Celtic land reasonable group but Rangers have it tough in Champions League draw with Battle of Britain

Celtic have been pitted against current Champions League holders Real Madrid in the group stages of the competition, while Rangers will take on Liverpool in a Battle of Britain after the draw was made in Istanbul on Thursday evening.

Celtic and Rangers have discovered their Champions League group-stage opponents.
Celtic and Rangers have discovered their Champions League group-stage opponents.
Celtic and Rangers have discovered their Champions League group-stage opponents.

For the first time since the 2007/08 campaign, Scotland has two teams at this stage of the Champions League after Rangers’ 1-0 win over PSV on Wednesday allowed them to join Celtic in the pool phase, whose place was already assured after winning the cinch Premiership last season.

While Celtic do have to play the defending champions Real Madrid of Spain, the other two teams in Group F are German outfit RB Leipzig and Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk. Rangers, meanwhile, have been placed in Group A and will have to navigate past Italian giants Napoli and Dutch champions Ajax as well as English cracks Liverpool.

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Both Glasgow clubs were in pot 4 for the draw and were guaranteed to play some of the biggest clubs in Europe, but Celtic are likely to be the happier of the two with how proceedings panned out.

Real Madrid defeated Liverpool in Paris 1-0 back on May 28 to win the 2021/22 edition of the tournament for the 14th time and are one the favourites to win the trophy again under Carlo Ancelotti. RB Leipzig, who lost to Rangers in last season’s Europa League semi-finals, finished fourth under Domenico Tedesco in the Bundesliga last term, while Shakhtar Donetsk are the Ukrainian champions. However, their own domestic league only began earlier this week and they will have to play their home matches in Warsaw, Poland, due to the Russian-led invasion of their homeland. This will be the third time Celtic have played Shakhtar at this stage of the tournament in the past 20 years and they took in Leipzig in the Europa League four seasons ago. Their one and only meeting with Real Madrid was in the European Cup in 1979/80, losing 3-2 on aggregate in the quarter-finals.

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst will once again head back to his homeland to face Ajax, champions of the Eredivisie in the Netherlands, after securing group-stage football by overcoming another Dutch side in PSV. There will also be a reunion with Nigerian defender Calvin Bassey, who was sold to Ajax by Rangers this summer for a deal that could top £20million in transfer revenue. Alfred Schreuder is their manager, although star striker Anthony is subject of serious interest from Manchester United. Napoli, who have started the season well under Luciano Spalletti, finished third in Serie A last season, while last season’s Champions League runners-up Liverpool will offer the sternest of tests under Jurgen Klopp and their star-studded squad. Rangers have faced Ajax twice before, in the 1972/73 Super Cup, losing 6-3 on aggregate, and then in 1996/97 group stages, losing 1-0 and 4-1.

UEFA will now work to set the fixture list in the next 24-48 hours, with the midweek gameweeks as follows: September 6-7, September 13-14, October 4-5, October 11-12, October 25-26, November 1-2.

Group A: Ajax, Liverpool, Napoli, Rangers.

Group B: Porto, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge.

Group C: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Internazionale,

Group D: Eintracht Frankfurt, Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting CP, Marseille.

Group E: AC Milan, Chelsea, Red Bull Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb.

Group F: Real Madrid, RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic.

Group G: Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, FC Copenhagen.

Group H: PSG, Juventus, Benfica, Maccabi Haifa.