Manchester City are bracing themselves for a possible repeat bust-up with Atletico Madrid when the Champions League groups are drawn in Istanbul later today. A full-scale brawl which spilled over into the tunnel had to be split up by police and marred the end of their quarter-final second-leg in Madrid in April this year.
Both sets of players were involved in altercations with Atletico defender Stefan Savic fighting a prolonged battle with Jack Grealish. He also attempted to headbutt Raheem Sterling, who has since joined Chelsea.
With City seeded in pot one Diego Simeone’s combustible side are just one of five possible pot two opponents for the Premier League champions. Barcelona, Juventus, Sevilla and RB Leipzig make up the quintet of City’s potential group rivals from pot two on account of it containing the three other English representatives.
Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham are not shielded from the European giants in pot one with Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain all lying in wait. But one of them could land the plum draw in Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt, who owe their position to their penalty shootout triumph over Rangers in May and not their ranking.
The English sides cannot be drawn against each other but a possible ‘Battle of Britain’ with a trip to Glasgow is a real possibility for all four Premier League sides.
The winter World Cup in Qatar sees the Champions League play second fiddle in the football schedule with the six group matchdays condensed into an eight-week window. The first match will be played on September 6 and the last on November 2 with the draw for the last 16 taking place five days later.
UEFA will be hoping there will be no repeat of the cock-up which meant the draw for the last 16 stages had to be re-done after Manchester United were mistakenly paired with a group stage opponent then redrawn against PSG. A second draw done a day later eventually paired them with Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.