- Bayern, PSG, City, and the reborn Milan can face Barça, who would celebrate a cross with Eintracht, Porto, or Ajax
- Lewandowski can return to Munich, Messi and Neymar would return to Barcelona and Guardiola would repeat like last night with City
- Inter, Napoli, Benfica and Dortmund, the most difficult in pot 3; Marseille and Rangers, in Cup 4
The Haliç Congress Center in Istanbul will be this afternoon (6 pm) for the second consecutive year the scene of the Champions League group stage draw. The Turkish capital, which will finally host the final after the pandemic prevented it both in 2020 (Lisbon), the year for which it had been initially designated, and 2021 (Oporto), will host the long-awaited evening with Hamit Altintop and the former Barça player Touré Yaya as innocent hands in a raffle with Real Madrid as current European champion and Barçain the second pot for the third consecutive edition, having not won the domestic Championship in this period. Also in the second cup, the other two Spaniards will await their fate: Atlético de Madrid and Sevilla.
If LaLiga had five representatives last year thanks to Villarreal‘s ticket for its title in the Europa League, this time it will be German football that will have more presence after Eintracht Frankfurt won the second continental competition. Included in pot 1 with Madrid and the champions of the other six best leagues, a meeting with Barça in the first phase would be one of the great morbidities of the draw after the invasion of German fans at the Camp Nou in April. The measures imposed by the club to sell only nominal tickets would pass a great litmus test.
It would not be the only duel with incentives for the Catalans, the enemy to avoid also for the seeded together with Liverpool and Chelsea, to whom Xavi’s team will not be able to measure. Nor to Juventus, Tottenham, and Leipzig apart from the Spanish with the impossible fratricidal clashes until the quarterfinals. Robert Lewandowski could meet again with Bayern Munich and Leo Messi and Neymar, and return for the first time as rivals to Barcelona. There is also an option for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to repeat after last night’s charity friendly, while Milan, back in the Champions League nine editions later after celebrating the ‘scudetto’, would face Franck Kessie. Ajax, coached by Alfred Schreuder ( Ronald Koeman‘s former assistant at Barça) after making Club Bruges champion of Belgium arriving in January, and Porto complete Barça’s possible rivals, Atlético and Sevilla in the first pot. Madrid, meanwhile, can see the May final against Liverpool reissued.
In the third cup there are some vagrant mines: Inter and Napoli, eliminated by Barça in the last Europa League, as well as Benfica, who kicked the Catalans out of the 2021-22 Champions League, and Borussia Dortmund, although without Haaland and with his replacement, Haller, sidelined with testicular cancer. Bayer Leverkusen, Sporting, Salzburg, and Shakhtar, who will play in his exile from Warsaw due to the war in Ukraine, complete the list.
And in the fourth pot, Jorge Sampaoli’s Olympique Marseille and Gio van Bronckhorst ‘s Rangers, who dropped Luuk de Jong and Xavi Simons’ PSV last night, would be more uncomfortable than Ferran Jutglà ‘s Club Brugge, Celtic, Dinamo Zagreb, FC Copenhagen, Viktoria Plzen, and Maccabi Haifa.
SCHEDULE ADJUSTED BY THE WORLD CUP
The six days, in just nine weeks
The compressed calendar due to the World Cup in Qatar, which will start on Sunday, November 20, forced UEFA to advance the start of the group stage by one week to September 6-7 and bring forward its end of the second week of December to November 1-2. In this way, the six days will be played in just nine weeks in an express league. In the round of 16, whose draw will be on November 7, the usual rhythm will be recovered but the final will be the latest (June 10) since 1956 except for the one in 2020 due to Covid, which was on August 23.