This evening saw the draw for the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League Group Stage take place as Liverpool begin their title defence whilst the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus look to improve on their disappointment of last season.
Here, we reflect on the draw which saw 32 teams split into eight groups of four so who looks best placed to progress into the knockout stage and who faces a group of death?
Group AEmbed from Getty Images
PSG and Real Madrid shouldn’t have much to worry about because their opponents are both easily beatable, leaving the clashes between those two as the key games in deciding who tops the group and Neymar could be key depending on whether he features for either team.
I however fancy Club Brugge to take third if they can take confidence from last campaign because they’re capable of troubling all three teams but Galatasaray are realistically their nearest competition who they should beat at least at home.
Prediction: PSG and Real Madrid to progress.
|Bayern Munich||Tottenham Hotspur|
|Olympiacos||Red Star Belgrade|
Beaten finalists, Tottenham should be worried about their chances because all three opponents could easily beat them, particularly Bayern and Red Star Belgrade who are difficult to beat at home.
For me, Spurs need to get maximum points against Olympiacos along with a couple of draws from their other games if they’re to progress because based on current form, they look like they might struggle a bit if things don’t improve.
Bayern however should progress as comfortable group winners and I think that Tottenham will have to do it the hard way again, although it will eventually be enough to edge through.
Prediction: Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur to progress.
Group CEmbed from Getty Images
|Manchester City||Shakhtar Donetsk|
Manchester City fans definitely have reason to believe that they can go on a good run this season, particularly because I don’t see any of their opponents topping the group.
The battle for second however is going to be tight between three solid teams but given their experience, I fancy Shakhtar to squeeze through to the Last 16 whilst Atalanta will take third.
Prediction: Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk to progress.
|Bayer Leverkusen||Lokomotiv Moscow|
Like Group A, I can see two easy group winners in Juventus and Atletico Madrid with their meetings being crucial as to who tops this group.
Bayer Leverkusen meanwhile are my tips for third because their squad is superior to that of Lokomotiv Moscow’s but just lack that quality needed to progress into the knockouts, although they should run Juventus and Atletico close if the likes of Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland are on form.
Prediction: Juventus and Atletico Madrid to progress.
|Red Bull Salzburg||Genk|
Liverpool fans will certainly have plenty of confidence that they can successfully defend their title because this is a much easier group than last season.
Only Napoli are really their biggest threats to topping the group and have the squad to tactically match them on the pitch, but I don’t see them troubling Liverpool too much in the battle for the group winner spot.
As for the third-placed spot and Europa League knockout qualification, I feel that Genk will get that spot because Salzburg are inexperienced at this level of Europe’s premier position and a youthful midfield could cost them.
Prediction: Liverpool and Napoli to progress.
Group FEmbed from Getty Images
|Inter Milan||Slavia Prague|
This is the group of death because Inter Milan are on the rise under new management of Antonio Conte whilst Borussia Dortmund look ready for a proper tilt at lifting the trophy this season, and Barcelona are slightly vulnerable when Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez aren’t at their best.
I therefore can see this group being decided on the final matchday with whoever facing Slavia Prague progressing along with the winner of the other tie.
Slavia Prague however won’t be much trouble for the three giants so I am going for Dortmund to progress alongside Barcelona, who should sneak through purely down to the beast that is Messi.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona to progress.
|Zenit St Petersburg||Benfica|
This is one open group because any of these teams could progress but Lyon look the strongest placed to progress given the depth of their squad.
Benfica and Zenit however are European regulars so will be right in the mix for a knockout spot against RB Leipzig, who have a strong squad full of depth and talent like Ademola Lookman and Timo Werner.
I am therefore expecting an incredible battle between all four teams which won’t be settled until the final group matches, but Lyon and RB Leipzig look the more likely to qualify for the knockouts in my opinion.
Prediction: Lyon and RB Leipzig to qualify.
Group HEmbed from Getty Images
Frank Lampard will be happy to have a fairly soft group for his managerial debut in the Champions League with Chelsea, who are handling the effects of their transfer ban pretty well.
Lille don’t look like much trouble but if Chelsea continue to develop and play their attacking style, then I can see the Blues comfortably progressing alongside Ajax whose exciting football will definitely trouble Valencia and Lille.
Los Ches however have enough to realistically finish third at a minimum ahead of Lille but I can’t see them progressing, simply because they lack in the goals department with no real threats who could change their games if needed.
Prediction: Chelsea and Ajax to progress.