Bad for Chelsea, good for Manchester United and probably ok for Real Madrid. That was the verdict after the draw was made for this season’s Champions League
It was an eventful Champions League draw in Monaco, with the new season of European football really kicking off as legends Francesco Totti and Andriy Shevchenko selected the next group stages of the continent’s most important football competition.
The spotlight has to go on groups C and H as Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Roma will all be fighting for just two top spots, one of them having to go out in the first round, and holders Real Madrid are facing Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur in what promises to be one of the most fun groups.
The complete 2017/18 UEFA Champions League Group Stage draw!
Most exciting group?#UCLdraw pic.twitter.com/Jf9ebJrJ9t
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 24, 2017
For teams like Chelsea, Spurs and Roma, this year’s competition is the chance to prove their value on a European level, after impressing domestically. Mauricio Pochettino’s men disappointed hugely last season in the Champions League, and will want to bounce back despite playing in the accursed Wembley Stadium. The Blues under Antonio Conte return to the Champions League after an incredible season, but the Italian manager doesn’t have a promising European record. Roma have undergone a major revolution in coach and squad and there is a big question mark still over the new-look Giallorossi.
Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund have been the two main outsiders over the past decade, and will want to demonstrate once again they are worthy of this competition.
The likes of Monaco, Porto, Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain (more than any other) still need to reach that European top level, whilst Liverpool and Manchester United return to the top competition desperate to go all the way: the potential is there to see Jose Mourinho or Jurgen Klopp reach at least the final-four, even lift the trophy with a bit of luck come May.
Our @ChampionsLeague group-stage opponents… #UCLdraw pic.twitter.com/cp2349MnWg
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 24, 2017
Interesting clubs to follow will be Napoli and their wonder football, with Maurizio Sarri facing the biggest emblem of total football and the passing game: Pep Guardiola. That will be one to look out for.
Barcelona and Bayern Munich are in another category yet: the big, huge clubs, who need to recover from a slightly disappointing season. The Blaugrana crashed out of last year’s edition all too easily, whilst the Germans had everything to win and an unlucky night at the Bernabeu saw them get knocked out: this could be their year.
Then, of course, Juventus. Losing two finals in three years is harsh: ask Diego Simeone and his Atletico Madrid for confirmation. And it is also unlikely that the Bianconeri can go all the way to Kyev. But the club is solid, the team is experienced and it will be difficult for anyone to play against the Italian champions. Of course, their double encounter with Barcelona in group D will be one of the main ties in the group stages, a remake of last year’s quarter-final.
? #BarçaJuve 12/09
✈ #SportingBarça 27/09
? #BarçaOlympiacos 18/10
✈ #OlympiacosBarça 31/10
✈ #JuveBarça 22/11
? #BarçaSporting 5/12 pic.twitter.com/DEtCobbmzK
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 24, 2017
The likes of Feyenoord, Besiktas or Leipzig could be the outsiders and snatch a pass to the round of 16 with a bit of luck and making the most of the others’ mistakes. The level of Shakhtar or Spartak Moscow, for example, is all to judge.
The Champions League has made the first step into what promises to be another exciting edition, and with Real Madrid clear favourites, a pool of another four, Bayern Munich, Juventus, PSG and Barcelona right behind them, and outsiders like United, City or Liverpool, the fun is just around the corner.