The 32-team Champions League group stage draw was completed Thursday evening in Switzerland, and Atlético Madrid will be navigating a very interesting — and tough — Group B in the coming months.
Atlético, drawn from Pot 1 as LaLiga champions, will face Liverpool (Pot 2), FC Porto (Pot 3), and AC Milan (Pot 4) in this year’s group stage.
¡ Grupo configurado ! pic.twitter.com/1Uh3iB5aZQ— Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) August 26, 2021
All set for the 2021/22 season!— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 26, 2021
Which Champions League group are you most excited for?#UCLdraw | #UCL pic.twitter.com/gpOCzlRtOd
Among this quartet, Liverpool are the most recent team to have faced Atlético. The Reds and Rojiblancos squared off in the last 16 during the 2019/2020 Champions League, and Atleti won both legs — 1-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano, 3-2 at Anfield — to eliminate the then-reigning champions.
Most of Liverpool’s team remains intact, as does Atlético’s, though newer arrivals such as Diogo Jota (formerly of Atlético) and Luis Suárez (formerly of Liverpool) could tip the scales in this rematch.
Atlético last faced Porto in the 2013/14 group stage, winning 2-1 away and 2-0 at home on the way to becoming group winners. Porto finished second in Liga Portugal Bwin last season after knocking out Juventus in this competition’s last 16, so Sergio Conceição’s men are no joke. The away game at Estádio do Dragão will be a homecoming for Héctor Herrera and Felipe Monteiro.
Finally, the Rossoneri are back in the Champions League for the first time since 2013/14 — when Atlético knocked them out in the last 16. Milan finished second in Serie A last season, and the ageless Zlatan Ibrahimović will prove to be a huge challenge for Simeone’s defense when these teams met.
Milan’s other key players include star midfielder Franck Kessié and left back Theo Hernández — an Atleti youth product who moved to Real Madrid before emerging as a premier player in Italy.
For the first time in three seasons, Atlético won’t have to make an exhausting trip east to Russia — all travel looks to be manageable, so at least there’s that. Atleti also avoided heavy hitters from Pot 2 such as Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund, as well as the Red Bull sides that have caused problems in the past two Champions League iterations.
But there are four strong teams in this group, all capable of finishing first under the right circumstances — or falling into the Europa League under the wrong circumstances.
Group B is arguably the “Group of Death” in the 2021/22 Champions League, and anyone can take points off anyone here. Simeone’s crew will need to be at their best — something they haven’t really been in the Champions League for a few seasons.