UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw: Holders Real Madrid to face Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur

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Can Real win it for a third time on the spin?

Holders Real Madrid will face Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League group stage while five-time winners Barcelona were drawn with last season’s runners-up Juventus on Thursday.

Paris Saint-Germain were paired alongside Bayern Munich in Group B, while Chelsea will meet Atletico Madrid in Group C as a record five English teams qualified for the competition.

Manchester United will play Benfica in Group A, while Manchester City are in Group F alongside Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool also face a trip to eastern Europe after they were drawn together with Spartak Moscow in Group E.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Liverpool's Simon Mignolet hails Anfield's electric environment as Jurgen Klopp's men return to Champions League

Andy Hampson 24/08/2017
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Simon Mignolet can feel the excitement as Liverpool prepare to return to the Champions League.

The five-times European champions booked their return to the competition’s group stage for the first time since 2014-15 by completing a comprehensive play-off win over Hoffenheim on Wednesday.

Anfield was at its atmospheric best as the Reds won 4-2 to wrap up a 6-3 aggregate success after racing into a 3-0 lead inside the opening 20 minutes.

It was a highly-efficient job from a side full of confidence in a potentially tricky tie and goalkeeper Mignolet is looking forward with great anticipation.

The Belgian goalkeeper said: “At Anfield it is always a special night and I think we showed what we can do over here. It is electric, that is what Anfield is about and this is where we belong.

“Everybody has been really eager to play again at this stage, that is where all the history has been made at this football club.

“We are back there and now it is up to us to see how far we can go. It is what we wanted, we battled the whole year for that. It is exciting times.”

Manager Jurgen Klopp had warned against complacency after the 2-1 first-leg success, but Liverpool’s progress never seemed in doubt.

They had already spurned three clear-cut chances when Emre Can put them ahead after 10 minutes and two more goals came in a blistering 11-minute spell.

Mark Uth, who scored and missed a penalty in the first encounter, pulled one back but the outstanding Roberto Firmino put the tie beyond doubt before a late Sandro Wagner consolation.

Roberto Firmino (L), Jordan Henderson

Roberto Firmino (L), Jordan Henderson

Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum were also impressive in a dominant Reds display.

Mignolet said: “We wanted to show how we can play and what we can do. Over there, Hoffenheim showed they are a really good side. It wasn’t easy but we got through it and came back with a 2-1 victory. Then we had to finish the job at home.

“I think we played really good. The first 30 minutes made it easier for us, going in front with three goals. “They came back with one goal, they changed their system and we had to adapt a bit but I think we were deserved winners. We wanted it really badly.”

Liverpool’s attention will now turn to Sunday’s testing visit of Arsenal in the Premier League.

After a frustrating start to the season with a draw at Watford and a narrow win over Crystal Palace, captain Jordan Henderson insists nobody will be getting carried away with Wednesday’s success.

Henderson said: “It was a brilliant night for everyone. We’re delighted to be back in the Champions League and I’m over the moon for the lads, the fans and the club.

“Overall we’re very pleased with the outcome but there are still areas we can improve on for the weekend. We look forward to Sunday now.”

Asked what the team must do to improve, Henderson said: “Don’t concede.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Liverpool crush Hoffenheim to advance through to Champions League group stages

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Emre Can was at the double.

Emre Can struck twice as Liverpool convincingly defeated Hoffenheim 4-2 at Anfield on Wednesday to reach the Champions League group phase for only the second time since 2010.

Germany midfielder Can found the net twice in the opening 21 minutes, either side of Mohamed Salah’s first Anfield goal following his move from Roma, before substitute Mark Uth replied for the visitors.

Hoffenheim old boy Roberto Firmino netted a fourth goal in the second half and Sandro Wagner’s late header proved anecdotal as Jurgen Klopp’s men completed a 6-3 aggregate victory.

Now unbeaten in 15 home games against German teams, Liverpool will learn their group-stage opponents in Thursday’s draw in Monaco, which will feature five English clubs for the first time.

Liverpool join Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, who qualified via the Premier League, and Manchester United, who engineered their own Champions League return by winning last season’s Europa League.

Liverpool will be making their first appearance in the Champions League proper since 2014-15, when they were eliminated in the group stage.

Klopp was once again without Barcelona target Philippe Coutinho, who is both ill and nursing a sore back, but the sizzling interplay of Firmino and Sadio Mane meant he was not missed.

The five-time European champions took a 10th-minute lead against continental first-timers Hoffenheim courtesy of the first of several delightful interchanges between their forward players.

Firmino’s delicately weighted through-ball freed Mane and he back-heeled the ball into the path of Can, whose shot found the net via a heavy deflection off the sliding Havard Nordtveit.

Egyptian winger Salah struck in the 18th minute, tapping in from close range after Georginio Wijnaldum’s shot from Firmino’s left-wing cut-back bounced back off the right-hand post.

Three minutes later another Mane back-heel yielded another goal, the Senegal winger’s touch releasing Firmino, whose cross was adroitly volleyed home by Can.

Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann took swift action, sending on forward Uth for defender Nordtveit, and four minutes later Dejan Lovren’s loose pass allowed the substitute to reduce the arrears with an angled drive.

After Wijnaldum and Mane had gone close, Liverpool added a fourth in the 63rd minute when skipper Jordan Henderson robbed his Hoffenheim counterpart Kevin Vogt and charitably teed up Firmino for a tap-in.

Wagner completed the scoring with a header from Andrej Kramaric’s left-wing cross, but by then all hope of a Hoffenheim comeback had vanished.

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