The 2014/15 Champions League sees 32 of Europe’s elite clubs do battle, with the prize of lifting the famous trophy in Berlin next summer up for grabs for one worthy champion.
The draw took place in Monaco on Thursday, as teams were divided up across eight groups of four, and as is always the case, some fans came away smiling while others were left hanging their heads.
Here’s a look at the full draw for what’s set to be another enthralling season of Champions League football:
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|Atletico Madrid||Real Madrid||Benfica||Arsenal|
|Juventus||FC Basel||Zenit||Borussia Dortmund|
|Group E||Group F||Group G||Group H|
|Bayern Munich||Barcelona||Chelsea||FC Porto|
|Manchester City||Paris Saint-Germain||Schalke 04||Shakhtar|
|CSKA Moscow||Ajax||Sporting Club||Athletic Bilbao|
The date for your diaries when the action gets underway is September 16, with the group stage then running all the way through until mid-December.
Check out the full fixtures list for the group stage below:
|Matchday 1||16/9||Olympiacos-Atletico||Matchday 3||22/10||Atletico-Malmo||Matchday 5||26/11||Atletico-Olympiacos|
|Matchday 1||16/9||Juventus-Malmo||Matchday 3||22/10||Olympiacos-Juventus||Matchday 5||26/11||Malmo-Juventus|
|Matchday 1||16/9||Liverpool-Ludogorets||Matchday 3||22/10||Ludogorets-Basel||Matchday 5||26/11||Ludogorets-Liverpool|
|Matchday 1||16/9||Real-Basel||Matchday 3||22/10||Liverpool-Real||Matchday 5||26/11||Basel-Real|
|Matchday 1||16/9||Monaco-Leverkusen||Matchday 3||22/10||Leverkusen-Zenit||Matchday 5||26/11||Leverkusen-Monaco|
|Matchday 1||16/9||Benfica-Zenit||Matchday 3||22/10||Monaco-Benfica||Matchday 5||26/11||Zenit-Benfica|
|Matchday 1||16/9||Galatasaray-Anderlecht||Matchday 3||22/10||Anderlecht-Arsenal||Matchday 5||26/11||Anderlecht-Galatasaray|
|Matchday 1||16/9||Dortmund-Arsenal||Matchday 3||22/10||Galatasaray-Dortmund||Matchday 5||26/11||Arsenal-Dortmund|
|Matchday 2||1/10||Malmo-Olympiacos||Matchday 4||4/11||Malmo-Atletico||Matchday 6||9/12||Olympiacos-Malmo|
|Matchday 2||1/10||Atletico-Juventus||Matchday 4||4/11||Juventus-Olympiacos||Matchday 6||9/12||Juventus-Atletico|
|Matchday 2||1/10||Basel-Liverpool||Matchday 4||4/11||Basel-Ludogorets||Matchday 6||9/12||Liverpool-Basel|
|Matchday 2||1/10||Ludogorets-Real||Matchday 4||4/11||Real-Liverpool||Matchday 6||9/12||Real-Ludogorets|
|Matchday 2||1/10||Zenit-Monaco||Matchday 4||4/11||Zenit-Leverkusen||Matchday 6||9/12||Monaco-Zenit|
|Matchday 2||1/10||Leverkusen-Benfica||Matchday 4||4/11||Benfica-Monaco||Matchday 6||9/12||Benfica-Leverkusen|
|Matchday 2||1/10||Arsenal-Galatasaray||Matchday 4||4/11||Arsenal-Anderlecht||Matchday 6||9/12||Galatasaray-Arsenal|
|Matchday 2||1/10||Anderlecht-Dortmund||Matchday 4||4/11||Dortmund-Galatasaray||Matchday 6||9/12||Dortmund-Anderlecht|
|Matchday 1||17/9||Roma-Moscow||Matchday 3||21/10||Moscow-City||Matchday 5||25/11||Moscow-Roma|
|Matchday 1||17/9||Bayern-Man City||Matchday 3||21/10||Roma-Bayern||Matchday 5||25/11||City-Bayern|
|Matchday 1||17/9||Barcelona-APOEL||Matchday 3||21/10||APOEL-PSG||Matchday 5||25/11||APOEL-Barcelona|
|Matchday 1||17/9||Ajax-PSG||Matchday 3||21/10||Barcelona-Ajax||Matchday 5||25/11||PSG-Ajax|
|Matchday 1||17/9||Chelsea-Schalke||Matchday 3||21/10||Schalke-Sporting||Matchday 5||25/11||Schalke-Chelsea|
|Matchday 1||17/9||Maribor-Sporting||Matchday 3||21/10||Chelsea-Maribor||Matchday 5||25/11||Sporting-Maribor|
|Matchday 1||17/9||Porto-BATE||Matchday 3||21/10||BATE-Shakhtar||Matchday 5||25/11||BATE-Porto|
|Matchday 1||17/9||Athletic-Shakhtar||Matchday 3||21/10||Porto-Athletic||Matchday 5||25/11||Shakhtar-Athletic|
|Matchday 2||30/9||City-Roma||Matchday 4||5/11||City-Moscow||Matchday 6||10/12||Roma-City|
|Matchday 2||30/9||Moscow-Bayern||Matchday 4||5/11||Bayern-Roma||Matchday 6||10/12||Bayern-Moscow|
|Matchday 2||30/9||PSG-Barcelona||Matchday 4||5/11||PSG-APOEL||Matchday 6||10/12||Barcelona-PSG|
|Matchday 2||30/9||APOEL-Ajax||Matchday 4||5/11||Ajax-Barcelona||Matchday 6||10/12||Ajax-APOEL|
|Matchday 2||30/9||Sporting-Chelsea||Matchday 4||5/11||Sporting-Schalke||Matchday 6||10/12||Chelsea-Sporting|
|Matchday 2||30/9||Schalke-Maribor||Matchday 4||5/11||Maribor-Chelsea||Matchday 6||10/12||Maribor-Schalke|
