By Kyle Jones
The premiere tournament in club soccer is back again. The group stage draw for the 2019-20 Champions League took place Thursday morning and has produced some matchups that are guaranteed to entertain.
The groups are as follows …
Group A: PSG, Real Madrid, Club Brugge and Galatasaray
Group B: Bayern Munich, Tottenham, Olympiacos and Crvena zvezda (Red Star Belgrade)
Group C: Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb and Atalanta
Group D: Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow
Group E: Liverpool, Napoli, Salzburg and Genk
Group F: FC Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Slavia Praha
Group G: Zenit St. Petersburg, Benfica, Olympique Lyon and RB Leipzig
Group H: Chelsea, Ajax, Valencia and LOSC Lille
While predicting a winner at this point is still a bit of a challenge, predicting the outcome of the group stage is something that we can do right now.
PSG and Real Madrid are the clear favorites to advance to the next round out of this group, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have to fight to earn their spots. While Galatasaray’s campaign last season was relatively poor, the additions of Jean Micheal Seri, Emre Mor and Steven Nzonzi will make the Turkish side more competitive. This doesn’t mean that Galatasaray won’t score a point or three over PSG or Real Madrid, but a third place group finish and a spot in the Europa League may be on the cards.
There’s a very similar story to Group A in Group B. Bayern Munich and Tottenham are clear favorites to advance, with Olimpiacos and Crvena zvezda fighting things out for the Europa League spot. The two matches between Bayern and Spurs will be a must watch, but that’s the only real reason to tune in to Group B.
The battle for second place is wide open here. Manchester City will win this group, most likely, but the other club advancing from this group is still up in the air. My pick is Shakhtar Donetsk. The Ukranian club doesn’t have much in terms of domestic competition, hence why they feature in the Champions League every season. Because of this, they can focus their efforts more on this competition, as opposed to a club like Atalanta who has to navigate a tough Series A to qualify for the Champions League.
Another battle for the Europa League spot. Juventus and Atletico Madrid should advance comfortably, with Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow fighting for third. Atletico has lost their star striker in Antoine Griezmann, who moved on to FC Barcelona this summer, leaving Christiano Ronaldo’s Juventus to take the top spot in this group.
Liverpool should qualify easily for the next round, but the fight between Napoli and Salzburg for second is salivating. Napoli’s signings of Mexican superstar Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Konstantinos Manolas and goalkeeper David Ospina put them just above Salzburg in quality. Genk is an afterthought.
This. Is. The. Best. Group. Period. FC Barcelona is, well, FC Barcelona. Messi won the UEFA Forward of the Year Thursday morning for a reason, Antoine Griezmann has arrived and is ready to make his mark and Samuel Umtiti and Sergi Roberto are strong at the back. Borussia Dortmund gets better and better each season. The strong defense of Zagadou, Hummels, Schmelzer and Piszczek, as well as Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus and Thorgan Hazard, means Dortmund can go toe-to-toe with anyone. Inter has added Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to support Mauro Icardi and a back line of Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij and Diego Godin. I believe FC Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund will advance from this group, but Inter won’t go down easily.
This group will be a fun one. Don’t expect any of these teams to go deep in the competition, but Benfica and Olympique Lyon should advance to the next round. Don’t count out Zenit though, considering a trip to Russia is challenging for anybody.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea is not the Chelsea of old. By that I mean they are not locked in to advance. The same is the case for Ajax. The young core that stunned the world is gone. Still, despite these factors, Ajax will advance. There are some players left over from last season, and it will be enough to get them through. As for the other club advancing, I believe Valencia will beat Chelsea to the spot. Their squad seems a bit lower quality than Chelsea, but with a more experienced manager in Marcelino, the Spanish side should have the edge.
The group stage of the Champions League always produces fun narratives, and this year’s competition proves no different. It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy one of the best tournaments the soccer world has to offer.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org