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

MLS Playoff Picture: How high, low can every playoff hopeful finish?

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 22:  Bradley Wright-Phillips #99 of New York Red Bulls celebrates a goal against the D.C. United during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 22, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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Didn’t the 2016 MLS season just start? What do you mean it’s October, and the season started in March?

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As difficult as it is to believe, First Kick was indeed nearly eight months ago, which means this is it. Sunday’s slate of 10 simultaneous finales (4 p.m. ET — full coverage right here on PST) will signal the end of the line for eight sides; the end of the regular season, and the start of the real journey, for 12 others.

Following last weekend’s penultimate round of games, we covered the scenarios for teams yet to clinch a playoff berth. Today, we’ll focus on seeding — how high and how low each of the 14 remaining playoff hopefuls can finish.

Eastern Conference

New York Red Bulls (54 points, 15 wins, +15 GD) — Can finish as high as 1st; can finish as low as 2nd.

New York City FC (51 points, 14 wins, +2 GD) — Can finish as high as 1st; can finish as low as 3rd. To finish 1st, NYCFC need to win vs. Columbus Crew SC, and RBNY lose vs. Philadelphia Union, doing so by combined margins that make up 13 goals in the goal differential column.

Toronto FC (50 points, 13 wins, +11 GD) — Can finish as high as 2nd; can finish no lower than 3rd. To finish 2nd, TFC need to win vs. Chicago Fire, and NYCFC lose or draw vs. CLB. To finish 2nd, TFC could also draw vs. CHI, and NYCFC lose vs. CLB.

D.C. United (46 points, 11 wins, +8 GD) — Can finish no higher than 4th; can finish as low as 5th. To finish 4th, DCU need to win vs. Orlando City SC. To finish 4th, DCU could also draw or lose vs. ORL, and Montreal Impact draw or lose vs. New England Revolution.

Montreal Impact (45 points, 11 wins, -1 GD) — Can finish as high as 4th; can finish as low as 6th. To finish 4th, MTL need to win vs. NE, and DCU draw or lose vs. ORL.

Philadelphia Union (42 points, 11 wins, -1 GD) — Can finish as high as 5th; can finish as low as 7th. To finish 4th, PHI need to win vs. RBNY, and MTL lose vs. NE.

New England Revolution (39 points, 10 wins, -13 GD) — Can finish as high as 6th. To finish 6th, NE need to win vs. MTL, and PHI lose vs. RBNY, doing so by combined margins that make up 12 goals in the goal differential column.

Western Conference

FC Dallas (59 points, 17 wins, +10 GD) — Can finish as high as 1st; can finish as low as 2nd. To finish 1st FCD need to win or draw vs. LA Galaxy. To finish 1st, FCD could also lose vs. LA, and Colorado Rapids draw or lose vs. Houston Dynamo.

Colorado Rapids (57 points, 15 wins, +7 GD) — Can finish as high as 1st; can finish no lower than 2nd. To finish 1st, COL need to win vs. HOU, and FCD lose vs. LA.

LA Galaxy (51 points, 12 wins, +15 GD) — Can finish no higher and no lower than 3rd.

Real Salt Lake (46 points, 12 wins, -1 GD) — Can finish no higher than 4th; can finish as low as 7th. To finish 4th, RSL need to win vs. SEA. To finish 4th, RSL could also draw vs. SEA, and Sporting Kansas City draw or lose vs. San Jose Earthquakes, and Portland Timbers draw or lose vs. Vancouver Whitecaps.

Seattle Sounders (45 points, 13 wins, 0 GD) — Can finish as high as 4th; can finish as low as 7th. To finish 4th, SEA need to win vs. RSL.

Sporting Kansas City (44 points, 12 wins, -1 GD) — Can finish as high as 4th; can finish as low as 7th. To finish 4th, SKC need to win vs. SJ, and RSL and SEA draw with one another, and maintain a goal differential advantage over POR if POR win vs. VAN.

Portland Timbers (44 points, 12 wins, -2 GD) — Can finish as high as 4th; can finish as low as 7th. To finish 4th, POR need to win vs. VAN, and RSL and SEA draw with one another, and overcome a goal differential disadvantage over SKC if SKC win vs. SJ.

