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UEFA Champions League

Holders Man City and rivals set for Champions League draw

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Rodri holds the Champions League trophy aloft after scoring the winner for Manchester City against Inter Milan in last season's final. Photo: AFP

Holders Manchester City and the cream of European football will learn their Champions League fate for this season when the draw for the group stage takes place in Monaco on Thursday from 1600 GMT.

After several near misses in recent years, Pep Guardiola’s side won the trophy for the first time when they defeated Inter Milan 1-0 in last season’s final in Istanbul in June thanks to a solitary Rodri goal.

They are therefore in the first pot of seeds for this season’s group phase, along with Europa League winners Sevilla as well as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Napoli, Paris Saint-Germain, Feyenoord and Benfica.

Those six clubs are, like City, the champions of the top ranked European nations, and the format of the draw means many of the teams to avoid will therefore be in the second pot.

That is where record 14-time European champions Real Madrid — winners in 2022 — lurk along with the likes of Inter and Premier League giants Arsenal and Manchester United.

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The Gunners are back in Europe’s elite club competition for the first time since 2016/17 after Mikel Arteta’s side finished second behind City in England last season.

The fourth Premier League representatives are Newcastle United, who have not appeared in the Champions League in two decades and will be in pot four for the draw.

That means the Magpies can expect to find themselves in an extremely tough group, with Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid also in pot two and AC Milan and Lazio among the third seeds.

Fresh faces

As well as Newcastle, fresh faces in this season’s competition include Lens of France, who are also back in the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.

Union Berlin will be appearing for the first time in their history after finishing fourth in the Bundesliga last season.

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The first matches in the group stage will take place on September 19 and 20, with this season’s final being held at Wembley in London on June 1, 2024.

This will be the final season of the Champions League in its existing format, which has been in place for two decades.

Next season will see UEFA introduce a new, expanded group stage featuring 36 teams, up from the current 32, with everyone playing eight matches instead of the current six in a format known as the “Swiss system”.

The Champions League is the pinnacle of club football on the continent and that is reflected in the prize money, with UEFA distributing two billion euros ($2.19 billion) in total to participating clubs.

Just being in the group stage is worth 15.64 million euros, with each win adding a further 2.8 million euros.

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The team that goes on to win the trophy will pocket more than 50 million euros on top of that, just in prize money.

Teams also receive money based on their own position in UEFA’s club ranking — this means that Real Madrid get over 36 million euros as the top-ranked side, with the amount dropping progressively so the lowest-ranked team receive only just over one million euros.

The gala event in Monaco will also see European football’s governing body dish out their awards for last season, with City stars Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland up for the men’s player of the year prize.

They are joined on the three-man shortlist by Lionel Messi, who is now at Inter Miami after leaving PSG in June.

Spain’s World Cup-winning stars Aitana Bonmati and Olga Carmona are nominated to succeed their teammate Alexia Putellas as winner of the women’s prize, along with Sam Kerr of Australia and Chelsea.

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-AFP

 

 

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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UEFA Champions League

How Heineken Made UEFA Champions League History in Nigeria

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Cheers to Hard Core fans of Real Madrid with consumers enjoying the best moment put together by Heineken

Nigerian football fans enjoyed the magic of the Champions League final first-hand thanks to Heineken’s unforgettable Viewing Experience across the country over the weekend. 

Heineken transformed viewing centres into vibrant celebrations as Real Madrid secured their historic 15th title with a 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium.

“Heineken is all about celebrating the beautiful game with true fans,” said Maria Shadeko, Portfolio Manager of Premium Drinks at Nigerian Breweries Plc. “We wanted to recreate the electric atmosphere of Wembley right here in Nigeria, and judging by the incredible energy at our Watch Parties, we achieved that!”

Unbeatable fun across Lagos 

From Lagos to Port Harcourt, Abuja to Enugu, the night was alive with the spirit of football. Fans at the Jewel Aeida on Lekki, Lagos, were treated to captivating performances by music stars like Mia, Dotun, Crowd Kontroller, Big N, and the electrifying finale by Adekunle Gold. 

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While the Muri Okunola Park in Victoria Island pulsed with the energy of the female DJ duo, Wanni x Handi, the passionate crowd at the Lagos Terraform mirrored the energy at the Green House on Oba Adeyinka Oyinkan Ave, Ikoyi, and Stalad Gardens in Abule Egba where fans revelled in the action on giant screens while enjoying Heineken’s refreshing brews

Heineken ensured every fan experienced the best viewing experience possible, all laced with unbeatable entertainment.

