The UEFA Champions League is back later this month and after all the thrilling contests it produced last season, one can expect similar or even better results this time around. Liverpool ousted the odds to lift their sixth title last season, but retaining the Champions League is a whole different ball-up.
Real Madrid will definitely be gunning for the title now that Zinedine Zidane’s back at the helm. They’ve been pit alongside Paris Saint-Germain in Group A, which will see summer-Barcelona target Neymar return to traumatize his former rivals. Club Brugge and Galatasaray however, wouldn’t be too happy being pit alongside these giants in the group.
Meanwhile the defending champions Liverpool have again been pit alongside Napoli in Group E. Remember how important Allison’s save was to keep their European dreams intact last season? Well, their group stages should be more comfortable this time with RB Salzburg and Genk the other two sides. Considering their perfect start to the league season, Liverpool should go a long way into the Champions League, having qualified for a European competition final every time they’ve participated under Jurgen Klopp.
Last season’s surprise finalists Tottenham Hotspur are going to face German champions Bayern Munich to fight it out for Group B. Neither side is the favourite in this season’s Champions League winner odds, but the bookmakers are backing both sides to go deep into the tournament. Red Star Belgrade and Olympiacos will be intimidating visits for both, but Spurs should progress deep into the knockout rounds with a more refined squad this time.
Manchester City, meanwhile, have been handed a relatively easy group in which they should roll through to the knockout stages. Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk nor Dinamo Zagreb are that good to keep them down. Pep Guardiola’s side has reinforced well in the summer, while a roaring Kevin de Bruyne could be the x-factor in Europe for the reigning English champions.
The Italian champions, Juventus, need to wither the storm of Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen to attain the qualification. As Cristiano Ronaldo aims to win his sixth Champions League title, Maurizio Sarri’s side will go all guns blazing to break their European curse. Atletico, meanwhile, have also become a tough nut to crack and can drag their way into the latter stages.
Barcelona have been pit in the “Group of Death” alongside Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan. This will definitely be an intense group guaranteed to produce quality, tactical match-ups. Barca should power their way through, but Antonio Conte’s experience could prematurely end Die BVB’s journey early on.
Chelsea, back in the Champions League, are in a tricky group themselves. Last year’s surprise package Ajax, Valencia and Lille are all capable of causing them issues if Frank Lampard doesn’t solve his defensive structure.
Perhaps Dortmund and Chelsea could be the biggies ousted in the group stages itself. Liverpool should make the semi-finals at least, but an all-Spanish final or Juventus, City breaking their European curse is a high possibility this year.