MONACO: Cristiano Ronaldo is heading back to Manchester United . . . to play against them for Italy’s Juventus after the group stage draw of the Champions League.
The competition’s all-time leading marksman joined the Italian champions this summer from holders Real Madrid to whom he transferred from United after leading them to success in the competition in 2018.
Ronaldo and/or Lionel Messi have finished top scorers in each of the last 11 Champions League campaigns though Neymar was joint-top scorer with both players in 2014-15. The Portugal superstar has reached the 10-goal mark in each of the last seven Champions League campaigns.
Valencia and Young Boys complete the line up in Group H which presents obvious problems for a United team labouring already in the Premier League.
A testing task also faces Tottenham Hotspur in Group B.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side will face Barcelona in mouth-watering Group B encounters, while PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan will also pose a threat in Group B.
Last season’s runners-up, Liverpool, were also handed a tough draw, landing French giants Paris St Germain, Napoli and Red Star Belgrade in Group C.
Reigning champions Real Madrid will face Roma, CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen.
Last season Madrid became the first team since Bayern Munich in the mid-1970s (1974, 1975, 1976) to win three consecutive European Champions titles. Not only have they won 13 of their 16 European Cup/Champions League finals, more than any other team in history. In fact, they have won each of their last seven finals in the competition, last losing in 1981 against Liverpool.
Real Madrid’s last two Champions League titles have come despite finishing second in their group.
Their neighbours Atletico, the Europa League and Super Cup holders, have been drawn in Group A alongside Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Club Brugge.
Group D looks more friendly with Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto, Schalke and Galatasaray, and five-time winners Bayern Munich have Benfica, Ajax and AEK Athens for company.
The 2019 final will take place in Atlético Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano; this is the fifth time the Spanish capital will be hosting the European Cup/Champions League final after four others being held at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu. Only London has welcomed the showpiece event on more occasions (7).
Champions League group draw
Red Star Belgrade