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

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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

Football leaks: French police raid PSG HQ, 3 players’ homes

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PARIS (AP) A French official says police investigating suspected tax fraud linked to the soccer industry have raided the headquarters of Paris Saint-Germain and the homes of three Argentine players in France.

The official said anti-corruption police units searched the homes of PSG players Angel Di Maria and Javier Pastore, and that of Nantes forward Emiliano Sala on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Real Madrid signs $50m teen ]

Police also raided the head offices of PSG at Parc des Princes and other offices in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside the French capital, the official said.

The official, familiar with the case, declined to be identified because the investigation is ongoing.

The national financial prosecutor’s office opened an investigation in December after so-called “football leaks” reports allegedly detailed tax arrangements by top players, coaches and clubs.

Real Madrid signs most expensive Brazilian since Neymar

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Real Madrid didn’t wait long after learning Vinicius Junior was healthy.

The 16-year-old Flamengo star is committed to the Bernabeu after passing a physical, and Real Madrid announced Tuesday that they’ll have their new player no later than July 2019.

The reported fee is $50 million, which would be the most money spent on a Brazilian player since Barcelona landed Neymar for about $64 million in 2013.

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The forward has made two appearances for Flamengo, and turns 17 on July 12. He has 19 goals in 22 appearances for Brazil’s U-17 side.

Here’s Real’s announcement:

Real Madrid C. F. and Clube de Regatas do Flamengo have reached an agreement regarding the transfer of the federative rights of the player Vinicius Junior from July 2018. The player will remain at his current club until July 2019, although he will be able to play for Real Madrid before then if both clubs agree to it.

VOTE: 2016-17 Premier League Goal of the Season

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Okay, so you have 1064 to choose from, so choose wisely…

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 PL season reviews

The 2016-17 Premier League season is over but you can vote for your favorite goal of the campaign up until June 1.

Simply click on the video above to watch the contenders compiled by Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, and then you can vote by clicking here.

Enjoy!

Ex-Barcelona president Rosell held in money laundering probe

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MADRID (AP) Spanish authorities say former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell and his wife have been detained in a probe over his businesses in Brazil.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

The detentions early Tuesday are part of a money laundering investigation related to buying television rights for past matches of Brazil’s national team.

Three other people have been detained, but their identities were not immediately released by authorities.

Police raided offices, homes, and businesses in Barcelona and other locations in Spain as part of “Operation Rimet,” in reference to former FIFA President Jules Rimet.

Authorities said the operation used information from the FBI following the U.S. case against high-level FIFA officials in 2015.

Rosell is already standing trial for fraud and corruption charges involving the 2013 transfer of Brazilian striker Neymar.