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FC Barcelona know which three teams they will be playing in the group stage of the 2016/17 Champions League following the draw today at the Fòrum Grimaldi in Monaco. Manchester City, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Glasgow Celtic will join the Catalans in Group C, with the top two teams progressing into the last sixteen, the next stage on the road to the final on June 3 at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
Group C Fixtures
(all games kick off at 8.45 CET)
Tues 13 Sept FC Barcelona v Celtic FC
Weds 28 Sept Borussia Mönchengladbach v FC Barcelona
Weds 19 Oct FC Barcelona v Manchester City
Tues 1 Nov Manchester City v FC Barcelona
Weds 25 Nov Celtic FC v FC Barcelona
Tues 6 Dec FC Barcelona v Borussia Mönchengladbach
The clash with Man City is one that will get the whole of Europe talking. The side that finished fourth in the Premiership last season and qualified for the Champions League by beating Steaua Bucharest of Romania 6-0 on aggregate in the playoff round is now managed by the most decorated coach in FC Barcelona history, Pep Guardiola.
To add to the intrigue, the draw was made on the very same day that the Catalan club announced the transfer of goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to City. On departure, the Chilean was promised that he’d get the chance to say a proper farewell to the Camp Nou, and that is most certainly going to be happening now! Former Barça men Nolito and Yaya Touré are also on the books at the Etihad.
Man City are no strangers to the Camp Nou, having met Barça in the round of 16 of the 2013/14 and 2014/15 editions of the Champions League, with the Blaugrana winning both legs each time to progress into the next round.
German outfit Borussia also finished fourth in their league last year, and like Man City had to get through a qualification round to get this far. And like City, they passed the test with flying colours, sweeping past Young Boys of Switzerland 9-2 on aggregate.
The name that sprung to everyone’s mind when this draw was made was that of Marc-Andre Ter Stegen. He was born in Mönchengladbach and Borussia was the only club he had ever known before signing for Barça in 2014.
Borussia, winners of five Bundesligas but none since 1977, have only met Barça once before, which came in the 1973 Joan Gamper Trophy friendly match. On 22 August of that year, Barça and Borussia battled to a 2–2 stalemate over 90 minutes at Camp Nou, with the Catalans prevailing, 5–3, in a penalty shootout. This season's Champions League games will be the first official matches between the two sides.
But the side from the green-and-white half of Scotland's biggest city are very familiar guests at the Camp Nou. In fact, this is the sixth time this century that the teams have met in European competition, once in the former UEFA Cup and four times in the Champions League. And of course they also met earlier this year in a preseason friendly played in Dublin, which ended 3-1 to the Catalans.
The winners of the last five Scottish championships have had to navigate three qualifying rounds to get this far, and things didn’t get off to the best of starts with shock 1-0 defeat at Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar. A 3-0 win in the second leg at Celtic Park meant they still progressed.
It took an injury time penalty for the Scots to see off Astana of Kazakhstan, and then the Celts hung on for a 5-4 aggregate victory over Hapoel Be'er Sheva of Israel. That clinched their place in the group stage after a five-year absence and made the managers of Barcelona’s Irish pubs very happy indeed!
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