Party after party across the Nation

The electrifying atmosphere wasn’t limited to Lagos.  Port Harcourt witnessed a phenomenal performance by music sensation Oxlade at Oak Park and Gardens.

Abuja residents also enjoyed an unforgettable night at Papiee’s Metropolis on Ahmadu Bello Way, where Alternate Sound kept the excitement levels soaring with their dynamic performance. 

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Fans in luxurious comfort at the Transcorp Hilton on Aguyi Ironsi Street also revelled in the night’s festivities.

The magic of Heineken’s Watch Parties extended beyond major cities. Fans in Ibadan, Benin City, Enugu, and Owerri all shared in the unforgettable experience, uniting in their support for their favourite teams and celebrating Real Madrid’s monumental victory.

Heineken’s Watch Parties successfully recreated the Wembley atmosphere, proving that the beautiful game can unite and ignite joy across Nigeria. 

As Maria Shadeko states, “We are thrilled to have played a part in this historic night for football fans. Here’s to many more celebrations together!”

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UEFA Champions League

Real Madrid come full circle with second great European dynasty

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Champions League - Final - Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - June 1, 2024 Real Madrid's Aurelien Tchouameni lifts the trophy as he celebrates with teammates after winning the Champions League REUTERS/Hannah Mckay 

Real Madrid added another chapter to their already astonishing love affair with European soccer’s elite club trophy by claiming a 2-0 win against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final on Saturday as they were crowned for the 15th time.

The story of the season they finished at Wembley was about two generations of players who met, bonded as a group and connected on the pitch like a well-oiled machine to establish the second great dynasty Real spent half a century looking for.

It all started at the dawn of the competition when, during the Alfredo Di Stefano years, the Madrid side won the first five editions of the European Cup from 1956 and another in 1966.

The current crop of youngsters and seasoned veterans have matched that with a sixth title in 11 seasons, although Dani Carvajal, who scored the opener, is the only surviving starter from the side that won ‘The 10th’ a decade ago.

Vinicius Jr, hero of their 14th title triumph in Paris two years ago, on Saturday became the first Brazilian to score in two Champions League finals and is the symbol of Real’s young guns who keep proving they can prolong the club’s success.

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“Why not think about ‘The Seventh’? We don’t reset, we always want more and more and more,” Carvajal said.

The defender, who matched Real great Paco Gento’s record six European Cup titles along with Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and defender Nacho, was a long-time reserve who stepped up this season and ended it by lifting the trophy as team captain.

“I have never lost a final. I hope the streak continues,” he said. “To get our 15th and my sixth is a wonderful thing. As we keep winning … we end up making it harder for any other team to come close to what this club have accomplished over the history. It is something remarkable.”

REAL’S MOMENTUM

In March, Carlo Ancelotti gave a three-minute insight on managing suffering and happiness inside a changing room to explain the complexity of handling the personalities at a club constantly under pressure and held to such high standards.

He has expertly managed to keep Real’s momentum going after Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Karim Benzema and Casemiro had all long gone and with Modric, 38, becoming a rotational player in a young squad brimming with talent.

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Next year Ancelotti will face another challenge by having to replace Kroos, who has just had a retirement send-off from the fans at the Bernabeu and will stop playing after the Euros.

The Germany midfielder said farewell after delivering the corner for Carvajal to score with a glancing header on Saturday.

But Ancelotti, who as a manager holds the record of most Champions League finals played (six) and won (five), did not seem too worried about the challenge.

“We will have to adapt ourselves to the players we have and try to maximize their qualities like we have always done,” he told a press conference.

“This season we’ve had a lot of problems, we’ve lost quality players. We have solved this with collective sacrifice.

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“We didn’t always play at our best, but we never gave up.

“We lose a very important player for us in Kroos, but we will replace him, in a different way. We will think about how.”

-Reuters

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UEFA Champions League

Real Madrid strike late to win 15th European Cup

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Real Madrid were crowned kings of Europe for a record-extending 15th time with a 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final at Wembley on Saturday.

Huge favourites going in to the game, the Spanish side were outplayed for long periods but broke Dortmund’s resistance with late goals from Dani Carvajal and Vinicius Jr.

Veteran right back Carvajal glanced in a header from a Toni Kroos corner in the 74th minute and from that moment Carlo Ancelotti’s side sparked into life.

Vinicius slid home Real’s second in the 83rd minute to silence the yellow-clad Dortmund fans who had created a wall of noise throughout the final.

It was hard on the German side who missed several good first-half chances, the best of which saw Niclas Fuellkrug hit the post from close range.

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-Reuters

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