CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW: Newcastle face group of death on their return to Europe’s top table as Man United are handed tough Bayern Munich test, Arsenal get lucky and City take on Leipzig again

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Newcastle United will plunge back into the Champions League at the deep end against the former champions of AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund and the French billionaires led by Kylian Mbappe at Paris Saint-Germain.

The draw heralds a thrilling return to Europe’s elite after an absence of more than 20 years, with Eddie Howe’s team and the Geordie faithful set for three of the most iconic venues in world football.

The atmosphere promises to be off the scale in all six ties. Not least on Tyneside, where the prospect of these games is sure to rekindle memories of their glorious European nights of the past, including Tino Aspilla’s hat-trick in 1997 to topple a Barcelona team featuring Rivaldo, Luis Figo and Luis Enrique, the latest PSG boss.

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St James’ Park pulsated then and will do so again when the Champions League begins on September 19.

Newcastle’s last taste of this competition came against Bayer Leverkusen in February 2003, when Alan Shearer grabbed another hat-trick but a 3-1 victory in the now-defunct second group stage was not enough to progress.

Newcastle were handed a tough task on their return to the Champions League in Group F

Newcastle were handed a tough task on their return to the Champions League in Group F

Eddie Howe's side will have to find a way past last year's semi-finallists AC Milan, French titans PSG and German giants Borussia Dortmund

Eddie Howe’s side will have to find a way past last year’s semi-finallists AC Milan, French titans PSG and German giants Borussia Dortmund

Four Premier League sides featured in the Champions League group stage draw on Thursday

Four Premier League sides featured in the Champions League group stage draw on Thursday

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They failed to make it through the qualifiers in 2003-04, beaten by Partizan Belgrade – and the true reward for last season’s achievement, finishing fourth in the Premier League, is a little more tangible when these ties are marked into the diaries.

At a glance, it looks as tough as any of the eight drawn on Thursday in Monaco by Joe Cole and Eric Abidal, although Howe might quietly fancy his chance of springing surprises as the outsiders in Group F.

Milan, with some familiar former Premier League players in their ranks including England internationals Fikayo Tomori and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, only just squeezed past Tottenham last season, Dortmund have lost Jude Bellingham and PSG are in flux once again, with Neymar and Lionel Messi gone.

Howe also has Sandro Tonali, signed by Newcastle from Milan for £55million, for inside knowledge on the Italians, who finished fourth in Serie A.

Bellingham’s first Champions League campaign with Real Madrid pits him against Italian champions Napoli, Braga and debutants Union Berlin.

Manchester United will come up against Harry Kane’s Bayern Munich in Group A. The repeat of the 1999 final is a mouth-watering prospect, although both will expect to qualify from a group also involving FC Copenhagen and Wilf Zaha’s Galatasaray.

United’s fixture against Galatasaray in Istanbul will stir up memories of the infamous “Welcome to Hell” contest, 30 years ago in October.

Arsenal will be relieved to have avoided Kane and Bayern. The England captain made a habit of scoring against them for Tottenham and the German champions scarred them with a 10-2 aggregate defeat on their last appearance in the Champions League.

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The Premier League's four-strong contingent learned their fates at the Monaco ceremony

The Premier League’s four-strong contingent learned their fates at the Monaco ceremony

For Pep Guardiola's Treble-winners it is another clash with RB Leipzig on the cards

For Pep Guardiola’s Treble-winners it is another clash with RB Leipzig on the cards

It has been a long six years since. They were a fixture under Arsene Wenger but Mikel Arteta’s team return in what appears to be gentle fashion after a six-year absence.

Group B is low on mileage and, with PSV, Lens and Europa League winners Sevilla, none of the traditional heavyweights.

Group G will hold few fears for holders Manchester City. They will be up once more against Leipzig, who they thrashed 7-0 at the Etihad Stadium in March on the way to lifting the trophy for the first time, Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) of Serbia and Young Boys of Switzerland.

Erling Haaland, who scored five in the romp against Leipzig, was named men’s player of the year for 2022/23 at the UEFA ceremony. Sarina Wiegman won women’s coach of the year, and dedicated the award to the Spain players who beat her England side in the World Cup final, last month.

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Mikel Arteta's Arsenal face a straight-forward group against Sevilla, PSV Eindhoven and Lens

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal face a straight-forward group against Sevilla, PSV Eindhoven and Lens

Erik ten Hag and Manchester United have been drawn in Group A against Bayern Munich

Erik ten Hag and Manchester United have been drawn in Group A against Bayern Munich

Harry Kane (right) faces a very swift return to England when his Bayern Munich take on United

Harry Kane (right) faces a very swift return to England when his Bayern Munich take on United

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