|Matchday 2||30/9||Shakhtar-Porto||Matchday 4||5/11||Shakhtar-BATE||Matchday 6||10/12||Porto-Shakhtar|
|Matchday 2||30/9||BATE-Athletic||Matchday 4||5/11||Athletic-Porto||Matchday 6||10/12||Athletic-Bate|
The Champions League: Anyone’s Trophy
This year’s Champions League is a little different than normal campaigns. Usually, you can pick the winner from day one; Real Madrid’s triumph was callable at the start of last year. However, the strongest field in the competition’s history means that the famous trophy’s destination is impossible to predict this time around.
The group-stage draw gave us an idea of who would be making the last 16, but in a competition decorated with exciting talent, you just never know.
Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea all come into the competition on an even playing field, and each and every one of them will fancy their chances of going all the way.
Particularly the Premier League’s finest, who were all handed a reasonable draw on Thursday, as BBC Sport’s Ben Smith reported:
All four English clubs should progress. Liverpool will be delighted with that group. Arsenal's is arguably tougher— Ben Smith (@BenSmithBBC) August 28, 2014
England have surrendered their football dominance to the Spanish and the Germans over recent seasons, but with Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool all likely to emerge through the group stage, the English will fancy their chances of taking it back.
The likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid will once again be sniffing around for glory, but any tie in the last 16 for either side doesn’t automatically mean quarter-final progression.
We saw what Atletico Madrid could do to their city rivals over two legs in the recent Supercopa, and Bayern aren’t quite a team of immortals.
No matter who lifts the trophy in Berlin in June 2015, it’s safe to say that it’s going to be a roller-coaster ride getting there.
Mouth-Watering Opening Fixtures
The first Champions League matchweek gets underway on September 16, and the competition rushes headlong into big fixtures, with some electric ties taking place across the first two weeks.
Here’s a look at the pick of the action:
|Tuesday, September 16||Borussia Dortmund vs. Arsenal|
|Tuesday, September 16||Liverpool vs. Ludogorets|
|Wednesday, September 17||Bayern Munich vs. Manchester City|
|Wednesday, September 17||Chelsea vs. Schalke|
|Wednesday, September 17||Athletic Bilbao vs. Shakhtar Donetsk|
|Tuesday, September 30||Barcelona vs. Paris Saint-Germain|
|Wednesday, October 1||Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus|
Tie of Matchweek 1: Bayern Munich vs. Manchester City
On September 17, two of the biggest clubs in world football will face off at the Allianz Arena, as Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich welcome Premier League champions Manchester City.
The pair were drawn together in last year’s Champions League group stage, and the reverse of this fixture kicked off their respective campaigns at the Etihad.
However, that time around, City were taught a free lesson in how to play football, as the German outfit simply terrorised them from start to finish, winning 3-1.
Bayern will be determined to start their campaign in a similar vein, but City head into this season’s competition in a stronger position than ever to mount a charge for the trophy.
Their 3-2 victory at the Allianz Arena last season, despite the group places being tied up, will also bring them confidence, and former Manchester United star Paul Scholes believes that they have the squad to go all the way, per Paul Scholes of the London Evening Standard:
They do not just want to be champions of England; this is a squad built to win the Champions League, too. ... So far, they have never got close in the Champions League and this is the year that they have to make the step. They have to show that they can win the league and in Europe, too.
To land the trophy, you have to beat the best in the business, and they don’t come much bigger than Bayern Munich.
Starting with the hardest encounter that the tournament can throw at you is ideal in some ways, and don’t be surprised if City find their way to victory in Munich once again. Anything can happen in the Champions League.