Will the Champions League groups be a romp for Real Madrid, a walk in the park for Pep and a minefield for Manchester United? Here are our predictions…
Atletico have to be favourites for the trophy, especially with the final being played in their ground. The Super Cup win against Real Madrid showed their current level. Dortmund with Lucien Favre have what it takes to make it to second, and Monaco have lost too many of their key players to be a real threat, but watch out: their experience could be enough for second place. Difficult to see Brugge getting anything from this group.
Barcelona are the favourites to top the group, and a candidate for the final victory, after crashing out in the quarter-finals for three years in a row. Tottenham could be a threat for top spot, just as Inter could threaten Spurs for second. It all depends on the European maturity of Mauricio Pochettino’s team. PSV can be a nasty team for everyone to play against.
One of the most interesting groups, with Liverpool being in Pot 3 but realistically a candidate to winning the competition. The Reds have everything it takes to win their group, with that PSG should edge it over Napoli. Red Star could end up with zero points.
4) Red Star
Anything can happen in Group D, one of the most balanced. Porto’s experience could prove to be decisive, and Galatasaray have the team to get second. Schalke could be a surprise, whereas Lokomotiv could be one of the worst Pot 1 teams ever.
4) Lokomotiv Moscow
Historically speaking, this group could bring back nostalgic memories, with three out of four teams that have won the competition in the past. Nowadays, though, Bayern are miles ahead of the others, and Benfica should be able to do better than Ajax, although the Dutch side will be entertaining. Difficult to see AEK getting the third spot.
Easy for Manchester City to top this group, whilst the fight for second could be one of the most interesting. Shakhtar Donetsk have more experience looking at recent years, but Lyon have exciting players and could just about make it to the next round. Hoffenheim are one to watch and could be the decisive factor in who comes behind Pep Guardiola’s side.
1) Manchester City
3) Shakhtar Donetsk
Two top teams, and two that will fight for the Europa League spot guaranteed by coming third. Real Madrid should be able to top the group, although all the summer drama could cost them. Roma also lost some key men, so it’ll be difficult to repeat the semi-final from last season. CSKA should overcome Plzen in the end and book a place in the Europa League.
1) Real Madrid
3) CSKA Moscow
4) Viktoria Plzen
The current state of Manchester United could see them come third, but it’s early days still. Juventus with Cristiano Ronaldo have to be seen as clear favourites to win the trophy, so passing the group should be a formality. Valencia can be a hassle for United and Juve, but both should be able to see the next round. Young Boys will be lucky to get a point at all.
2) Manchester United
4) Young Boys