Winners and Losers of the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw

Nick AkermanFeatured Columnist IVAugust 25, 2022

Winners and Losers of the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw

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    One team will be lifting the UEFA Champions League in Istanbul in June next year. (Getty Images)

    Storylines upon storylines. The UEFA Champions League group stage draw 2022-23 is full of them.

    Thursday’s procession in Istanbul signaled the start of a hectic European schedule that somehow has the 2022 World Cup plonked in the middle.

    Clubs must make it through all six of their group-stage fixtures before the November showcase in a run that is great for supporters but terrible for hamstrings.

    With that in mind, let’s take a look at the winners and losers from UEFA’s ceremony that always, always lasts too long.

Winner: Anyone Who Watches the Group of Death

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    Familiar faces meet in the group stages as Thomas Muller and FC Bayern meet Sergio Busquets' FC Barcelona. (Getty Images)

    Group C: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Viktoria Plzen

    Whisper it quietly. We have quite the Group of Death this year.

    Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Viktoria Plzen make up an incredible Group C. This is the group of Sadio Mane, Robert Lewandowski, Romelu Lukaku and many more world-class talents who will need to put their stamp on the competition quickly for a successful campaign.

    Plzen may be expected to take on the role of whipping boys, but their ability to get any points at all could have a significant impact on who progresses to the knockout stages and who descends to the Europa League.

    This is particularly important, you would think, for Barca and Inter. Considering Bayern haven’t lost a group-stage fixture in 28 matches and counting, both clubs should have their eyes firmly on second.

Loser: FC Barcelona

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    It might be a rough ride for Ousmane Dembele, Robert Lewandowski and FC Barcelona in the Group of Death. (Getty Images)

    Let’s dwell on Group C a little longer.

    While it’s major entertainment for fans, Barcelona will be sick of the sight of Bayern. Even if you try to forget the 8-2 destruction in 2020, Barca were thoroughly embarrassed twice by the Germans in last year’s group stage.

    A certain Lewandowski led Bayern to a 3-0 win at the Camp Nou on Matchday 1 last season. Although he didn’t score in the reverse fixture, the scoreline was repeated as Barca stumbled to third place behind Benfica.

    Things have changed a lot since those matches. Lewa now lines up for the Blaugrana, who have also strengthened with the likes of Raphinha, Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen. It’s been a summer of difficult headlines surrounding the club’s financial situation, though, with Jules Kounde still unregistered at the time the draw was made.

    Barca need to prove themselves. They need to shake the shackle of being the club that lost major sums on Philippe Coutinho, Samuel Umtiti and others. The pressure is firmly on, and they simply couldn’t have asked for a tougher task this early in the season.

Winner: Rangers and Celtic

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    James Tavernier of Rangers and Daizen Maeda of Celtic will be representing Scotland in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. (Getty Images)

    Group A: Ajax, Liverpool, Napoli, Rangers

    Group F: Real Madrid, RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic

    It might seem strange to suggest the Old Firm clubs as winners when they have both been handed ties against last year’s finalists.

    Let’s put this into context, though. The last time both Rangers and Celtic were in the competition at the same time was 2007-08.

    In that time, Rangers have entered administration, been demoted to the Scottish league’s lowest division and made it back again. Last year, they were pipped to the Europa League title in a tight showdown with Eintracht Frankfurt.

    You can forgive fans for getting a little excited about the prospect of hosting Liverpool at a bouncing Ibrox. There aren’t many better atmospheres across Europe on a big night, and Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men will be energised by facing down teams that could embarrass them if they aren’t completely fearless.

    Being back in the Champions League also hasn’t been a given for Celtic, who are back for the first time since 2017-18. They last escaped the group stage in 2012-13, falling 5-0 on aggregate to Juventus.

    With Rangers and Celtic back at the pinnacle, and pushing each other in Scotland again, there’s no denying it’s a very special moment for the league and its fans.

Loser: Seeing Your Ex Return

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    We meet again. Erling Haaland returns to Dortmund, this time in the blue of Manchester City. (Getty Images)

    Robert Lewandowski's return to the club that made him iconic is certainly headline news, but there’s another ex-Bundesliga assassin heading back to the German pitch that propelled him into the stratosphere.

    Erling Haaland is coming back for Borussia Dortmund. As John Edwards of noted, the Norwegian striker averaged a goal every 87 minutes for BVB, a stunning strike rate that could now come back to haunt them.

    Haaland finished 2020-21 as Champions League top scorer, netting 10 times for Dortmund in just 706 minutes played. City knocked them out in the quarter-finals that year in a two-legged tie that many will note as a breakout moment for Dortmund star Jude Bellingham.

    Haaland can do major damage to his old employers, who will be desperate to leapfrog Sevilla and Copenhagen into the Group G runners-up spot.

    Chelsea fans will also have to get used to facing their old players. Milan’s Olivier Giroud, Fikayo Tomori and Tiemoue Bakayoko get a crack at the Blues, who have started the Premier League season in less-than-ideal form.

    It’s Tomori who should have the biggest chip on his shoulder. The excellent centre-back was hardly afforded a chance at Stamford Bridge before being sent to Italy, where he played a key role in Milan’s Serie A title triumph last season.

Losers: Fans Who Want English Teams to Fail

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    Tottenham's Harry Kane and Chelsea's Kalidou Koulibaly will be pleased with their teams' respective draws. (Getty Images)

    Group A: Ajax, Liverpool, Napoli, Rangers

    Group D: Eintracht Frankfurt, Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting Lisbon, Marseille

    Group E: Milan, Chelsea, RB Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb

    Group G: Manchester City, Sevilla, Dortmund, Copenhagen

    It’s fair to say the English sides will be pleased with their draws overall.

    Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur all avoided dreaded matches with Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain, while City were already in a power position in Pot 1. Each can be expected to comfortably win their group and send a full English complement through to the round of 16.

    Antonio Conte and Spurs should be the happiest of all. Frankfurt, Sporting Lisbon and Marseille are tricky ties, but Spurs will be confident in racking up enough points to top the group. Vitally, these matches should also give Conte the opportunity to rotate more than he expected.

    Rest assured, Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son will lead Spurs out more often than not. Conte has spent the summer identifying excellent strength in depth, though, to produce the best squad the club has had in recent memory.

    Richarlison, Yves Bissouma, Ivan Perisic and others strengthen the manager’s options considerably, relieving some of the load from the trusted Kane-Son duo up top.


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