UCL draw: Moscow to welcome Real Madrid & Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford
Current UEFA Champions League holders Real Madrid face a trip to Russia to take on CSKA Moscow and Cristiano Ronaldo will return to Man United in the 2018/19 tournament's group stage, the draw for which took place on Thursday.
The draw, held at UEFA headquarters in Monaco, determined Real, who have won the last three Champions League titles, will travel to the VEB Arena for the first time ever for their match in Group G. The team will be led by captain Sergio Ramos, who was awarded 'Best defender' of the 2017/18 tournament at the draw ceremony.
The official result of the #UCLdraw! 🤩Toughest group? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/G6rPKtQuU8— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 30, 2018
Ramos will hope he has better luck in the Russian capital than his last visit at this summer's 2018 World Cup when his Spain side suffered a shock defeat to hosts Russia 4-3 on penalties at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.
The defender caused a stir at the awards ceremony when he appeared to stroke Liverpool forward Mo Salah’s shoulder when returning to his seat after collecting his award. When the two players’ sides met in last season’s final, Ramos was at the centre of a furious backlash after he forced the Egyptian off the field with a shoulder injury received as a result of his challenge.
Completing Group G are FC Viktoria Plzeň, who earned their place in Europe’s premier competition by finishing as champions of the Czech Republic last season.
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For the trip to Moscow, Real will be without their former star Cristiano Ronaldo, who left for Juventus in the summer for €117 million, and who will make a return to Old Trafford when the Turin side play Manchester United in Group H.
That group also consists of Spain's Valencia and the Swiss side with the strange name Young Boys, with many Man United fans already hinting the tough draw could spell trouble for besieged manager Jose Mourinho, who has endured a torrid time at the United helm already this season.
Cristiano Ronaldo for Manchester United:👤 292 appearances⚽ 118 goals 🏆 9 trophiesWill @Cristiano have a happy Old Trafford return with Juventus? #UCLdrawpic.twitter.com/QO5hQfMpcY— Goal (@goal) August 30, 2018
Many have marked out that collective as the tournament’s ‘Group of Death’, with Group B, consisting of Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan also being touted as the tournament's most challenging assemblance.
Groups of Death. At least on paper.😁B: Barcelona, Tottenham, PSV, InterC: PSG, Napoli, Liverpool, Red Star BelgradeH: Juventus, Man United, Valencia, Young BoysLet’s play!#UCLdraw— Bolarinwa Olajide (@iambolar) August 30, 2018
Despite the slippery selection of sides dealt his team, England captain and Spurs forward Harry Kane, the Russia 2018 Golden Boot winner, has already expressed his readiness to take those fixtures by the scruff of the neck.
Can’t wait for those big European nights again! Time to improve on last season! #UCLdraw#ChampionsLeaguepic.twitter.com/NC1WC0jklY— Harry Kane (@HKane) August 30, 2018
Russia’s second club in the competition are Lokomotiv Moscow, who were drawn in Group D alongside Turkish giants Galatasaray. Famous for their ‘Welcome to Hell’ atmosphere created in their revered Ali Sami Yen Spor Kompleksi stadium in the Turkish capital Istanbul, which fans of 'Cim-Bom' will be hoping to recreate at Lokomotiv's RZD Arena. Completing the group are Portugal’s Porto and German side FC Schalke.
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Manchester City, chosen by many as favorites to win the competition outright, face a slightly simple task as they were drawn in Group F with Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon and Hoffenheim, who stand between them and knockout stage qualification.
#UCL Group C confirmed. 💪 #UCLdrawpic.twitter.com/WLa7MiTIj6— Liverpool FC (@LFC) August 30, 2018
Paris St Germain attacking pair Neymar and Kylian Mbappe face Liverpool in Group C alongside Napoli and Crvena Zvezda. Borussia Dortmund take on Atletico Madrid, Monaco and Club Brugge in Group A, while German rivals Bayern Munich face the trio Benfica, Ajax and AEK Athens in Group E.
The full and complete Champions League draw is listed below: