UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw was handed a favorable start to its title defense with Bayer Leverkusen, Roma and BATE Borisov when the groups were drawn on Thursday.

Lionel Messi scored five of his Champions League record 77 goals against Leverkusen when Barcelona won 7-1 in a last-16 match in 2012.

was placed in a tougher group with Shakhtar Donetsk and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s current and first clubs, Paris Saint-Germain and Malmo.

Europe’s four highest-ranked leagues meet in the group of Juventus, Manchester City, Sevilla and Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Manchester United returns after a one-year absence against PSV Eindhoven — the lowest-ranked of the eight top-seeded clubs — plus CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg.

was grouped with coach Jose Mourinho’s old club Porto, which he guided to the title in 2004 immediately before starting his first spell at Stamford Bridge. Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv complete the group.

Mourinho aims to become the first coach to win Europe’s premier club title with three different clubs, after Porto and Inter Milan (2010).

Bayern Munich will again face , which it eliminated at the last-16 stage in 2013 and 2014, plus Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb.

The trip up to six time zones east to face newcomer Astana in Kazakhstan went to Benfica, and Galatasaray.

With UEFA separating Russian and Ukrainian teams in the draw, top-seeded Zenit St. Petersburg was grouped with Valencia, Lyon and Gent. The champion of Belgium is the second club making its debut at the elite level.

The eight groups begin six rounds of play on Sept. 15.

UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw
Former Barcelona player Andoni Zubizaretta shows the name of Paris Saint-Germain, who will play in Group C, during the draw at the Grimaldi Forum, in Monaco, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

Draw made Thursday for the UEFA Champions League group stage:

The top two in each group advance to the last-16 knockout round which begins in February.

Group A_Paris Saint-Germain (France), Real Madrid (Spain), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), Malmo (Sweden).

Group B_PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands), Manchester United (England), CSKA Moscow (Russia), Wolfsburg (Germany).

Group C_Benfica (Portugal), Atletico Madrid (Spain), Galatasaray (Turkey), Astana (Kazakhstan).

Group D_Juventus (Italy), Manchester City (England), Sevilla (Spain), Borussia Moenchengladbach (Germany).

Group E_Barcelona (Spain), Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), Roma (Italy), BATE Borisov (Belarus).

Group F_Bayern Munich (Germany), Arsenal (England), Olympiakos (Greece), Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia).

Group G_Chelsea (England), Porto (Portugal), Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine), Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel).

Group H_Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia), Valencia (Spain), Lyon (France), Gent (Belgium).

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Anirban Das
Anirban Das's journey to Delhi via Kolkata involves football, music, curiosity (which one day can kill the cat) and food. Following global football opens up an infinite space within him in both the conscious and subconscious self, away from the din and bustle of the madding crowd. Supports Manchester United & Barcelona

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