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Gareth Bale's return to Spurs, Diego Costa and other tasty Champions League subplots

The Welshman goes ‘home’ while the want-away Chelsea striker’s situation is a little more complicated.

THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE group stage usually throws up some nice subplots and today’s draw has provided quite a few.

The main focus is on Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale and his pending return to former club Tottenham after the Premier League side were dealt the short straw and now face into a Group of Death alongside the reigning European champions, Borussia Dortmund and Cypriot side Apoel in Group H.

But, there are some other curious elements to the proposed slate of games.

Like in Group C, where Chelsea have been drawn to face Atletico Madrid, who they faced in the semi-finals of the competition in 2014.

On that occasion, Atleti’s striker Diego Costa was at the centre of things and scored from the penalty spot to give his side the lead during the second-leg, which they held onto to progress to the decider against their local rivals.

Much has been made of Costa – who is pleading with Chelsea to be allowed return to Madrid – potentially facing the Blues should the transfer go ahead.

But, that can’t happen.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Semi Final - Second Leg - Chelsea v Atletico Madrid - Stamford Bridge Diego Costa, after scoring for Atletico Madrid against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final second-leg at Stamford Bridge in 2014. Source: Nick Potts

Atletico can’t register new players until January 2018 on account of a Fifa-imposed ban for breaking underage transfer regulations.

So, any grand return to face Chelsea would have to wait until the knockout stages – provided both teams get there, of course, and that they should be drawn together again.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping Costa being selected by manager Antonio Conte to face Atletico but that would require a remarkable turnaround from the Italian coach.

Also, it’s expected that Costa will not be included in the team’s 25-man squad named in advance of the group stages.

Elsewhere, Liverpool will have revenge on their minds.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have been drawn in Group E and will face Spartak Moscow, Sevilla and Maribor.

Liverpool v Sevilla - UEFA Europa League Final - St. Jakob-Park Source: John Walton

The Spanish outfit inflicted a painful Europa League final defeat on the Reds in 2016 so the Reds will be easily motivated for those two forthcoming fixtures specifically.

Manchester United also have some demons to exorcise.

They were drawn in Group A alongside CSKA Moscow, Basel and Benfica. But, the mind wanders back to 2011 – when United also found themselves alongside the latter two clubs.

On that occasion, Basel took four points from United while Benfica took two and Sir Alex Ferguson’s side – who had reached the final just a few months earlier – embarrassingly crashed out of the competition.

Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti will return to Paris as the Bavarian giants have been drawn alongside his former employers PSG in Group B.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Final - Monaco v FC Porto Source: Mike Egerton

While in Group G, Monaco will care to remember the 2004 Champions League final when they take on Porto this season.

13 years ago, and then-coached by Didier Deschamps, they went down 3-0 to the Portuguese, who were managed by a young upstart called Jose Mourinho, in Gelsenkirchen.

Whatever happened him?

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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