Assessing Real Madrid’s Champions League opponents – 2021/22

By: Amir Elrafie

The playing field has been set, and the hype for Europe’s premier competition couldn’t be any more electrifying. The Champions League returns today, and many are relishing the opportunity to compete for the most coveted trophy in European club football. 

Before the serious business can begin, however, all participating clubs must start at square one. Every team will start their Champions League journey from the group stages of the tournament. For some, the luck of the draw was harsh, but for others, good fortune happened to be on their side. 

In Real Madrid’s case, you can say that they were dealt a good hand. The 13-time champions drew some somewhat familiar foes and a completely new one at that. Real Madrid were drawn into Group D – a group containing Inter Milan (Italy), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), and Sheriff Tiraspol (Moldova). On paper, it looks like a relatively easy draw for Real Madrid, but when looking down and assessing things under the microscope, these sides could prove to cause Los Blancos some trouble. 

That said, here’s a brief overview of Real Madrid’s group-stage opponents and everything you need to know about them ahead of Wednesday’s opening fixture against Inter Milan. 

Inter Milan 

A side that Real Madrid faced in last season’s installment of the competition, Inter Milan will indeed be looking to avenge their misfortunes this season. In their previous group-stage outings with Real Madrid, Inter lost on both occasions, with the scorelines ending 3-2 and 2-0 in Real Madrid’s favor. The Italian champions have undergone some significant changes to their side but still hold a core contingent of their title-winning team. Former Lazio manager Simone Inzaghi is now at the helm, and to defeat Real Madrid would be a fantastic achievement for the new manager. 

While the Nerazzurri have lost marquee names in Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi, they have added some quality names to their side with Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Denzel Dumfries, Edin Džeko, and Joaquin Correa. Moreover, they remain serious challengers for the Serie A title and will undoubtedly be Real Madrid’s toughest opponent in the group.  

Shakhtar Donetsk 

Another familiar opponent from last season’s installment of the competition, and they are a side that has caused Real Madrid trouble in the past. In the 2020/21 season, Shakhtar Donetsk did the unimaginable in defeating Real Madrid on both occasions during their group-stage outings. Winning 3-2 and 2-0 respectively, the Ukrainian outfit were the tournament’s surprise package last season, and Real Madrid will surely be out for revenge this time out. 

With former Sassuolo manager Roberto De Zerbi in charge, Shakhtar appear more spirited than ever and are ready to make waves in the Champions League this season. Shakhtar may not be looked at with high regard when it comes to the Champions League, but if history tells us anything, it’s that Real Madrid must be careful, or else they’ll end up on the back of an upset once again. 

Sheriff Tiraspol  

Sheriff Tiraspol are complete newcomers when it comes to the Champions League. In a landscape where clubs like PSG, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich receive the plaudits, Sheriff Tiraspol usually will never cross your mind as a first when referring to the Champions League. That’s simply because they are a relatively small club and because this season’s installment of the Champions League will be the first in the club’s history.  

The Moldovan side achieved a historic feat after clinching victory against Dinamo Zagreb in the qualifying stages to advance to the group stages of this season’s Champions League. Moreover, Sheriff are the first-ever side from Moldova to qualify for the Champions League. Quite historic when looking at it, but it’s evident that they enter Group D as the ultimate underdogs. It’ll be an opportunity of a lifetime for the Moldovan side to grace the pitch of the Santiago Bernabéu, and they’ll surely be relishing every moment of their Champions League journey. It should be a relatively easy challenge for Real Madrid and will be the easiest of competitors when assessing the other teams in the group. 


Overall, it’s pretty safe to say that Real Madrid received a relatively easy group-stage draw. With former opponents in Inter and Shaktar, Real Madrid already know what they’re getting themselves into, and Sheriff Tiraspol should be a relatively easy challenge. The 13-time winners will undoubtedly be looking to claim their 14th title, and with a good showing in the group stage, it should give the team confidence for the knock-out stages of the competition. We can’t wait for kick-off on Wednesday, and we all know Real Madrid will be etching to create more historic Champions League moments. One step at a time and the group stages kick off the proceedings. 

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