14 Sept 2021 | Angelo Ziovas
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Group A: Manchester City, PSG, RB Leipzig, Club Brugge
Group A in this years Champions League throws up an interesting group with 2 finalists from the previous two Champions League campaigns, as well as runners up Leipzig in the Bundesliga last year. Club Brugge could be a potential slip up for these three sides. PSG look to be favourites to top the group with their phenomenal squad with the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in their attacking threat and are 5 wins from 5 in Ligue 1. Manchester City being the side that knocked out PSG to get to the final last season, have the tools to certainly top the group, so far in the premier league, they lost their first game but won their other three, with 11 goals in those three games and none conceded, so they will certainly be a challenge to play against. Leipzig could well pull off what may be considered a surprise and grab second but they may be third best on this occasion, having lost Dayot Upamecano and Julian Nagelsmann to Bayern Munich, it clearly has had a detrimental effect with Leipzig only winning 1 out of their 4 Bundesliga games so far this season, and just coming off a 4-1 defeat to Bayern, they do not look to be in great shape at the moment, but maybe they can improve in these Champions League fixtures. Club Brugge seem to not have gotten much luck with this group stage draw, favourites to finish bottom but they could spring a surprise yet, as they may view this as having nothing to lose considering who they are up against and could pull off some shocks.
Group B: Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, FC Porto, AC Milan
Group B tosses up a phenomenal group with 3 former Champions League winners and multi time finalists. Atletico Madrid, the current champions of Spain after winning LaLiga last season, Liverpool, who have dealt with their injury problems from last season and are looking strong so far this season, Porto, who are former winners but can always be a tough team to play against and can certainly pull off something special, and Milan, their first Champions League campaign in over 7 years who were knocked out by Atletico the last time they played in the Champions league.
It is an extremely tough group to call, but Liverpool looks like they may have enough to top it, they have started well and only conceded the one goal in 4 matches in the Premier League this season, and with Van Dijk back from injury, their defence looks very strong. Atletico Madrid could edge second place, while Milan and Porto have started well, the extra quality of Atletico may be enough to get them into the knockouts, but they have only had one clean sheet in 4 games so far in the league, and with all teams looking dangerous in attack, it looks to be very close for qualification. Milan might take third but not without tricky games against Porto which may decide the fate of the two teams, Milan have started the season brilliantly with 3 wins from 3, only conceding 1 goal, and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic back from injury it could be a big cause of motivation to show that Milan can compete with the top sides in Europe once again, and Porto who themselves are looking good in the league, scoring in all five games they have played.
2. Atletico Madrid
3. AC Milan
4. FC Porto
Group C: Borussia Dortmund, AFC Ajax, Beşiktaş JK, Sporting Lisbon
Group C, while not containing European superpowers other groups, it does have 3 league winners from last season, so Dortmund is not exactly guaranteed to top the group, as Ajax have always proved a good side in Europe, Beşiktaş who tend to always be in European competition one way or another and Sporting Lisbon who last year managed to break the Porto and Benfica hold over Portugal over the last few years. While Dortmund are still favourites to top the group, it will be a tricky task, the battle for second will be fascinating but in the end, Ajax may have enough to grab the second qualification spot behind Dortmund, Sporting gets third but not without a fight from Beşiktaş who will be edged out in a close battle.
Dortmund can certainly score goals, they have shown this, but they have conceded 9 goals in 4 games in the Bundesliga so far, have scored 13 though, most along with Bayern in the German top flight. Ajax have had a great defence to start the season in the Eredivisie, only conceding once while scoring 12. Sporting also come in with good form, having 3 wins out of 5 in the Portuguese League, drawing the other two, Beşiktaş are top of the Turkish Super Lig, with 3 wins and a draw, but have not conceded a single goal as of yet, so may be tough to break down.
1. Borussia Dortmund
3. Sporting Lisbon
Group D: Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sheriff Tiraspol
An interesting group with group D with pits Italian Champions Inter Milan against Real Madrid in the game to watch in that group, while Shakhtar could pull off a surprise or two in the group and Champions League newcomers Sheriff Tiraspol, who are the first team from the Moldovan League to qualify for the group stages. Inter have lost Antonio Conte over the summer, as well as their top scorer last season Romelu Lukaku and brilliant right back Achraf Hakimi, they were pillars of Inter’s title winning season, but they still have a load of quality in their ranks with Lautaro Martinez still there, and de Vrij and Bastoni keeping things tidy at the back. Inter have a had a good start to the season with 7 points from 9 so far in the Serie A, Inter and Real Madrid will both be looking for top in this group but Madrid may just edge Inter out with that little bit extra quality, Madrid have already scored 13 goals in 4 matches in LaLiga and sit top of the league, with Carlo Ancelotti back as head coach, they seem to have enough to challenge again, even with the ageing, the squad is still full of talent. Shakhtar Donetsk may pull off a couple of unexpected results against the two giants of the group, so while they are probably expected to finish third, they did finish above Inter last season when they were in the same group last season. Sheriff Tiraspol seem to be a rather unknown quantity and will want to pull off some surprises in this group, but it is hard to see them getting anywhere in this group.
