Cristiano Ronaldo to return to Old Trafford as Man Utd, Tottenham and Liverpool draw tough Champions League groups

Cristiano Ronaldo will return to Old Trafford with Juventus following the Portuguese's summer move to San Siro - AFP
Cristiano Ronaldo will return to Old Trafford with Juventus following the Portuguese's summer move to San Siro - AFP

Cristiano Ronaldo is on his way back to Manchester United after a Champions League draw of mixed fortunes for English clubs.

United must overcome tough Italian and Spanish opponents having been matched with Ronaldo's new club Juventus and the reviving Valencia. Swiss side Young Boys complete the group, but it is Ronaldo’s return to United that will catch the imagination.

Portugal’s superstar has dominated the competition in recent history. He is seeking a fourth consecutive European Cup. Ronaldo won the Champions League with United in 2008, where he spent six years before his move to the Bernabeu in 2009, and is sure of an emotional welcome back to Old Trafford.

Jose Mourinho must also overcome a strong La Liga side, Valencia making their Champions League return under coach Marcelino.

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are facing demanding fixtures to progress into the knockout stage.

For Spurs, Barcelona and Inter Milan are the most eye-catching opponents. PSV Eindhoven were also drawn in Group B, but the visit of Lionel Messi to North London offers the greatest challenge.

Rather see that as a nightmare, Harry Kane sees a chance for Spurs to underline their progress. 

“It’s a brilliant draw, games at famous stadiums like the Nou Camp, the San Siro, it’s a really good draw, one to relish,” he said.

"We showed people last season that we can compete at this level, particularly when you look at the games against Real Madrid, who went on to win the tournament.

“Barca will be a different test but to play in the Nou Camp against some of the best players in the world. It’s fantastic to play in these types of games.

“You want to play in big games against the best players and this draw gives us a chance as a Club to once again test ourselves against the best.”

Cristiano Ronaldo in his new bianconeri strip - Cristiano Ronaldo will play his former club Manchester United in his new bianconeri strip - Credit: Getty Images
Cristiano Ronaldo will play his former club Manchester United in his new bianconeri strip Credit: Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp’s side face Paris St Germain, the French side armed with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in their star-studded line-up. 

PSG coach Thomas Tuchel was last at Anfield as Borussia Dortmund’s manager, losing to Klopp in the Europa League in dramatic circumstances.

Carlo Ancelotti – overlooked for the Liverpool job when Klopp was appointed in 2015 - will take Napoli to Merseyside.

Another volatile welcome awaits Klopp’s side in Serbia as Red Star Belgrade complete the group.

“I expected a difficult group, we have a difficult group and that’s what the Champions League is all about,” said Klopp.

“PSG are one of the most exciting teams in the world and I think their target is to win the Champions League, so that will be two interesting matches. Napoli, we beat them in pre-season but it goes without saying these two games will be completely a different challenge.

“Facing Neymar will be, for our Brazilian guys, like meeting a friend again and all that stuff. It’s a big challenge, but for all the others it is a big challenge to face us.”

Liverpool’s trip to Naples revives a bad memory for Klopp. He was sent off and banned for one game after a match there in 2013.

“I’ve been to Napoli with Dortmund, so I know what the atmosphere is like there. In fact, it’s where I got a suspension. I can do better, obviously,” he said.

Liverpool anticipated a tough draw having been seeding in Pot Three, but Klopp believes the higher seeds will not look forward to coming to Anfield.

“When you have already a group with Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli – two absolutely top teams – then you don’t want to have Liverpool as the third team,” he said. 

“If you think it is too difficult, you are already out. Last season is last season and now we have to do it again. We want to go through the group. It will be difficult but still we want to go through.” 

Manchester City will feel most comfortable of the English representatives with the outcome of the draw, handed the least demanding opponents of all the top seeds.

City will meet Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon and Hoffenheim in a group which should hold few fears for Pep Guardiola.

"Tottenham and Liverpool have had a much more difficult draw," admitted Txiki Begiristain, City's Director of Football.

"We have to respect Shakhtar.  Hoffenheim - i've been speaking with some people from Bayern and they are a strong team with young players and a very good manager. They are trying to play football. There should be a few good football games.

"We are coming off the back of an unbelievable season but still there are strong teams - Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern, PSG. They are very experienced in this competition."

Elsewhere, holders Real Madrid were drawn in a group with last year’s beaten semi-finalists Roma.



When does the Champions League group stage begin?

The first group stage matches take place in just over a couple of weeks, on September 18 and 19. Fixture announcements are expected shortly from Uefa.


