All 32 of the clubs that will enter the Champions League group stage this season have been decided, with the final six participants unveiled following the return leg of the playoffs. Moldavian champions Sheriff Tiraspol have defeated all odds and qualified for the main round of the competition after passing through no fewer than four preliminary rounds.
Sheriff is the first Moldavian club to ever reach the Champions League group stage. They got their tickets for UEFA’s glamorous club competition thanks to a triumphant win over Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb over two legs. It finished 3-0 in Tiraspol, with the two teams drawing 0-0 in Zagreb.
Sheriff will be part of the fourth bracket at the Champions League group stage draw to be held in Istanbul on Thursday. They could face the likes of PSG, Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid, or FC Barcelona this autumn.
A repeat of last season’s semifinal between PSG and Manchester City is a possibility early in the group stage during the current campaign. Also, a confrontation between City and Juventus, Barcelona, or Real Madrid could be on the table.
Messi is unable to return to Barcelona as their opponent for the time being, as his former club and PSG are part of the same bracket. Defending champions Chelsea, along with Bayern, City, Inter, or Atletico Madrid are part of bracket one, with possible world-class matches against Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Man. United, PSG, Liverpool, or Sevilla awaiting them.
As country protection works during this phase of the Champions League, only clashes between clubs in different leagues are allowed.
A “Group of Death” could pit City against PSG, Ajax, and AC Milan. Bayern can meet everyone except Dortmund from the second bracket, while Atletico Madrid escape facing La Liga rivals FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Barcelona in the group stage draw.
Spain has the highest number of teams in the Champions League this season. The four qualified thanks to their La Liga classification, and are joined by Villarreal as winners of the Europa League.
There will be six match days in the group stage, starting Sept. 14. This phase finishes on Dec. 8, with the two best teams in each group going to the Round of 16.
Group stage match days
Day 1: Sept. 14-15
Day 2: Sept. 28-29
Day 3: Oct. 19-20
Day 4: No. 2-3
Day 5: Nov. 23-24
Day 6: Dec. 7-8
Who’s the favorite?
PSG is regarded as the number one contender for the Champions League trophy following their stellar transfer activity this summer. As if signing Sergio Ramos, Gigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi, and Gini Wijnaldum wasn’t enough, PSG finalized the transfer game by securing Lionel Messi’s services.
PSG is now at +200 to win their first Champions League title next year. 2021 finalists City come second at +350, with Bayern Munich third at +600. Liverpool stands at +700, while defending champion Chelsea is regarded as an improbable winner at +900.