Two Canadians will face off in the UEFA Champions League this season.
UEFA drew the eight Champions League groups Thursday and Alphonso Davies’ Bayern Munich were drawn into Group B with Greek side Olympiacos, English club Tottenham and Serbian side Crvena zvezda — the home of Canadian national team goalkeeper Milan Borjan.
For Belgrade based Crvena zvezda, this will be its second season in a row in the UEFA Champions League. The Serbian champions faced giants Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and Napoli last season, and ultimately finished bottom of Group C. Borjan, however, had an outstanding Champions League campaign and was crucial in Crvena zvezda’s sensational 2-0 victory over eventual Champions League winners Liverpool on the fifth match-day.
Borjan conceded 10 goals in the first four games of the Champions League last season but also led the competition with 98 shots faced.
“Maybe in the two games against PSG and Liverpool away, we respected the clubs too much,” Borjan said in an interview to Sportsnet. “Then we woke up and thought, ‘why are we respecting them?’ We’ve got to fight for our own team. We try to do our best, and for me, I try to do my best to try and not receive any goals and to play at a high level, to make a good result.”
It was long road for the Serbian champions to the Champions League group stage. This season, Crvena zvezda had to get through four rounds of qualification to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League.
The road was a bit easier for Alphonso Davies’ Bayern Munich. As one of the top four leagues in Europe, the Bundesliga sends four clubs straight to the group stage of the Champions League.
“I think we can be satisfied with the draw,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said after the draw in a statement. “It’s important to start with a big focus and motivation and treat each team with respect.”
Five-time winners of the Champions League, Bayern have reached at least the semifinals of the competition six times in the last eight years. As a result, Bayern, alongside English side Tottenham, will be the favorites to advance from Group B.
“We can live with that group,” Bayern’s sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić said. “Our expectation is to qualify for the knockout stages as group winners, but we shouldn’t underestimate any team.”
Davies, in the meantime, is still awaiting his Champions League debut. The Canadian joined the German champions on Jan. 1 and did not feature for Bayern in what was a rare early Champions League exit in the round of 16 against Liverpool.
This season, Bayern are expected to rotate the squad throughout the fall as head coach Niko Kovač wants to be competitive in the Bundesliga, German Cup and the Champions League. Davies has already featured in the DFL Supercup and also got valuable Bundesliga minutes against Hertha Berlin on the first match-day.
“He has to learn,” former German national team star Lothar Matthäus said in an interview with Pro Soccer USA. “Coming from MLS to one of the biggest clubs in the world is a big step, but Bayern Munich really believes in him.”
Although Tottenham are a formidable opponent, both Crvena zvezda and Olympiacos should be more than manageable for Bayern. That means Davies could see some playing time against Olympiacos and Crvena zvezda in the group stages, which, in turn, could set up a very rare Champions League clash between two Canadian national team players.