The journey to become crowned the best club in Europe begins next month when the group stage of the 2022-23 UEFA Champions League campaign kicks off.
On Thursday, European soccer’s governing body conducted the group stage draw in Monaco to pool 32 teams across the continent into eight first-round groups.
Here’s a look at the groups.
Bayern Munich (Germany), Manchester United (England), Copenhagen (Denmark), Galatasaray (Turkey)
Marquee matchup: Manchester United is back in the Champions League after a two-year absence and will be looking forward to going up against its rivals Bayern Munich, whom they’ve clashed with 11 times in this competition. These two teams are the class of Group A, so it’s more than likely that their pair of matches will decide first place.
The big question: Can Canadian Alphonso Davies and Bayern Munich put an end to a disappointing streak of three consecutive quarter-final exits in the Champions League and reassert itself as the dominant force in European club soccer by winning the continental competition for a seventh time?
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Sevilla (Spain), Arsenal (England), PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands), Lens (France)
Marquee matchup: Sevilla and Arsenal both play vibrant and entertaining brands of soccer, so the two matches between the Sevillistas and the Gunners should make for must-see TV. Plus, Mikel Arteta will have a point to prove – despite his success as manager of Arsenal, the Spaniard is still somewhat underappreciated in his native Spain.
The big question: Can seven-time UEFA Cup/Europa League winners Sevilla take the next step in its evolution and win the Champions League after dominating UEFA’s secondary tournament for the past 17 years?
Napoli (Italy), Real Madrid (Spain), Braga (Portugal), Union Berlin (Germany)
Marquee matchup: Real Madrid is unbeaten in four games (with three wins) against Napoli in their previous European Cup/Champions League encounters. But the Italians enter this year’s tournament as the favourites to top Group C after winning Serie A last season, and buoyed by the supreme attacking talents of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Victor Osimhen.
The big question: After slowly coming up through the ranks, what kind of impression will Union Berlin make in its debut season in the Champions League after previously competing in the UEFA Conference League and the UEFA Europa League over the past two years?
Benfica (Portugal), Inter Milan (Italy), Salzburg (Austria), Real Sociedad (Spain)
Marquee matchup: Benfica gave Inter Milan a stern challenge in the quarter-finals of last season’s Champions League before succumbing over two legs. The Portuguese outfit won a lot of plaudits for their attacking display in the second match on the series and will be eager to prove they belong among Europe’s elite.
The big question: Will Inter Milan be able to duplicate its magical and surprising run to last year’s Champions League final and win the tournament for the first time since 2010 during its historic treble season?
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Feyenoord (Netherlands), Atlético Madrid (Spain), Lazio (Italy), Celtic (Scotland)
Marquee matchup: Feyenoord beat Celtic in the 1970 European Cup final, but Atlético Madrid vs. Lazio is this group’s most intriguing matchup as it will see manager Diego Simeone facing the Italian team with whom he won a Serie A title, a Coppa Italia and a UEFA Super Cup during his distinguished playing career.
The big question: Will Celtic finally put its underperforming ways in Champions League behind it and advance to the knockout round for the first time since 2012-13?
Paris Saint-Germain (France), Borussia Dortmund (Germany), AC Milan (Italy), Newcastle (England)
Marquee matchup: It has to be AC Milan vs. Newcastle given that the English club paid a reported €70-million transfer fee to the Rossoneri this summer as part of a move that made the sublimely talented midfielder the most expensive Italian player in history.
The big question: How will a star-studded PSG side led by Kylian Mbappe fare in the “Group of Death” now that Lionel Messi is in MLS and Neymar has moved to Saudi club Al Hilal?
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Manchester City (England), Leipzig (Germany), Red Star Belgrade (Serbia), Young Boys (Switzerland)
Marquee matchup: Manchester City vs. Leipzig should be pretty interesting if for no other reason than the Germans made the Premier League side sweat when it earned a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their round-of-16 battle in last season’s Champions League. City responded by posting a 7-0 win in the return match, but Leipzig turned heads and earned the respect of the eventual tournament winners in that first game.
The big question: After a treble-winning season in 2022-23, can Man City become the first team to repeat as Champions League holders since Real Madrid three-peated from 2016 to 2018?
Barcelona (Spain), Porto (Portugal), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), Royal Antwerp (Belgium)
Marquee matchup: La Liga champions Barcelona were handed a favourable draw, but the matches against Porto could prove tricky for the Blaugrana. The Portuguese outfit pushed eventual finalists Inter Milan to the brink of elimination in the round-of-16 in last season’s Champions League, so they won’t be intimidated by Barca’s big reputation.
The big question: Will modest Belgian side Royal Antwerp be completely out of its depth during its first Champions League season while competing in a group with three other experienced European campaigners?
John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for several media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer.
Garnacho on target as United beats Crystal Palace in League Cup defence
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Seven months after lifting the trophy, Manchester United made a successful start to its defense of the English League Cup on Tuesday by beating Crystal Palace 3-0.
Alejandro Garnacho and Casemiro fired the holders into a 2-0 first-half lead at Old Trafford and Anthony Martial added a third after the break in the third-round match.
