On Thursday, European hopefuls learned their fate for this season’s top club competition in the Champions League group stage draw. With so many top teams competing, there are immediately headline matchups. Defending champion Manchester City looks to remain atop the mountain this season. However, there are several challengers looking to dethrone Pep Guardiola’s side.

The group stage is just the first step in the season-long race to win the crown as Europe’s best club. Even if many of the 32 teams are merely hopefuls, the group stage draw yielded some incredible matchups. One or two groups may stand out as more challenging than the rest.

The season kicks off following the September international break. The first batch of group stage games is Tuesday, Sep. 19 and Wednesday, Sep. 20. Coverage in the United States is available via Paramount+. The full schedule of games may feature select broadcasts on the CBS Sports Golazo Network or CBS Sports Network.

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UEFA Champions League group stage draw

Group A
Group B
  • Sevilla (ESP)
  • Arsenal (ENG)
  • PSV Eindhoven (NED)
  • Lens (FRA)
Group C
  • Napoli (ITA)
  • Real Madrid (ESP)
  • SC Braga (POR)
  • Union Berlin (GER)
Group D
  • Benfica (POR)
  • Inter Milan (ITA)
  • RB Salzburg (AUT)
  • Real Sociedad (ESP)
Group E
  • Feyenoord (NED)
  • Atletico Madrid (ESP)
  • Lazio (ITA)
  • Celtic (SCO)
Group F
  • Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
  • Borussia Dortmund (GER)
  • AC Milan (ITA)
  • Newcastle United (ENG)
Group G
  • Manchester City (ENG)
  • RB Leipzig (GER)
  • Crvena Zvezda (SER)
  • Young Boys (SUI)
Group H
  • Barcelona (ESP)
  • Porto (POR)
  • Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)
  • Royal Antwerp (BEL)
Reaction to the Champions League group stage draw

Immediately, the first group to jump off the page is Group F. AC Milan and Newcastle were arguably the best teams in pots three and four, respecitvely. UEFA drawing the two of them into the same group is a nightmare situation for any team coming out of pots one and two. PSG and Borussia Dortmund are familiar foes in the UEFA Champions League. Add in the seven-time champions Milan and a fiery Newcastle side and this is certainly the best group on average. Plus, American soccer fans get to watch Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah against Europe’s elite.

Group B is also a fascinating group. The best club in the history of the Europa League, Sevilla, faces a tall task in Arsenal. The Gunners have not played in the Champions League knockout stage since 2016/17. Based on their form last season and now, Mikel Arteta’s side would fancy itself as one of the contenders. PSV Eindhoven is no pushover to get into the knockout stage, though. The Dutch club thrashed Rangers in the playoff stage just to get to the group stage.

In terms of weaker groups, Group E does not have a true contender. However, this does not mean it is a boring group. Instead, the groups without a top team can be more exciting because they are balanced. Feyenoord and Atletico Madrid will fancy themselves to get out of the group. Still, Lazio and Celtic coming out of pots three and four will find their draw favorable in the grand scheme of things.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Sportimage