FOLLOW LIVE: Man United, Southampton face Fenerbahce, Inter in UEL

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 17:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United celebrates with Anthony Martial as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and AFC Bournemouth at Old Trafford on May 17, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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It’s the most … wonderful day … of the week — Thursday afternoon Europa League.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Thursday’s Europa League action ]

Following Monday’s mostly dull affair at Anfield, Manchester United return home to Old Trafford, where they’ll host Fenerbahce (3:05 p.m. ET) for the first time since 2004. Man United (3 points) enter matchday no. 3 as the third-place side in Group A, a single point off the pace of Thursday’s opponent for the top spot. United captain Wayne Rooney will be desperately hoping (one can only assume) to start a game for the first time in a month (Sept. 21, versus Northampton Town — just 66 minutes played in four games since).

Two hours before kickoff at the Theater of Dreams, Southampton are set to visit another of the world’s famous venues, the San Siro, as they take on Inter Milan for the first time ever. Claude Puel‘s side (4 points) currently sits atop Group K, ahead of Hapoel Beer Sheva and on goal differential. Inter, on the other hand, are in search of their first point in the group stage.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines — Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge ]


Hit the link up top to following along with all the afternoon’s action in Europe’s “other” competition. For a firsthand look at the scene in Milan, PST’s lead writer and editor, Joe Prince-Wright, is tweeting up a storm outside and inside the San Siro.

Atletico Madrid accepts January transfer ban amid ongoing appeal

VALENCIA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 02:  Atletico de Madrid manager Diego Pablo Simeone reacts during the La Liga match between Valencia CF and Atletico de Madrid at Mestalla Stadium on October 02, 2016 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) Atletico Madrid has accepted it will not sign players in January while it fights a FIFA transfer ban at sport’s highest court.

[ MORE: Ozil won’t sign new Arsenal contract until Wenger does the same ]

FIFA and Atletico jointly say in a statement they agreed a timetable for the Court of Arbitration for Sport to give a final ruling on the Spanish club’s appeal by next June.

Atletico could have sought to freeze its one-year ban pending the verdict but has “waived its right” to try, the statement says.

Still, Atletico “completely maintains its position that the transfer ban is unjustified.”

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines — Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge ]

FIFA imposed one-year sanctions on Atletico and city rival Real Madrid for signing underage players in violation of transfer rules.

During an appeal to FIFA in the offseason, Atletico signed several players including France forward Kevin Gameiro and Argentina midfielder Nicolas Gaitan.

Bradley calls on players to honor Swansea fans, shirt when they play

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Bob Bradley is tugging on some serious heartstrings ahead of his Liberty Stadium debut, against Watford, on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

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Just over 48 hours before making his Swansea City home debut, the Premier League’s first-ever American manager called on his players to represent the club’s fans in a positive way, and remember what the Swansea shirt means and has meant to so many who came before them, will remain after them, and will come after them — quotes from Swansea’s official website:

“With all the things that go on in the lives of footballers, sometimes you have to be reminded of what a club was all about before you arrived on the scene. It is worth remembering that it didn’t all start when you pulled the Swansea City Football Club jersey on for the first time. Sometimes it’s good to have reminders about how much a club means to people and the responsibilities you have.

“That part has never changed for me — it’s the same whether you are coaching a national team or a club team. I want to make sure the players understand the responsibility of wearing that jersey.

“When you come to a club, I think that responsibility is at the heart of the kind of environment you create every day. You have to understand the people who are going to live and die by every kick of the ball in every match. You have to understand that the fans want to see something they are proud of, and of course at the same time you have to get results.

“It’s not something you can talk about in long speeches with the players, but I think it’s important to remind the players of some of these things. I think the players here are good guys — they are not unaware. But sometimes in football it is easy to think you came first.”

It’s a wise move by Bradley, playing the tune the fans would want to hear. Any new manager would do well to get the club’s fans on his side, to get behind the team and breed positivity and belief — especially a new manager who’s just parachuted into a relegation battle.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines — Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge ]

There’s also a practical point behind what Bradley said in the above quotes: barely a decade ago, Swansea were competing in League 2, the fourth division of English soccer. Their meteoric rise, which shouldn’t be overlooked in great rags-to-riches stories, was built on the back of players with ties to the club, many of which came through the club’s youth academy.

As they’ve established themselves as a perennial PL side, many of those players were left by the wayside as they no longer made the grade, replaced by professionals in the truest sense of the word — someone paid to do a job — the majority of inarguably higher footballing quality, but lacking any semblance of a personal bond with the club’s history and its supporters.