Ronaldo to return to Old Trafford

History shows United have beaten Juventus in their last three meetings, but the bianconeri didn't have Ronaldo then. CR7 has scored both times he played his former club, and he'll be the biggest threat to Mourinho's struggling defenders.


Spurs vs Barcelona

Tottenham have only faced Barcelona competitively twice before - recording a draw and a loss against them back in the Eighties, during the 1981/82 Uefa Cup Winner's Cup semi-final.


Meanwhile in the Salah/Ramos saga...

Salah looks pretty unimpressed after Ramos picks up his defender of the season award...


Award for the Uefa men's player of the season...

... goes to Real Madrid's Luka Modric. He beats out Mo Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Quick correction from earlier: Navas was the first Costa Rican to play in a Champions League final.


Telegraph Fantasy Football 

With so many great players on show, picking a Telegraph Fantasy Football team for the Champions League will be more challenging than ever.  Pre-register now>>


How did the Premier League teams do?

All four escaped holders Real Madrid at the very least, but it doesn't look like qualification to the knock-outs is going to be easy...

Tottenham has a difficult draw again this year, in group B with Barcelona, Inter Milan and PSV. 

Liverpool's doesn't look much better, with PSG, Napoli and Belgrade to contend with and United's group with Juventus and Valencia looks especially tricky. 

City look like they're the team that have been let off the easiest in group F. 


And finally...

Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade) join group C with Liverpool, Napoli and PSG.

Brugge goes into group A, to meet Atletico, Dortmund and Monaco. 

Czech champions Viktoria Plzen join group G alongside Real Madrid. 

Inter Milan goes into group B with Barcelona, Tottenham and Eindhoven. 

The last team are AEK Athens to complete group E with Bayern Munich, Benfica and Ajax. 


Cristiano Ronaldo is the forward of the season, and the fourth and final pot starts to be drawn

Manchester City's Group F is the first group to be completed: Hoffenheim are drawn. 

Galatasaray completes group D with Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto and Schalke. 

Swiss champions Young Boys are the fourth team to join group H with Juventus, United and Valencia.


And lastly from pot three

Ajax join Benfica and Bayern Munich in group E. 

Monaco are allocated group A with Atletico and Dortmund.

Liverpool lastly - to join PSG and Napoli in group C.


Next up...

Schalke joins group D with Lokomotiv Moscow and Porto. 

Valencia gets drawn in group H with Juventus and Manchester United. 

PSV Eindhoven is the fifth team from pot three. They join group B with Barcelona and Tottenham.


The pot three draw gets underway

Lyon is chosen first - and joins Manchester City's group F.

CSKA Moscow joins group G - with Real Madrid and Roma.


This is turning into the Real Madrid show... 

Luka Modric is the midfielder of the season.


And finally the last of pot two

Benfica go into group E with Bayern Munich.

Napoli go into group C, joining PSG. 

Which leaves Tottenham to meet Barcelona in group B. Not exactly what Mauricio Pochettino would have been hoping for...


More to come...

Manchester United are drawn next, and will play Juventus in group H. 

Borussia Dortmund join Atletico Madrid in group A. 

Shakhtar Donetsk to group F, together with Manchester City. 


Time for pot two...

First to be drawn is Porto. They join Moscow in group D.

Roma is next, they draw group G to join Real Madrid. 


Defender of the season goes to Sergio Ramos

Liverpool fans might have something to say about that... 

Ramos - Ramos suited and booted - Credit: Getty Images
Ramos suited and booted Credit: Getty Images


Just to recap...

Group A: Atletico Madrid

Group B: Barcelona

Group C: PSG 

Group D: Lokomotiv Moscow

Group E: Bayern Munich

Group F: Manchester City

Group G: Real Madrid

Group H: Juventus


The last three teams from pot one...

Juventus are drawn as the first team in group H. 

Manchester City are in group F. 

That leaves Lokomotiv Moscow in group D. 


Next up...

Bayern Munich are in group E.

Barcelona are in group B. 

Atletico Madrid are chosen next, and are in group A. 


First two teams are drawn from pot one

PSG are drawn first - they're in group C.

Real Madrid are next - they're in group G. Fun fact: no team from group G have won the tournament in the last 15 seasons. 


And we're underway...

Short explanation of how it will all work. Pot one will be allocated to their respective groups first, and so on with the other three pots thereafter. 

Former Atletico and Real stars respectively, Diego Forlan and Kaka are on stage to represent Madrid - where the final will be held on June 1 2019 at the Metropolitano Stadium. They'll be picking the teams out of the pots.