It is now back-to-back wins for Erik ten Hag’s team, which has endured a disappointing start to the season.
The dominant performance against an understrength Palace followed Saturday’s narrow victory at Burnley and will give United fans hope the team has turned its form around.
“The mood is always good, but of course when you are not winning at United there is disappointment, and there is frustration, but the togetherness is always there,” Ten Hag said. “We know we are not now in the position where we want to be. So we have to build up, we have to catch up and then you have to go from game to game, working on the process and working on the results. Don’t get too far ahead.”
The League Cup ranks fourth among English soccer’s most important trophies. But Ten Hag still savored last season’s success.
Victory against Newcastle in February’s final at Wembley Stadium ended the club’s six-year wait for a trophy and saw Ten Hag deliver silverware in his first season at the club. He went on to also reach the FA Cup final, only to lose to Manchester City, and also guided United back into the Champions League to mark an impressive campaign.
Things have not gone so well this term, with his team losing four out of five games before beating Burnley 1-0.
This latest victory was far more convincing, even if Palace benched regular starters Marc Guehi, Eberechi Eze and Joachim Anderson and was also without forward Odsonne Edouard.
Ten Hag also made changes with Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Rasmus Hojlund on the bench and Christian Eriksen absent.
Mason Mount, however, made his first appearance since Aug. 19 after returning from an injury.
Garnacho fired United ahead in the 21st minute after converting Diogo Dalot’s cutback in the box.
His low shot had too much power for Palace goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, who had only just come on as a substitute for the injured Dean Henderson.
Johnstone was tested again moments later when Dalot blasted an effort from an angle, which the keeper blocked.
He was beaten again, however, in the 27th, this time by Casemiro, who headed in Mount’s corner to double United’s lead.
Martial added a third 10 minutes into the second half when firing across goal after meeting Casemiro’s looping ball to the far post.
United plays Palace again in the Premier League on Saturday and the Londoners showed their threat when twice forcing saves from ‘keeper Andre Onana later in the match. But manager Roy Hodgson did not sound confident about securing a different outcome when the teams next meet.
“We are going to have to become a totally different team in the way we approach the game and the way we play the game,” he said.
Third-division Exeter produced a shock 1-0 win against Luton to knock the Premier League club out of the competition. Luton made 10 changes from the team that picked up its first topflight point of the season against Wolverhampton on Saturday, but the result will still go down as a big upset. Demetri Mitchell scored the winner in the 83rd, but Exeter had to see out the game with 10 men after he was sent off in the 88th.
Wolverhampton was also eliminated after throwing away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at second-division Ipswich. Hwang Hee-Chan and Toti Gomes had seemingly put the visitors on course for the next round after goals inside the first 15 minutes. But Omari Hutchinson, Freddie Ladapo and Jack Taylor sealed a comeback win for Ipswich.
Burnley is still waiting for its first win in the league this season, but it is powering on in the cup after a 4-0 win against Salford City, the fourth division club co-owned by Manchester United greats including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.
Elsewhere, Middlesbrough beat Bradford 2-0 and Port Vale won 2-1 against Sutton United.
Fourth-division Mansfield beat third-division Peterborough 3-1 on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw in regulation time. Lucas Akins’ penalty to even the score in the 93rd had sent the game to a shootout.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer
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How to Spot a Trustworthy Online Casino in Canada
Spotting a trustworthy online casino isn’t hard once you know what to look for, but until then, you better hold off on signing up or making a deposit. This quick guide on how to find a reputable online casino will cover five different factors you can evaluate to determine whether or not a casino is trustworthy. While you could just use a site like the trusted source WikiHow that lists the best online casinos Canada, it does help to be able to evaluate the trustworthiness of casinos on your own. Likewise, you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet. Casino review sites are a great resource, but it doesn’t hurt to also do a little digging of your own. Without further delay, here’s a quick and easy guide on how to spot a trustworthy online casino.
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Evaluating the Casino’s Security Measures
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Verifying the Casino’s Customer Support
Good customer support is essential for a positive online casino experience. A trustworthy casino will have a responsive and knowledgeable support team available to assist you with any queries or concerns. Look for casinos that offer multiple support channels, such as live chat, email, and telephone. Additionally, check for the casino’s operating hours to ensure that support is available when you need it. You should also try and give their customer support a test run. By simply asking their 24/7 Live Chat simple questions about the site, you can get a feel for their response time and overall knowledge. Sites with poor customer service will often take a long time to connect to an agent and be unable to answer even the simplest of queries.
Looking for Fair and Transparent Bonus Terms
Bonuses and promotions are a common feature of online casinos, but it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions associated with these offers. A trustworthy casino will have fair and transparent bonus terms, clearly outlining the wagering requirements, maximum bet limits, and any other conditions that apply. Avoid casinos that have overly restrictive or confusing bonus terms, as this may indicate a lack of transparency.
In conclusion, when looking for a trustworthy online casino, it’s important to consider factors such as proper licensing and regulation, security measures, game selection, customer support, and bonus terms. By taking the time to evaluate these aspects, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable gaming experience. Remember to always gamble responsibly and set limits for yourself to avoid any potential issues.
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