Champions League draw: Busy group stages, strikers on the move and Ukrainian teams

Champions League draw

The Champions League draw takes place on Thursday at 17:00 BST in Istanbul – so what do you need to know?

The group stage will be played over nine midweeks this season to fit in the World Cup.

So who is in it, who is going to win it, how does it work and how has the Russian invasion of Ukraine affected things?

How does the draw work?

The Champions League takes the same format as always, with four English teams – Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham – going straight into the group stage. Celtic are also in the group stage.

The eight top seeds are the champions of each of Europe’s top leagues plus the Europa League winners – Real Madrid, Eintracht Frankfurt, Manchester City, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Paris St-Germain, Porto and Ajax.

The other pots will not be decided until Wednesday’s final three qualifiers between PSV and Rangers, Dinamo Zagreb and Bodo/Glimt, and Trabzonspor and Copenhagen.

The following teams have already qualified…

England: Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham

Spain: Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla

Italy: Inter, Juventus, Milan, Napoli

Germany: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Eintracht Frankfurt, Leipzig, Leverkusen

France: Marseille, Paris St-Germain

Portugal: Porto, Sporting Lisbon, Benfica

Netherlands: Ajax

Belgium: Club Bruges

Austria: Salzburg

Scotland: Celtic

Ukraine: Shakhtar Donetsk

Czech Republic: Viktoria Plzen

Israel: Maccabi Haifa

A busy group schedule

Real Madrid lift the Champions League trophy

Uefa has to fit the Champions League group stage into a smaller period of time because of the Qatar World Cup.

The group stage starts on 6 September and runs to 2 November – a period of nine weeks (compared to 12 weeks normally).

Usually it runs until the second week of December – but the World Cup kicks off on 20 November.

There will only be three weeks without Champions League games between the groups starting and ending. Two of those land during the September international break – and the other in mid-October has a full round of midweek Premier League games.

The knockout stages will be later than usual. The last-16 ties will be played over a month from 14 February to 15 March. The quarter-finals are in April and the semis in May.

The final is at Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium on 10 June 2023.

It was initially meant to be the venue for the 2020 final, and then the 2021 showpiece, but both finals were moved to Portugal because of Covid restrictions.

Strikers on the move

Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski

Several of the Champions League’s top goalscorers of recent years have been on the move this summer.

Robert Lewandowski, the third top scorer in the tournament’s history with 86, has moved from Bayern Munich to Barcelona.

Sadio Mane, who netted 10 Champions League goals in 2017-18, has in effect replaced him after making the move from Liverpool.

Darwin Nunez, who scored six goals last season, has in turn moved from Benfica to replace Mane at Anfield.

Erling Haaland, who won the Champions League golden boot in 2020-21, has joined Manchester City from Borussia Dortmund. He has scored 23 goals in only 19 games in the tournament.

Sebastien Haller, last season’s third top scorer with 11 goals with Ajax, took Haaland’s place at Dortmund – although is undergoing chemotherapy for a testicular tumour and will be out for a few months.

Meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is in the top 10 Champions League scorers ever, is back in the tournament for the first time since 2017 with AC Milan.

Can an English team win this year?

Chelsea beat Manchester City in the 2021 final

Despite the view that the Premier League is currently the top league in the world, only two of the previous 10 Champions Leagues have been won by English teams.

On both occasions they were all-English finals, with Liverpool beating Tottenham in 2019 and Chelsea defeating Manchester City in 2021.

Liverpool have lost two of the past five finals to Real Madrid, including last season at the Stade de France.

Manchester City will hope the addition of Haaland, who averages a Champions League goal every 64 minutes, will get them over the line this season.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are hoping for a fourth final in six years, while Chelsea are bidding to become only the third English team (after Liverpool and Manchester United) to win three European Cups.

Tottenham – finalists in 2019 – are also in the tournament.

Anything else?

Dynamo Kyiv

There will be no Russian teams in this season’s Champions League as part of the Uefa punishment because of the country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk will play their group games at Legia Warsaw’s Stadion Wojska Polskiego in Poland, almost 1,000 miles from Donetsk.

That will be Shakhtar’s fourth different Champions League home ground away from their city since Donetsk was captured by pro-Russian separatists in 2014.

Dynamo Kyiv, who lost to Benfica in the play-offs, also played their qualifiers in Poland, at the LKS Municipal Stadium in Lodz.

Who is going to win the Champions League?

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