Goalkeeper of the season is...

Real Madrid's Keylor Navas. He's the only Costa Rican player to play in the Champions League. 

The draw is (finally) about to begin now...


David Beckham takes centre stage

Posh and Becks are in the crowd watching a highlights reel of his career in football which has earned him the President's Award. Even Barack Obama makes an appearance in the film compilation, calling him "the man". 

Beckham calls winning the treble with Manchester United in 1998/9 his personal highlight. 


Looking back on last season...

A highlights reel of last season is playing, making us relive Mo Salah's crushing final, and finishes on Ronaldo's thumbs up to the crowd as he leaves a champion.. again. 

We also relive this epic moment, which even Juventus could appreciate... in hindsight.


Who can be drawn against who?

Everyone's in their seats by the looks of things and the famous theme tune is playing so just before we start let's brush up on a couple of housekeeping rules.

Teams from the same association cannot be drawn in the same group, and teams from Russia and Ukraine will also be kept apart in the draw. 

All clear? Okay, let's begin...


Where do the Premier League teams sit?

A Premier League team might be the favourite to win this year, but there hasn't been an English team win the Champions League since 2011/12, when Chelsea lifted the trophy. 

The last of the English sides competing this year to have won the title was Manchester United more than 10 years ago in 2008. Manchester City and Tottenham have never won the tournament - and City's manager Pep Guardiola hasn't been in a final since 2011.

Pep Guardiola and his ill-fated Manchester City last year - Pep Guardiola and his ill-fated Manchester City last year - Credit: Getty Images
Pep Guardiola and his ill-fated Manchester City last year Credit: Getty Images

Liverpool's heartbreak last year in the final to Real Madrid is the closest a Premier League team has come since United lost the final to Barcelona in 2009.


Where there's Ronaldo, there's always Messi

Lionel Messi already had his say though - and Barcelona have much to improve on for their standards. They've only made the semi-finals once in the last five seasons - compare that to their run of six semi-finals in a row from 2007/08 to 2012/13. 

Barcelona are still one of the top teams to avoid in the draw though, they haven't lost at home in the Champions League since May 2013, when eventual winners Bayern Munich beat them 3-0. 


Bets are on

If you wanted to get in an early bet pre-draw, the current odds have Manchester City as favourites at 5/1, with Juventus and Barcelona following at 6/1 and PSG at 7/1.

Holders Real Madrid are 9/1 to win - a certain CR7's transfer might have had something to do with that, as wherever the Champions League top goalscorer (120 in 153 games) goes, so do the odds apparently. 

Cristiano Ronaldo reminds us how many times he has lifted the trophy - Cristiano Ronaldo reminds us how many times he has lifted the trophy - Credit: Reuters
Cristiano Ronaldo reminds us how many times he has lifted the trophy Credit: Reuters


The stars are beginning to arrive in Monaco

Mo Salah and Sergio Ramos just landed on the helicopter pad... not together, obviously. 

And Becks is in the house, already making his presence known - cue dramatic lighting and steely stare.


The pots

Here is where each team features in the four pots. Late additions were Ajax, AEK and Young Boys who all came through qualifiers on Tuesday night, and Benfica, PSV and Crvena Zvezda who confirmed their places last night. 



Welcome to our liveblog of the Champions League group stage draw. 

The route to the knock out stages will be decided live from Monaco, and this blog will keep you updated on all the developments from Uefa's ceremony.  

The teams have been divided into four pots; pot one includes the defending champions, the Uefa Europa League winners and the champions of the six highest-ranked nations, and pot two, three and four are decided based on club coefficient rankings. One team will be drawn from each of the four pots to join one of eight groups. From there they'll fight it out to the knock out stages. 

Though this method should make it as fair as possible, the results of the group stages aren't always easy to predict. Last year Atletico Madrid exited early after being drawn with Roma and Chelsea in Group C; Tottenham asserted their authority to win what was initially seen as a tough group including Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund; and Manchester United topped the relatively easy Group A. 

Jose Mourinho will be hoping for similar luck today, as Manchester United features in the draw alongside three other Premier League sides: Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool. 

Manchester City are the only team in pot one, so odds are they should get the easiest ride of the four, with Tottenham and United to be drawn from pot two, and Liverpool lying most vulnerable in pot three.

Obvious teams they'll be looking to avoid are newly strengthened Juventus with a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, the always dangerous Barcelona (even sans Andres Iniesta), and Real Madrid, who have won the Champions League four times in the last five years. 

Apart from the main event, Uefa will also be announcing a few awards: goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward of the season and men's and women's player of the year.