Now that the 2018-19 football season is underway domestically around Europe, it means that its time for this season’s UEFA Champions League group stage draw, featuring top names like Real Madrid, PSG and Tottenham Hotspur.
Here, we are going to take you through each group and analyse which clubs will enjoy a nice easy passage to knockouts and who is in for a scrappy battle to book their Round of 16 spots.
|Atletico Madrid||Borussia Dortmund|
Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Monaco all experienced poor Champions League campaigns last season, with former pair qualifying for Europa League whilst Monaco crashed out after finishing bottom of Group G.
Club Brugge however shouldn’t cause any problems for the above teams, given the divide in quality.
Out of the three main contenders, Monaco and Dortmund have the strongest range of depth with stars like Danijel Subasic, Youri Tielemans, Paco Alcacer and Jadon Sancho amongst their sides.
Atletico Madrid however are defending Europa League winners so this is a tough group to predict who will progress.
Ultimately, I can see Atletico progressing because they are a strong solid unit with Monaco joining them in Last 16.
Prediction: Atletico Madrid and Monaco to progress.
|PSV Eindhoven||Inter Milan|
Tottenham Hotspur won’t fear Barcelona or Inter Milan after last season’s exploits and Harry Kane will be even better this time around.
Barcelona meanwhile are evolving as the star generation of past decade start to move on, so will be slightly vulnerable if age catches up with likes of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitic.
Inter Milan are back in Europe’s top competition for first time in seven years, so are unknowns but Spurs have lost both previous trips to Inter, making their home clash possibly a major must win.
PSV away might be tricky but English sides have enjoyed a solid recent record in Netherlands so should be a simple six points from across both legs.
Ultimately, Spurs really need to try and get at least nine points to qualify and if can get a pair of home wins over Barca and Inter, they will be through.
As for who joins them, I fancy Barcelona to have the edge over Inter Milan here.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona to progress.
|Liverpool||Red Star Belgrade|
Liverpool will be quietly confident of what they can do here because they have plenty of pace in them to cause major problems for their opposition.
PSG will be their toughest test because Napoli have lost their key player in Jorginho as well as Maurizio Sarri to Chelsea, so are currently a side in transition. The Reds also beat Napoli in pre season 5-0 so shouldn’t have much to worry about here.
Red Star Belgrade will be a guaranteed six points so if can get at least two wins against PSG and Napoli, they should be through hopefully as Group C winners.
Prediction: Liverpool and PSG to progress.
This group is wide open in my opinion but given Porto’s European history, they should win this group.
As for runner-up spot, I can see it being between Galatasaray and Schalke but it’s hard to see either impressing. Ultimately, I am going with Schalke to progress because of Germany’s better record than Turkish clubs.
Prediction: Porto and Schalke to progress.
Bayern Munich should easily get out of Group E but the battle for second will be between Benfica and Ajax.
Both sides have strong recent European history so this will be tough but Ajax have brought in Daley Blind and Dusan Tadic amongst others so am backing them here.
Prediction: Bayern Munich and Ajax to progress.
|Manchester City||Shakhtar Donetsk|
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City will be delighted with this group because 40% of eventual winners since 2003-04 season has come from Group F.
All these games are winnable so I expect City to cruise through but the battle for second qualification spot will go to the wire.
Lyon has a strong squad featuring ex Manchester United star, Memphis Depay but Hoffenheim have two quality internationals in Steven Zuber and Andrej Kramaric who will be key for the German side.
Shakhtar meanwhile have lost Fred so it’s tough to see them getting out of this group.
For me, Manchester City will win this group but based on overall quality, Lyon will just about join them in the knockouts.
Prediction: Manchester City and Lyon to progress.
|CSKA Moscow||Viktoria Plzen|
From Group G, I can see only two clear winners even if Real Madrid struggle under Julen Lopetegui.
CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen don’t have the quality to realistically pose any real threat, so don’t expect any drama here.
Prediction: Real Madrid and Roma to progress.
For Manchester United fans, they will have mixed feelings about this group as they face the Cristiano Ronaldo and Neville Brothers derbies.
Realistically, United need to win both legs against Young Boys which would give them six points. As for Juventus and Valencia games, they need to produce smash and grab home wins and park the bus away at Turin and Mestalla.
Should they fail to do so, I can’t see United qualifying with their current defensive shambles.
Prediction: Juventus and Manchester United to progress.