The world’s greatest football competition has truly reached its beginning, as 32 clubs around Europe were drawn into groups for the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League. The tournament always manages to provide top football and high drama for fans and supporters around the globe, and this year’s edition promises not to disappoint.
Real Madrid comes in as defending champions once again, capturing La Undecima by defeating city rivals Atletico Madrid on penalties. Since replacing the European Cup and a format change in 1992, no champion has won consecutive Champions League titles.
We highlight five must-see matches that will take place this fall in the group stage.
GROUP A: ARSENAL vs. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN (Wednesday, November 23rd – EMIRATES STADIUM)
Arsenal finds themselves in a familiar position once again in European competition. The group draw was kind to the Gunners, as Swiss side FC Basel and Bulgaria’s Ludogorets Razgrad shouldn’t be of much concern.
However, Arsene Wenger will want to avoid the difficulty of finishing runner-up in the group and the potential of facing a powerhouse club in the round of 16.
Standing in their way will be a Paris Saint-Germain side undergoing a transitional period. With forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic gone and new manager Unai Emery in charge, PSG will need to be at their best when they visit North London this autumn.
GROUP C: BARCELONA vs. MANCHESTER CITY (Wednesday, October 19th – CAMP NOU)
The UEFA coefficients are never kind to Manchester City.
The toughest group draw of all sees Pep Guardiola and his side meet with La Liga champion Barcelona, Celtic and Borussia Monchengladbach in what will be a fiercely competitive round of fixtures.
After an impressive run to last season’s semifinals, a strong performance in Catalonia against Barcelona should highlight City’s potential in this year’s tournament. Guardiola’s return to the Camp Nou is bound to be an emotional affair for all involved.
GROUP D: BAYERN MUNICH vs. ATLETICO MADRID (Tuesday, December 6th – ALLIANZ ARENA)
A rematch of last season’s semi-final will likely determine the group winner for Group D, as Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid battle in the final month of the group stage. Atletico managed to defeat the Bavarian heavyweights on away goals en route to the final last campaign, and Bayern will certainly be looking for revenge.
Atletico manager Diego Simeone will need his sensational striker Antoine Griezmann to continue his astonishing form if Los Rojiblancos are to come out on top once more.
GROUP F: REAL MADRID vs. BORUSSIA DORTMUND (Wednesday, December 7th – SANTIAGO BERNABEU STADIUM)
A return to the Champions League has manager Thomas Tuchel and Borussia Dortmund feeling good about the 2016-17 campaign. A group draw that should see them make to the knockout rounds is a positive as well.
But seeing the defending European champions will make the round of 16 a tricky affair.
In order to avoid a difficult exchange later on in the competition, Dortmund’s high-press system will need to shine at the Bernabeu for a chance of topping the group.
GROUP G: LEICESTER CITY vs. FC PORTO (Tuesday, September 27th – KING POWER STADIUM)
Upon their much-anticipated debut in the UEFA Champions League, English Premier League champions Leicester City were presented with a decent draw that should see them find their way to the knockout rounds.
Belgium’s Club Brugge and Denmark’s FC Copenhagen will test the Foxes, but it is a home encounter with Portuguese side FC Porto that will showcase where Leicester stand in Europe’s top competition.
An enthusiastic crowd is expected, as manager Claudio Ranieri will need to have his squad ready for the bright lights of primetime.
With the groups and schedules available, the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League is ready to kick off and provide its incredibly unique excitement. It is time to turn up the volume and get ready to see Europe’s best in action in the coming months.