it the Champions League and introducing a group stage rather than just a straight knockout format as it had previously been.

Since the 1992/93 season, the competition has continued to grow, with 32 teams currently competing in the group stage, while the biggest leagues in Europe have multiple representatives in the competition.

Who are the most successful team in Champions League history?

Real Madrid were not only crowned the first European champions, but they are also the most successful team in the history of the competition, winning it a record 14 times, most recently beating Liverpool in the 2021/22 final.

AC Milan are the next most-decorated side, with the Italian giants lifting the trophy seven times, one more than both Bayern Munich and Liverpool, the latter being Britain's most successful team in the competition's history.

Barcelona (five) and Ajax (four) have also enjoyed plenty of success in the past, while Manchester United (three), Chelsea (two) and Nottingham Forest (two) are the other British teams to have lifted the famous 'Big Eared' trophy on more than one occasion.

Can I watch the Champions League on television?

Yes. British viewers can watch all Champions League matches from the group stage onwards on TNT Sports, while in recent years the final of the competition has also been available to watch free-to-air.

What changes are expected to be made to the Champions League?

The Champions League has operated under the same format since the second group stage was scrapped at the end of the 2002/03 season.

However, UEFA have recently announced plans to change the competition's structure from the 2024/25 season, with 36 teams entering at the group stage rather than the current 32.

Each team will play eight matches rather than the current six and one league table will be used to rank all 32 sides, with the top eight qualifying automatically for the round of 16, while teams ranked ninth to 24th will go into a play-off round to decide the final eight places in the next stage.

From the last-16 stage, the competition will then continue in the same format as the current Champions League.

Who are the favourites to win the 2023/24 Champions League?

Defending champions Manchester City are 2/1 to successfully retain their crown, ahead of 11/2 Bayern Munich, 8/1 Real Madrid and 10/1 Arsenal.

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