UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League - Q1 and Q2 Qualifying Round Draw

Champions League Draw: English teams happy, Spanish and Italian giants to clash in group stages


In Monaco on Thursday the UEFA Champions League group stage draw took place as the 32 teams that qualified found out their fate.

The draw provided several intriguing matchups as some huge European clubs will face each other in the opening round of play.

For the third year in a row Spanish and Italian giants Barcelona and AC Milan will go head-to-head after being paired together in the group stages, while another top Spanish vs. Italian clash will take place in group B as Real Madrid and Juventus square off.

Elsewhere group F has been dubbed the “Group of Death” by many, as Arsenal face Marseille, last years runners-up Borussia Dortmund and Rafael Benitez’ talented Napoli outfit.

As for the English clubs, Manchester City got off relatively lightly in group D as they face holders Bayern Munich, Russian champions CSKA Moscow and Czech side Viktoria Plzen. City have had no luck with the draw in recent seasons so Manuel Pellegrini’s men will be looking forward to the 2013/14 UCL campaign. While Chelsea will play Schalke, Basel, Steaua Bucharest in group E  and David Moyes’ Manchester United come up against Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen and Real Sociedad in group A.

This seasons competition is one of the strongest in recent history, as Europe’s elite club competition promises to provide plenty of scintillating action between now and the final next May.

A whole host of previous Champions League winners are involved this campaign, with Real Madrid (9 titles), AC Milan (7), Bayern Munich (5), Ajax (4), Barcelona (4) and Manchester United (3) all aiming to add another title to their tally.

The group stage begins on September 17-18 and will run until December 10-11. Then the knockout stages begin in February 2014 and the 2013/14 Champions League Final will take place in Portugal at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon on May 24, 2014.

But for now all the focus is on the incredibly tough pairings drawn today, here are the eight UEFA Champions League groups for this seasons group stages:

GROUP A: Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Sociedad

GROUP B: Real Madrid, Juventus, Galatasaray, FC Copenhagen

GROUP C: Benfica, Paris Saint-Germain, Olympiakos, Anderlecht

GROUP D: Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Manchester City, Viktoria Plzen

GROUP E: Chelsea, Schalke, Basel, Steaua Bucharest

GROUP F: Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli

GROUP G: Porto, Atletico Madrid, Football Club Zenit, Austria Vienna

GROUP H: Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax, Celtic

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.