Manchester City, Paris St. Germain face tough matches after UCL draw

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain were handed tricky European ties on Thursday as the draw for the Champions League group stage was completed in Monaco. The English giants were paired with Juventus, Moenchengladbach and Sevilla, while PSG must face Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Madrid in what appears to be this year’s group of death. Defending champions Barcelona got a relatively soft draw, with games against Bayer Leverkusen, Roma and BATE Borisov.

Matches begin across the FOX family of networks on September 15 and 16, with all games available on the FOXSoccer2GO streaming service.

The other English sides did about as well as they could expect. Arsenal and Bayern Munich are expected to get out of Group F, while Manchester United got a manageable group with PSV Eindhoven and CSKA Moscow. And, in a moment of nostalgia, English champions Chelsea were paired with a team they know quite well: Porto, the side where manager Jose Mourinho made his name by taking the Portuguese side to European glory.

But the marquee matchup of the group stage looks to be the two meetings between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo as the new-money boys in Paris meet what is arguably the world’s biggest club, Real Madrid. And for sheer spectacle, it is hard to beat the sight of two of the greatest players – and egos – in the world game meeting in Madrid and Paris in massive games.

Real Madrid are rebuilding under new manager Rafa Benitez and so far have not impressed this season, with rumblings already underway at the club over the lack of direction. But Real, who were dropped into pot 2 under the new seeding rules instituted for this year’s draw, remained the one team no one wanted to face.

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Stocked with talent and star power from James and Gareth Bale right down, Real are also widely expected to complete the signing of current Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea before the close of the transfer window. Adding the Spanish keeper would complete what would be one of the strongest defenses in Europe.

PSG are no slouches either, with Ibrahimovic lining up alongside Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani and the crafty Blaise Matuidi pulling the strings in the middle of the park. PSG are perfect so far this season and frankly look so much better than the rest of a tepid Ligue 1 that it is a given they will focus on trying to climb for the European Cup.

Shakhtar also cannot be discounted in this group, and while they are a peg below Real and PSG, can play the spoilers. They have lost a great deal of talent over the summer, with Douglas Costa heading to Bayern and Luis Adriano decamping for Milan, but they still boast a strong Brazilian-led core with Taison, Alex Teixeira and Bernard at the heart of this tricky Ukranian side.

Elsewhere, Arsenal will meet Olympiakos for the fourth time in seven campaigns as the two were paired again in Group F alongside Bayern Munich and Dinamo Zagreb. Bayern will present a formidable challenge to the Gunners, and are the immediate favorites to win the group outright, but neither team should be too troubled by their companions in this stage of the tournament.

United of course know PSV Eindhoven quite well; this pairing means an immediate return for new United star Memphis Depay, who came over from Eindhoven after a breakout year. The only tricky part of Group B looks to be a long trip to Moscow to play CSKA, though Wolfsburg, last year’s surprise side in the Bundesliga, will look to try and stake their claim here as well.

For Manchester City, things look a bit more delicate. They have started the season strongly and look far more solid front to back than many of the other English sides in this tournament – but they also lack tactical nous and experience in Europe, and have disappointed so far. Against a tactically strong and savvy Juventus side and a Sevilla team that repeated as Europa League winners, Group D may prove to be a minefield.

Chelsea also got a cushy draw, with trips to Israel to face Maccabi Tel-Aviv and to Ukraine for a date with Dynamo Kiev. With Porto posing the only challenge – and not much of one at that – Mourinho should be able to relax during the group stages to shore up his faltering bid to repeat as England’s champions.

Barcelona should have no issues at all with Group E, as they are clearly superior to Roma and Leverkusen. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez should have a field day at BATE, and it will be a shock if they have not locked up top slot in this group by the fifth day of play.

2015-16 UEFA Champions League Group Stage

Group A

Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk and Malmo.

Group B

PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg.

Group C

Benfica, Atletico Madrid, Galatasaray and FC Astana.

Group D

Juventus, Manchester City, Sevilla and Borussia Monchengladbach.

Group E

Barcelona, Bayer Leverkusen, Roma and BATE Borisov.

Group F

Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Olympiakos and GNK Dinamo.

Group G

Chelsea, Porto, Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Group H

Zenit St-Petersburg, Valencia, Olympique Lyon and Gent.