Champions League group stage: Quick reunions, nightmare groups and an all-British drama


It’s that time of the year again when that famous anthem starts ringing around stadiums of the elite as the Champions League returns.

The group stage of this season’s competition gets under way this week and BBC Sport takes a look at some of the things to watch out for.

Haaland and Lewandowski’s quick reunions

Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski
Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski will face their former clubs in the group stage

Erling Haaland has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water and needed just four games to hit his first hat-trick for Manchester City when they came from behind to beat Crystal Palace last month.

The Norway international left Borussia Dortmund for City in the summer and the Champions League group stage draw has ensured he has a quick reunion with his former side.

City’s first game is at Sevilla this week but next week Dortmund will be the visitors at Etihad Stadium.

Champions League success has eluded City but manager Pep Guardiola is hoping Haaland will continue his super record in European club competitions, having scored 27 goals in 25 appearances for Molde, Salzburg and Dortmund.

Like Haaland, former Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski will come up against the side he left this summer to join Barcelona in the group stage.

After hosting Czech side Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday, Lewandowski and Barcelona head to Munich on Tuesday, 13 September. Italian side Inter Milan complete what is comfortably the toughest group in this season’s competition.

Lewandowski scored 67 goals in the Champions League for Bayern, but former Liverpool striker Sadio Mane seems to be doing a pretty good job so far of filling the Poland forward’s boots, having scored five goals in seven appearances in German league and cup games.

Champions League

England meets Scotland in Group A

One of the most eye-catching draws of the group stage was in Group A, where 2021-22 finalists Liverpool and Scottish side Rangers will face each other.

The two sides will meet for the first time in this season’s competition on 4 October at Anfield and then on 12 October at Ibrox.

Rangers’ return to the Champions League for the first time since 2010, while they and Celtic are back in it together for the first time since 2007.

Polish fans gets behind Ukraine’s Shakhtar

Stadion Wojska Polskiego
Shakhtar Donetsk will play their ‘home’ games at Legia Warsaw’s Stadion Wojska Polskiego in Poland

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 led to the suspension of all football in the country, but the Ukrainian Premier League returned to action last month and Shakhtar Donetsk are participating in this season’s Champions League.

They have been drawn with the defending champions Real Madrid in Group D, along with RB Leipzig and Celtic.

Shakhtar will play their home games in Poland, at Legia Warsaw’s Stadion Wojska Polskiego, which is almost 1,000 miles away from Donetsk.


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