UCL draw: Lewandowski, Barca to face Bayern

Barcelona have been drawn against Bayern Munich in the group stages of the 2022-23 Champions League, which sees Robert Lewandowski facing an early return to his former club while Manchester City’s Erling Haaland will reunite with his ex-club, Borussia Dortmund.

Lewandowski ended his eight-year spell at Bayern acrimoniously in July to join Barca in a €50 million deal and will face his old club after they were drawn together in Group C.

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Thursday’s draw, which took place in Istanbul, Turkey, means the two clubs will face each other in the group stages of Europe’s biggest club competition for a second consecutive season, with Bayern condemning Barca to a pair of 3-0 defeats last term as the Spanish giants finished third and were sent to the Europa League, where they reached the quarterfinals.

“The positive part [is] that Lewy [Lewandowski] is with us. For him it will be a special game,” Barcelona assistant sporting director Jordi Cruyff said.

“The last three or four games against them have been difficult, but we have strengthened ourselves and we are a different team. We are ready to compete face to face against Bayern.”

Added Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller: “What a terrific story that we’re going to meet Barcelona with Robert Lewandowski. For me, a super group with super teams.

“There will be some terrific Champions League nights for the football fans. But one thing is also clear: we’ll have to do our homework to reach the round of 16.”

Inter Milan and Viktoria Plzen make up the remainder of Group C.

Meanwhile, Haaland, who joined City in a €60m deal in June, faces a return to Dortmund, as the two clubs were drawn together in Group G alongside Sevilla and FC Copenhagen.

“City are naturally a force to be reckoned with in the Champions League. We’re looking forward to it just as much as we are to the reunion with Erling Haaland,” Dortmund midfielder Marco Reus said.

Elsewhere, holders Real Madrid were drawn in Group F, where they will play RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk and Celtic. Madrid won their 14th Champions League title when they capped a remarkable run in last year’s competition with a 1-0 final victory over Liverpool in May.

Paris Saint-Germain were handed a tough group in Group H alongside Juventus, Benfica and Maccabi Haifa. The Ligue 1 champions are still seeking their first Champions League title since the arrival of their Qatari owners in 2011, and will hand stars Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar another chance at bringing a European trophy to the French capital.

Liverpool will star in Group A, where they will meet Rangers, who are making their return to the group stages of the competition for the first time in 12 years, as well as Ajax and Napoli.

“The first thing to say is this is a proper challenge,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told the club’s website. “All of the clubs have quality, they all have pedigree and I would say they all have a chance.

“The good thing is we do also, so it makes sense for us to look forward to the challenge and give it a try.”

This season’s Champions League group stage will be played over a shorter period — nine weeks rather than typical 12 weeks — due to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which begins in November.

The knockout stages of the competition will take place later than in previous years, beginning on Feb. 14, 2023.

The final will take place at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul on June 10, 2023.

GROUP A: Ajax (Netherlands), Liverpool (England), Napoli (Italy), Rangers (Scotland).

GROUP B: FC Porto (Portugal), Atletico Madrid (Spain), Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), Club Brugge (Belgium).

GROUP C: Bayern Munich (Germany), Barcelona (Spain), Inter Milan (Italy), Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic).

GROUP D: Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany), Tottenham Hotspur (England), Sporting CP (Portugal), Marseille (France).

GROUP E: AC Milan (Italy), Chelsea (England), FC Salzburg (Austria), Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia).

GROUP F: Real Madrid (Spain), RB Leipzig (Germany), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), Celtic (Scotland).

GROUP G: Manchester City (England), Sevilla (Spain), Borussia Dortmund (Germany), FC Copenhagen (Denmark).

GROUP H: Paris Saint-Germain (France), Juventus (Italy), Benfica (Portugal), Maccabi Haifa (Israel).

Information from Reuters was included in this report.

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