Bayern Munich were placed in the same section as Barcelona and Inter Milan in Thursday’s draw for the UEFA Champions League group stage in Istanbul, while Liverpool will play Ajax.

Holders Real Madrid were placed in Group F alongside Celtic, RB Leipzig and Shakhtar Donetsk.

The record 14-time champions will face Shakhtar in the competition for the third season in a row. Leipzig reached the semi-finals in 2019-20, while Scottish champions Celtic return to the group phase for the first time in five years.

Manchester City were placed in the same group as Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund. It will be a quick reunion for the former Dortmund striker Erling Haaland now at City.

Liverpool drawn to face Ajax in Champions League group stage that also has Napoli and Rangers in another standout set of teams.

Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain – who again start among the favourites to win a trophy that has continued to escape them since the Qatari takeover of more than a decade ago – will meet Juventus as well as Benfica and Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa in Group H.

Chelsea, winners in 2021, will take on Serie A champions AC Milan as well as Red Bull Salzburg and Dinamo Zagreb in Group E, while Tottenham Hotspur will face last season’s Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt along with Sporting Lisbon and Marseille in Group D.

Here are the complete groups:

A: Ajax, Liverpool, Napoli, Rangers 

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

C: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Internazionale, Viktoria Plzen

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

E: AC Milan, Chelsea, Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb

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

G: Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, Copenhagen 

H: Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Benfica, Maccabi Haifa

Bayern beat Barcelona 8-2 in a one-off quarter-final in Lisbon in 2020, while the Catalans also lost 3-0 twice to the Germans last season as they were eliminated in the group stage. Along with Inter, that makes it the standout group.

Title holders Real Madrid and the rest of Europe’s elite clubs will be able to start plotting their route to Champions League glory after the draw for this season’s group stage was made in Istanbul on Thursday.

All going to plan, the journey will end back in the Turkish city on June 10 next year for the final at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium, the same venue where Liverpool defeated AC Milan on penalties in 2005.

Istanbul was supposed to host the final in 2020 and again in 2021, but on each occasion UEFA moved the game to Portugal due to pandemic-related restrictions.

Another late change was required last season, with Saint-Petersburg being stripped of the final after Russia invaded Ukraine, and Paris instead stepping in to host Madrid’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool.

This season’s group stage will begin with the first round of games on September 6 and 7.

All six matchdays will be played in the space of nine weeks, finishing on November 1 and 2, with UEFA needing to complete the group stage before the World Cup begins on November 20.

(With inputs from AFP)