Paris Saint-Germain and its star forward Kylian Mbappé landed in the toughest group in the Champions League draw Thursday with former champions AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund, plus Newcastle.
Record 14-time champion Real Madrid plays Napoli, the runaway winner of Serie A last season, Braga and competition debutant Union Berlin, which will use the city’s Olympic Stadium for home games.
PSG’s group already looked like a difficult task for the French champion — which is still looking for an elusive first Champions League title — even before Newcastle was added as the final team. Backed by its majority owner, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund (PIF), Newcastle returned to the Champions League after a 20-year gap and shaped as the toughest option in the fourth pot of lowest-ranked teams.
Newcastle will take on Qatar-owned PSG which has retained Mbappé in a turbulent offseason that saw Lionel Messi leave for Inter Miami and Neymar sold to Saudi club Al Hilal, which is also majority owned by PIF.
“It’s a new era, it’s a new style and quality of game, very offensive and this is what we like,” PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi said, embracing the tough test. “Everybody wants to play (in the Champions League), so don’t complain.”
Manchester City, the defending champion, got a favorable draw and will play Leipzig for the third straight season, plus Red Star Belgrade and Young Boys.
City has beaten Leipzig 7-0 and 6-3 at home in the past two seasons, and will visit Swiss champion Young Boys on its artificial turf field in Bern.
Last season’s finalist Inter Milan will play Benfica – which it beat in the quarterfinals – plus Salzburg and Real Sociedad.
Barcelona was drawn with Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Royal Antwerp, another Champions League debutant which last played in the competition in the old European Cup in 1957.
Arsenal’s return after six years away will be against Sevilla, PSV Eindhoven and Lens.
Feyenoord, the 1970 European Cup winner, was grouped with the team it beat in that final, Celtic, plus Atlético Madrid and Lazio.
Teams from 15 different nations were in the draw, including 14 former European champions who have combined to win 48 titles in the competition’s 68-year history.
Games start Sept. 19 and group-stage play ends Dec. 13.
The knockout stage starts in February and reaches the final at Wembley Stadium in London on June 1.
The 32 teams will get a share of billion euros ($2.2 billion) in prize money, with each guaranteed at least 15.64 million euros ($17.1 million). Clubs get more depending on their results in the group stage and knockout rounds.
UEFA also pays clubs shares from a 600 million euro ($656 million) fund distributed according to their historic record in European competitions, plus a share of their broadcast rights deal in their home country.
The eventual champion likely will get about 125 million euros ($135 million) from UEFA.
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