UEFA’s premier club competition is back for another season, with the group stage draw taking place on Thursday. In this article, we’ll take a look at what fans can expect to see over the coming months.
Group A:Embed from Getty Images
Group A can be described as one of the two ‘groups of death’. Manchester City, last season’s defeated finalists. line up against PSG, who were runners-up the season before. Meanwhile, RB Leipzig, under new Head Coach Jesse Marsch, will be hoping to reach the knockout stages for a third season running. Club Brugge complete the numbers in this group and possess the potential to cause an upset against their opponents, even if qualification to the knockout stages seems like a longshot.
Prediction: Manchester City will win the group, with PSG in a close second. RB Leipzig will finish third, with Club Brugge finishing bottom.
Group B:Embed from Getty Images
As tough as Group A was, Group B is even more competitive. Atlético Madrid, champions of Spain, will once again be aiming to reach the latter stages of the competition. The same can be said for Liverpool, who have won the UCL as recently as 2019. AC Milan have historically enjoyed great success in this tournament and are a welcome addition to it this year, having successfully rebuilt their side under Stefano Pioli. Group B is completed by Porto, who despite being a frequent fixture of the knockout rounds, are the rank outsiders here. Nevertheless, they should not be written off.
Prediction: Atlético will take the group comfortably, with Liverpool just edging past AC Milan into second place. Porto will be tough opponents but finish last despite a valiant effort.
Group C:Embed from Getty Images
Compared to Group A and Group B, this is a relatively dull affair. Dortmund and Ajax are common features in the last 16 draw and will both expect to feature in it this year. Sporting Lisbon can feel proud to have even made it into the Champions League, given the recent turmoil at their club. Besiktas are a strong fourth seed and will feel optimistic about their chances of making the Europa League knockout stages this season.
Prediction: Ajax will win the group, just ahead of Dortmund. Besiktas will finish third, ahead of Sporting Lisbon in fourth.
Group D:Embed from Getty Images
Real Madrid and Inter Milan will both be confident of making the knock-out stages here. Shakhtar Donetsk will expect to finish third – with Sheriff Tiraspol knowing that they are massive underdogs.
Prediction: Real Madrid will be a cut above the competition, with Inter Milan being the best of the rest by some distance. Shakhtar will finish third and Sheriff will have to be at their best to even pick up a point.
Group E:Embed from Getty Images
This is another really tough group. Bayern Munich have started slowly under Julian Nagelsmann but will still expect to progress. Barcelona’s problems have been well-documented this summer, but they too will fancy their chances. Benfica and Dynamo Kyiv, meanwhile, will be gunning for third place and both possess the talent needed to sneak into second.
Prediction: This will be a fairly close group. Bayern and Barcelona will go through, with Benfica and Dynamo Kyiv finishing third and fourth respectively.
Group F:Embed from Getty Images
Group F contains a rematch of last year’s Europa League final between Villareal and Manchester United. The Red Devils will be determined to make amends for their shock loss in May, but will also have to contend with Atalanta and BSC Young Boys if they wish to progress.
Prediction: Manchester United will top the group, with Atalanta making the knockout stages again in second. Villareal will finish third (where Unai Emery will inevitably take them deep into the Europa League). BSC Young Boys probably won’t cause too much trouble and will finish in a distant fourth.
Group G:Embed from Getty Images
This group, consisting of Lille, Wolfsburg, Red Bull Salzburg and Sevilla is wide open. Lille’s title defence has started slowly, whilst each of the other three sides have started strongly.
Prediction: Salzburg will top the group by simply outscoring their opponents. Sevilla will join them in second – pipping Wolfsburg who will drop into the Europa League. Lille will struggle unless they can quickly find their feet under Jocelyn Gourvennec.
Group H:Embed from Getty Images
Last year’s winners, Chelsea, will face Juventus, Zenit St. Petersberg and Malmo. Thomas Tuchel will expect to make the knockout stages again, with the same being true for Max Allegri and Juventus. Zenit will expect to finish third and at least mount a challenge to the frontrunners, whilst Malmo shouldn’t be underestimated.
Prediction: Chelsea will win this group comfortably, with Juventus also getting through fairly comfortably. Zenit should finish third, but Malmo will hope to take points from them.
Header Image Credit: hakolal, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0