UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw
The 2018-19 UEFA Champions League has taken shape Thursday after the group stage draw in Monaco set the table for this season’s competition.
|GROUP A||GROUP B||GROUP C||GROUP D||GROUP E||GROUP F||GROUP G||GROUP H|
|Atletico Madrid||Barcelona||PSG||Lokomotiv Moscow||Bayern Munich||Manchester City||Real Madrid||Juventus|
|Borussia Dortmund||Tottenham||Napoli||Porto||Benfica||Shakhtar Donetsk||Roma||Manchester United|
|Monaco||PSV Eindhoven||Liverpool||Schalke||Ajax||Lyon||CSKA Moscow||Valencia|
|Club Brugge||Inter Milan||Red Star Belgrade||Galatasaray||AEK Athens||Hoffenheim||Viktoria Plzen||Young Boys|
The top two teams in the pot should advance, though a weakened Monaco, who didn’t receive any home-draw advantage, still has the horses and wherewithal to put up a fight. Not much should be expected from Brugge, with a clear divide between the top three and the group minnow. Playing against Atletico Madrid–whose Estadio Wanda Metropolitano will host the June 1 final–will be a fantastic challenge for Christian Pulisic, as the U.S. defender looks to cultivate his role under new manager Lucien Favre. Atletico is the class of this group, though, and a bonafide contender to play in its home stadium for the competition’s final match.
PREDICTED TO GO THROUGH: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund
If there’s an argument for a Group of Death, this is it. Barcelona remains the favorite, but it will be tested home and away by Tottenham and an Inter Milan side that has geared up on signings to make trouble again on the European stage. Tottenham has had no problems playing against Real Madrid in the recent Champions League path, so one shouldn’t expect the fear factor to settle in for Spurs now.
As for PSV Eindhoven, what better stage for Mexico star Hirving Lozano to continue his ascent than this one? He had been previously linked to Barcelona before remaining at PSV this summer, and the six-game group stage is essentially one giant audition for three teams that could all come calling by January. There isn’t a match in this group that won’t be worth watching.
PREDICTED TO GO THROUGH: Barcelona, Tottenham
If there’s a second argument for a Group of Death, this is it. PSG and Liverpool are both good enough to win it all, while Napoli, albeit weakened after losing manager Maurizio Sarri and midfielder Jorginho to Chelsea, can cause complications under experienced Champions League manager Carlo Ancelotti. Red Star Belgrade shouldn’t challenge any of the three, but then that road match won’t be the easiest three-point haul for any of them, either. Ultimately, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe will guide PSG through this group, and Liverpool, which patched its weak areas, should join. The only question is in which order.
PREDICTED TO GO THROUGH: Liverpool, PSG
This quartet reads more like a play-in tournament than an actual group in the Champions League proper, but that’s just the luck of the draw. Lokomotiv Moscow is the top-seeded team in name alone, while Porto and Schalke must be loving life after this draw. Galatasaray away is one of the trickier games in the competition, too, so while there is no overwhelming favorite or hierarchy in this group, that also means it could wind up being one of the most wide-open and entertaining in the field. Concacaf has some stars who could be eyeing the knockout stage, with Schalke’s Weston McKennie (USA) and Porto’s Jesus Corona and Hector Herrera (Mexico) all featuring for their clubs.
PREDICTED TO GO THROUGH: Porto, Schalke
It could have been much worse for Bayern, who will be challenged by Benfica and Ajax in this group but not to the point where it will have to worry too much. Niko Kovac’s side is the clear favorite, while Benfica, who acquired ex-Shakhtar striker Facundo Ferreyra (and boasts another American abroad in midfielder Keaton Parks) will aim to mount a challenge. You wonder if either the Portuguese side or Ajax have the firepower to keep up with Bayern, though.
PREDICTED TO GO THROUGH: Bayern Munich, Benfica
The draw was kind to Pep Guardiola’s side, which will have to navigate the group stage of the Champions League without Kevin De Bruyne. By the team he’s ready to come back, it should be a group winner awaiting the draw for the round of 16. Shakhtar, oddly enough, handed Man City its first loss last season (in a late group game that meant nothing, to be fair), but it sold its key components and looks, on paper anyhow, like a very much weakened side as opposed to the one that qualified for this stage. That leaves Lyon, boosted by Nabil Fekir’s unexpected return to the club amid rumors of a Liverpool move, and Hoffenheim, whose manager, Julian Nagelsmann, is bound for RB Leipzig next summer. The Guardiola-Nagelsmann showdown will be one for the tactical wizards, but realistically shouldn’t be too troubling for a Man City side that should coast to first place.
PREDICTED TO GO THROUGH: Manchester City, Lyon
There may not be many groups where all four teams can realistically go through, but this may be the only one where it’s abuntantly clear as to who the top two favorites are. Real Madrid and Roma will fight for the top two spots, and for a Real Madrid side learning to excel without Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s an ideal group to kick off its latest title defense. The absolute best shouldn’t be required on every matchday, while Roma, which is also adjusting to a reshaped roster, is clearly better than CSKA Moscow and VIktoria Plzen.
PREDICTED TO GO THROUGH: Real Madrid, Roma
What a rough draw for Manchester United. Not only does it have to face Ronaldo on the stage that he has dominated like no other but one could argue that, on paper, it’s the third best team in its group. Valencia’s summer additions made it one of Spain’s most intriguing clubs and a genuine threat to the Barcelona-Real Madrid-Atletico Madrid domination in the top three of La Liga. There’s another homecoming of sorts, too, as Paul Pogba will go up against a Juventus side that is reportedly interested in bringing him back to Turin. This won’t be an easy road for Juventus, either, but you get the sense that it will find a way to top the table, while Valencia and Man United duke it out for second place.
PREDICTED TO GO THROUGH: Juventus, Valencia