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United face tough test in Champions League return


Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: PA

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: PA

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: PA

Manchester United's return to the Champions League has been rewarded with a tough-looking draw for the group stage after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side were drawn with last season's beaten finalists Paris Saint Germain as well as semi-finalists RB Leipzig.

United reached the last four of the Europa League last season, losing to eventual winners Sevilla, but qualification for European football's main competition was imperative, not just for the club's finances, but also their global reputation.

The draw, though, has not been kind and United will have to beat two of last season's success stories if they are going to avoid being back in the Europa League following Christmas after missing out on a top two finish in their Group.

PSG will be among the favourites to win the Champions League, while Leipzig are also dangerous despite the sale of top scorer Timo Werner to Chelsea this summer. Istanbul Basaksehir complete Group H.

There was also a tricky test for Liverpool, who will face last season's surprise package Atalanta, as well as Ajax and Danish side Midtjylland. The good news for Jurgen Klopp is that although Ajax reached the semi-finals of the competition in 2019, they have sold most of their key players since then and are in a rebuilding phase in Amsterdam with a fresh wave of Academy graduates thrust into the first team.

Atalanta will also no longer have the benefit of surprise when they return to the Champions League after unexpectedly reaching the quarter-finals last season.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard will be relatively happy with his team's draw after they were placed alongside reigning Europa League holders Sevilla, French club Rennes and Russian club Krasnodar.

Manchester City will also be relatively happy with their opponents in Group C alongside Porto, French clubs Marseille and perennial Greek champions Olympiakos.

Like Lampard, Guardiola has had a testing start to the new season but will be expected to make easy work of that group as he looks to win the trophy City's owners crave more than any other in what could well prove to be his final year as manager at the Etihad Arena.

The draw also paired Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with Barcelona and Juventus drawn in the same group.

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Champions League Draw:

Group A: Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Red Bull Salzberg, Lokomotiv Moscow.

Group B: Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter Milan, Borussia Monchengladbach.

Group C: FC Porto, Manchester City, Olympiakos, Marseille.

Group D: Liverpool, Ajax, Atalanta, Midtjylland.

Group E: Sevilla, Chelsea, Krasnodar, Rennes.

Group F: Zenit St Petersburg, Borussia Dortmund, Lazio, Club Brugge.

Group G: Juventus, Barcelona, Dynamo Kyiv, Ferencvaros.

Group H: PSG, Manchester United, RB Leipzig, Istanbul Basaksehir.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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