Pep Guardiola will be back on familiar ground with Manchester City this season after they were placed in the same Champions League group as Barcelona in another tough draw for the Premier League club.
The draw was much kinder to the Premier League’s other clubs, notably Leicester City, whose first Champions League campaign takes on Porto, Club Brugge and Copenhagen in a group that will encourage their supporters to believe they can reach the knockout stage.
Arsenal face a stern test against Paris Saint-Germain, the French champions, but Arsène Wenger’s side should be confident of overcoming Basel and the Bulgarian side Ludogorets. Tottenham Hotspur will also fancy their chances of reaching the last 16 after being drawn with CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco.
Manchester City once again find themselves up against difficult opponents. As well as the obvious threat posed by Barcelona, whom City have faced in the Champions League in two of the past three seasons, Mönchengladbach are no pushovers and taking on Celtic at Parkhead will be tricky.
“It’s not a nightmare because we are in a wonderful competition but you do have to say it’s a very tough draw with Barcelona, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Celtic – a big game again,” Txiki Begiristain, City’s director of football, said. “Pep knows the group very well – obviously Barcelona but also Borussia Mönchengladbach from his time in Germany. We were in the semi-final last season and we want to be there again.”
Leicester are not setting their targets so high but there will be cautious optimism around the club after a draw that could have been a lot worse for the Premier League champions. Porto have a strong European pedigree, winning the European Cup in 1987 and 2004, but Leicester have nothing to fear against Brugge or Copenhagen, the other teams making up Group G.
“Now the teams have been drawn that excitement is building even more and, although it won’t be easy against great champions like Porto, like everyone, I’m curious to see how my players perform,” Claudio Ranieri said.
The Leicester manager added: “Once again I say we are underdogs. For this reason we must fight for everything. I want to see my players fight against the best in Europe. Last season was wonderful but I want more. Now we are in the Champions League and we have another wonderful opportunity to show our quality. We know we have three tough away games but, when we arrive at our stadium, that is when I know we can show something special.”
Arsenal, who have been eliminated at the last-16 stage in each of the last six seasons, start at Parc des Princes, on 13 September, in their toughest group game. Although Basel have beaten Manchester United and Chelsea in the Champions League in the last five years, Arsenal will be strong favourites to qualify along with PSG, with Ludogorets the rank outsiders in Group A.
Spurs avoided being placed with one of the European powerhouses. CSKA Moscow were arguably the weakest of the top seeds, and Mauricio Pochettino, the Spurs manager, will be relieved to have avoided Borussia Dortmund and Atlético Madrid from the second pot. Bayer Leverkusen, who finished third in the Bundlesliga last season – albeit 28 points behind Bayern Munich – and Monaco make up Group E.
Real Madrid, the holders, have been drawn with Borussia Dortmund, Sporting Lisbon and Legia Warsaw.
Champions League draw in full
Group A: Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Basel, Ludogorets
Group B: Benfica, Napoli, Dynamo Kyiv, Besiktas
Group C: Barcelona, Manchester City, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Celtic
Group D: Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, PSV Eindhoven, FC Rostov
Group E: CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham Hotspur, Monaco
Group F: Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Sporting Lisbon, Legia Warsaw
Group G: Leicester, Porto, Club Brugge, FC Copenhagen
Group H: Juventus, Sevilla, Lyon, Dinamo Zagreb