1. Real Madrid
2. Inter Milan
3. Shakhtar Donetsk
4. Sheriff Tiraspol
Group E: Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Dynamo Kiev
An interesting proposition awaits in group E with Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Benfica and Dynamo Kiev. For Barcelona, they will want to prove they can battle with Europe’s elite clubs once again, seeing as they have not won a league title since 2019 and their European ventures have been ended rather embarrassingly over the past few years, squandering leads against Roma and Liverpool in two consecutive years, then getting humiliated by Bayern Munich the following year in the quarter finals, losing 8-2 in a single match, PSG then beat them convincingly the following year in the round of 16.
They will most certainly be looking for revenge against Bayern Munich who will represent some sort of redemption for Barcelona, they have started their league campaign in a good fashion, winning 2 out of 3 and drawing the other game, but have conceded 4 in the process. Barcelona will have to get better at the back if they are going to redeem themselves from previous years.
Bayern Munich are once again looking good, scoring 13 times in the Bundesliga so far, 9 goals coming in their two league games, not to mention scoring 12 times in a single game in the first round of the DFB Pokal. Considering Bayern’s strength, it is hard not to see them topping this group, but while Barcelona and Bayern are the notable sides in this group, both Benfica and Dynamo Kiev represent challenges in their own right, both sides are top of their respective leagues and could spring a surprise result over Barcelona or Bayern. But the end result between Benfica and Dynamo Kiev could be very close with Benfica just getting third place.
1. Bayern Munich
4. Dynamo Kiev
Group F: Atalanta, Manchester United, Villarreal, BSC Young Boys
Group F has Europa League finalists Manchester United out for revenge over Villarreal as they beat the Red Devils to the trophy at the end of last season but will have to be at their best to do so as even though Villarreal haven’t been in winning form so far, their defence has been stern. Throwing a wrench into the group will be Atalanta who have been a club on the rise over the past few years, securing consistent Champions League qualification in the past 3 years, while Young Boys will be looking to cause some upsets in the group.
With Manchester United’s quality and the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, they will be favourites to top the group, but will still have the test of Villarreal and Atalanta, Young Boys even may pose as a potential banana peel for United. With Atalanta consistently showing they have the ability to face off with the big boys, expect them to give Manchester United a challenge, and while they have not started their Serie A campaign the way they probably wanted to, only getting the one win in three so far, they still have the ability to pose a threat. Villarreal might prove difficult to break down as they have only conceded two goals so far and currently unbeaten, however they have only scored two goals as well, so they could very well battle it out for second with Atalanta. Young Boys could pull off some decent results to get them into third but the other three sides may just have too much quality for them so they may have to settle for fourth.
1. Manchester United
4.BSC Young Boys
Group G: Lille, Salzburg, Sevilla, Wolfsburg
Group F contains teams of mostly similar quality meaning it is difficult to call, Lille are the current champions of France but have not started off well after losing their manager from last season, Sevilla have started well and recently have performed well in their groups, Wolfsburg are currently top of the Bundesliga with 4 wins from 4 and having the best defence in the league so far, then Salzburg tend to be able to shake up groups regularly whenever they are in this competition.
Wolfsburg are back in the Champions league after 5 years away, and seem to have rebuilt rather well, and with a group of pretty well-matched teams they may be the pick of the bunch to top the group. With Sevilla having performed well so far this season with decent showings in this competition, a second-place finish just behind Wolfsburg might be on the cards. The current champions of France, Lille, have only won once in their five league games so far this season, but sometimes teams step it up for the European competitions, so they could make a case for second as well, but Sevilla look to have the edge in quality they need to grab second. Salzburg could also be in contention to get second as they tend to perform in these European stages, it will be very close in the group standings, this one may go either way.
Group H: Chelsea, Juventus, Zenit, Malmo FF
The last group in this year’s Champions League contains Holders Chelsea, Juventus, Zenit and the Swedish side Malmo. Chelsea will be looking to follow up their winner’s campaign of last season with topping the group to go into the knockouts, they are probably the favourites to do so as well. Chelsea have done well so far this season, gaining 10 points out of 12 in the four games they played, only conceding 1 goal, which was from a penalty, and scoring 9 goals. The same cannot be said for Juventus, who brought Massimiliano Allegri back, has had an awful start to the season, gaining just 1 point from 9 and conceding 5 goals. This Champions League campaign will be where they want to improve their form, but going off current form, they may end up in third, all this, giving Zenit a chance at taking second and sending Juventus out, Zenit are currently top of the Russian League not having lost and are regulars to this competition and would definitely look to take second place. Malmo could spring a surprise in this group and possibly get into contention for third place, as they will look to take advantage of slip ups from Juventus or Chelsea.