The UEFA Champions League Group Stage is now set following the draw in Monaco yesterday. There are an abundance of juicy match-ups in this first stage including Liverpool v PSG, Barcelona v Tottenham, Juventus v Valencia and infinitely more as the competition progresses.
With such an intense draw, the steaks are high for some of Europe’s finest, but who will rise for the challenge?
Here is a recap of every group including predictions of who has the best chances of entering the Round of 16.
Group A- Atletico, Dortmund, Monaco and Club Brugge
A fairly difficult group for Atletico Madrid, who will seek their first return to the CL Final since 2016 when they lost to their cross town rivals Real Madrid in a penalty shootout. Atleti is perhaps stronger than ever and should top Group A with little to worry about. Borussia Dortmund are looking the strongest candidates to challenge Los Colchoneros, improving the depth of their entire squad while also managing to appoint manager Lucian Farve, who is best known for developing Marco Reus and Mahmoud Dahoud into stars at Borussia Mochengladbach. AS Monaco haven’t quite replaced the star power that was Kylian Mbappe but are still a very formidable team with striking partnership Falcao and Stevan Jovetic, a young, creative midfield with Aleksandr Golovin and Youri Tielemans and Karim Glik holding down the backline. It’s tough to see Brugge get any points, but a draw against Monaco isn’t out of the question.
Prediction (in order)- Atletico, Dortmund, Monaco, Brugge
Group B- Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan
This is easily the “Group of Death” with Tottenham making their way back into it just like the year prior. But, thinking Spurs will top this group, like they did last season, seems a bit daft because Barcelona and Inter Milan aren’t in the same turmoil as Real Madrid and Dortmund were at this stage. Barcelona have only strengthened their squad this year, adding the experienced Arturo Vidal, the Brazilian talents Arthur and Malcom, and Sevilla’s best defender of last season Clement Lenglet, but is it possible that the absence of Andres Iniesta comes back to haunt them? Inter Milan will make a very convincing run for 1st and 2nd of this group, easily being a nightmare for both Barça and Spurs at the San Siro. The worry for Inter is that they have shown some mental lapses in the past seasons when it’s matter the most. PSV has Mexico’s crown jewel Irving “Chucky” Lozano who is absolutely electric on the big stage, yet if getting out of this group will be tough for Spurs and Inter, it surely ten fold for PSV.
Prediction- Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan, PSV Eindhoven
Group C- PSG, Napoli, Liverpool, Red Star Belgrade
Another tough group in this competition because of PSG, Napoli and Liverpool’s potent attacks. Each side are able to tear apart the others on counter-attacks, leaving Jurgen Klopp, Carlo Anchelotti and Thomas Tuchel to show proper masterclass’ of tactics if they want to advance to the Round of 16. Red Star Belgrade are incredibly unlucky to not drop in Group D, where they could have had at least a shout to secure a 2nd place spot. But, if you want to watch all out attacking football in it’s prime, stick with Group C and enjoy every minute of these front 3’s.
Prediction- PSG, Liverpool, Napoli, Red Star Belgrade
Group D- Lokomotiv Moscow, FC Porto, FC Schalke 04, and Galatasaray
Not the most exciting of groups, but one that definitely up in the air. Galatasaray are a decent side including Everton’s young winger Henry Onyekuru, the once La Liga star Sofiane Feghouli and Younes Belhanda who just came off a really good World Cup for Morocco. Schalke are surely favorites to top the group though, playing quite well in Nicholas Tedesco’s system and securing second place in the Bundesliga by good margin last season. Porto will look to redeem themselves after their embarrassing campaign in Champions League last season, while Lokomotiv Moscow have added to their title winning squad with 2014 World Cup winner Benedikt Höwedes and PSG’s Grzegorz Krychowiak.
Prediction- Schalke, Lokomotiv, Porto, Galatasaray
Group E- FC Bayern Munich, SL Benfica, AFC Ajax, AEK Athens
Bayern Munich are undoubtedly going to top the group with ease. It is that runner-up spot that comes into question with Benfica and Ajax both eyeing it heavily. Both sides fought their way into UCL similarly, coming from the playoffs by dominating their opponent over two legs. Each side also finished second in their respective leagues last season, which really makes this a toss up. Benfica’s experience is almost counteracted by Ajax continuity and potential talent ceiling if their young stars perform well throughout the group. This mean it’ll come down to whichever side can get a result out of Bayern, something that Ajax might be better suited for. As far as AEK Athens, they could have a good run in the Europa League when they drop.
Prediction- Bayern Munich, Ajax, Benfica, AEK Athens
Group F- Manchester City, Shaktar Donetsk, Olympique Lyonnais (OL) and Hoffenheim
Man City got off a tad lucky here, especially with Kevin De Bruyne still expected to be out most of the group stage, if not all of it. They will surely cruise past the rest in Group F and maybe Pep Guardiola will even give the likes of Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz a start or two. Lyon held their ground this summer to keep Nabil Fekir amid all the transfer rumors about his departure to Liverpool, but it will be Mariano Diaz they will miss the most as their top scorer was recently sold back to Real Madrid, leaving Bertrand Traore and Memphis Depay to do the heavy lifting upfront. Hoffenheim are a really good side, but might get hard done by because of their lack of depth, while Shaktar lost thier stars Bernardo and Fred, making their chances meek.
Prediction- Manchester City, Olympique Lyonnais, Hoffenheim, Shaktar Donetsk
Group G- Real Madrid, AS Roma, CSKA Moscow, Viktoria Plzen
Another two club who have benefitted from a lucky draw, Real Madrid and Roma will surely advance without much of a fuss. CSKA is a defensively stable side who can shut down Roma or Real for enough time to score a goal. Problem is, they sold Aleksandr Golovin who was a vital part of their offense next to Alan Dzagoev, leaving them with little attacking prowess. Viktoria Plzen will collect their money happily while hopefully not getting too embarrassed by the rest.
Prediction- Real Madrid, AS Roma, CSKA Moscow, Viktoria Plzen
Group H- Juventus, Manchester United, Valencia CF, BSC Young Boys
Having failed twice now, Juventus decided to take matters into their own hands and buy one of the best players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo. Now, not only are they favorites to win the group, but they are amongst favorites to win the entire competition, especially with the revival of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chellini at the back. As the crisis at Old Trafford continues to weigh down this talent-filled Manchester United side, Valencia will be the force to reckon with. There is a wealth of talent across Valencia’s squad including Gonçalo Guedes, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Dani Parejo, Santi Mina and loanee Michy Batshuayi, making United’s job much tougher than most might think. BSC Young Boy are no push-overs either, coming off a stellar campaign in Switzerland, meaning United aren’t in the best position to get out of this group.
Prediction- Juventus, Valencia, Manchester United, BSC Young Boys
The first UCL matches start on September 18th with Group B, the “Group of Death”, kicking off the fixture list. Tottenham play Inter Milan at the San Siro as the early match, while later we get to see PSG visit Anfield and Atletico visit Monaco for some tantalizing matches.