So, the Champions League draws were released yesterday and for the first time in a while, there will be loads of mouth-watering ties in the group stages.
IN FULL: Champions League group-phase draw
Group A: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Monaco, Brugge
Group B: Barcelona, Tottenham, PSV Eindhoven, Inter Milan
Group C: PSG, Napoli, Liverpool, Red Star Belgrade
Group D: Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto, Schalke, Galatasaray
Group E: Bayern Munich, Benfica, Ajax, AEK Athens
Group F: Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon, Hoffenheim
Group G: Real Madrid, Roma, CSKA Moscow, Viktoria Plzen
Group H: Juventus, Manchester United, Valencia, Young Boys.
Groups A, B, C and H have some massive games that we are eagerly anticipating. Some of us just wait for the Champions League knock-outs to kick in before we even get into the spirit, but this time, we would be rearing to go from the beginning. Also, there would be some sort of homecomings for certain players.
Group A – Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Monaco, Club Brugge.
Everyone probably foresees Atletico Madrid to top this group but seeing that they were also tipped to qualify last season as well and they eventually made a hash of it (albeit eventually winning the Europa League), we should be a bit wary. Atletico has something to prove to themselves as they have made some astute additions over the season and they look ready to go. Borussia Dortmund, under Lucien Favre should be enticing to watch and should follow Atletico in qualifying from the group. Monaco, who is a team under construction after sales of some players- Thomas Lemar to Atletico for instance- would need to work extremely hard to make it out of this group.
Group B – Barcelona, Tottenham, PSV Eindhoven, Inter Milan.
Again, this is a group in which any of the four teams could qualify. We look at Barcelona going top and Tottenham, Inter Milan or PSV Eindhoven following them (in that order). Also happy to see Inter Milan come back into Europe’s elite competition and hope they get themselves sorted so we can see the best of them as their Serie A season has not got off to a flying start. PSV are also no pushovers as they can be very top opposition and have an advantage as underdogs.
Group C – PSG, Napoli, Liverpool, Red Star Belgrade.
Another group with some engaging fixtures. Edinson Cavani goes to his old hunting ground in Napoli, PSG and Liverpool face-off with arguably two of the best attacking trio in Europe right now (Neymar-Mbappe-Cavani and Mane-Firmino-Salah), Jurgen Klopp meets Thomas Tuchel his friend. Liverpool-PSG open the group in a must see game that could potentially define the eventual outcome of the group. No disrespect to Red Star Belgrade but this is surely a 3-horse race for who qualifies from here.
Group H: Juventus, Manchester United, Valencia, Young Boys
Juventus is expected to top the group while Manchester United or Valencia could follow suit. Ronaldo also returns to his old stomping ground.
We hope to see the ‘sorted-out’ Manchester United so we can enjoy this group as well. Manchester United lost to Sevilla in the first knock-out round last season. Expect Valencia to be an even sterner test as Valencia and Marcelinho has made some very astute signings over the summer as well.
That basically sums up the ‘tough group stages’ of the Champions League 2018/2019.
No disrespect to the other groups but they look fairly straightforward on paper.
And we always look forward to an upset.
The Champions League is back!
And we cannot wait.