The UEFA Champions League group draw took place in Monaco on Thursday (Matchday 1 kicks off on Sept. 12). Here are the top five takeaways.
Two-time defending champion Real Madrid’s quest for a three-peat promises to be a difficult one as the 12-time European Cup winners drew one of the most difficult groups. Madrid, which has the greatest chance to win the trophy according to FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index at 18 percent, were drawn in Group H along with Germany’s Borussia Dortmund, England’s Tottenham Hotspur and APOEL Nicosia of Cyprus.
It’s the second straight season that Madrid and Dortmund are drawn together. With these two matches, the clubs will have faced each other 10 times in the last six editions. The draw also means Gareth Bale will face his old Spurs team, which transferred him to Real Madrid in 2013 for a then-record $145 million after six seasons.
Barcelona will also meet with an old foe in the group stage. Their Group D rivals include Sporting CP, Olympiacos, and Juventus, whom they beat in the 2015 final to win their fifth European Cup and fourth of the Champions League era. That is Barcelona’s only UCL win over Juventus in five meetings. Last year, the Italians eliminated them 3-0 on aggregate in the quarterfinals.
The toughest group in this edition, in terms of being the most evenly matched, has to be Group C, which features three teams with more than 60 percent probability to reach the round of 16 (Atlético Madrid, Chelsea, and Roma). The also-ran in the group, according to SPI, is Qarabag FK. With a less than a one percent chance to advance, the first-time participant might be booking a trip back to Azerbaijan sooner than they had hoped.
According to According to Bet365.com, Real Madrid is a 7-2 favorite to become the first team since Bayern Munich from 1973-76 to win three consecutive European Cup titles. Co-second favorites are Barcelona, Bayern Munich and PSG (7-1). No other club has odds shorter than 11-1.