United, Benfica, and other teams we shouldn’t expect in the knockout stages of the Champions league

The draw for the group stage of Europe’s premier competition; the UEFA Champions league was held on Thursday and as expected there are some exciting matchups.

Most fans have already started plotting their favorite team’s route to the finals (excluding teams like Manchester United, Lokomotiv and co) that probably won’t spend sleepless nights dreaming of the final.

Looking at the group stage, you could project those that’ll make it to the next round (admittedly, this is harder due to last season’s unpredictability and also that more teams are beginning to look like contenders).

I’ll go through each group analyzing the matchups and the most likely to progress (if you are in a hurry, scroll down to the end of this article to see the teams I predict to make it out if their group)

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Dortmund, Monaco, Club Brugge.

Atletico Madrid failed to progress in a group similar to this last time out; but that was before the arrival of Diego Costa, who has since then improved the club’s performance and also allowed French striker, Griezmann to find his form back and they’ve won the Europa league and defeated Real Madrid to clinch the European Super Cup since then.

I see them not losing any match at home and winning both matches against Club Brugge… how they do on aggregate against Dortmund and Monaco would determine if they’ll progress

Dortmund has failed to impress in recent Champions league outings. There has been a reshuffle however with a new coach at the helm (Favre), one loan-striker (Batshuayi) replaced with another (Alcacer)… but the core of the team remains with the club fending off interests for Pulisic and still having Reus in their ranks (whom is a great asset when he is fit).

Dortmund should do well against Club Brugge. However matches against Atletico Madrid and Monaco depends on what kind of form they turn up in.

Monaco terribly bowed out in the group stages last time out failing to come close to the high expectations we all had. It turns out they couldn’t cope with Mbappe’s departure. Losing Lemar this time around wouldn’t do them any good either. Final appearance in 2004, Semi-final appearance in 2017; don’t expect much from them this year.

Except there’s another wonder-kid waiting to be unveiled they’ll do well to share the spoils with Dortmund. Against Atletico; Lemar might just be the guy to usher them towards Europa league football. Their results against Club Brugge will only determine their Europa league chances.

Club Brugge will do well to get a win in this group and barring any revolutionary surprise… the most they can do is force Monaco to 4th place which would be a huge achievement in their books

VERDICT:

1st Atletico Madrid

2nd Borussia Dortmund

3rd AS Monaco

4th Club Brugge

Group B: Barcelona, Tottenham, PSV, Inter Milan.

Barcelona are still hurting after last year’s surprise quarter final exit at the hands of Roma and will be looking to appease their fans with the trophy their rivals have won 3 times on the bounce. Barcelona have been topping their Champions league group since the 07/08 season 👑 , and even though Tottenham, PSV and Inter Milan will prove to be stern oppositions they could continue this trend.

No one relishes a trip to Camp Nou and that’s were Barcelona will look to amass most points and they could still go get some more at away grounds. They could avoid defeat at San Siro and Wembley* to aid their cause

Tottenham has shown that they are not scared of ‘giants’ in this competition and could well challenge Barcelona for a top spot in this competition. Their group stage performance last season would serve as the right motivation for spurs and they’ll definitely want to push further beyond the Round of 16 they got to last time out.

Tottenham will find it hard against Barcelona but will try to ascertain their superiority over Inter and PSV but this would be far from straightforward. Spurs can at-times be guilty of switching off when it matters… any sloppiness could deploy them straight to Europa league but it’ll take a lot of mess ups to keep them bottom of the table. Winning the first match against Inter would be the perfect platform to start on; but then, it is San Siro.

PSV are supposed to be the weak link in this group. They haven’t had much impact at this level in a long while and although they’ve managed to not sell key players (especially Lozano) they might still struggle in this group. The most they can hope for is a third place finish and would be a feat in itself when you put in consideration their quality relative to other teams in the group

Inter Milan are making a return to Champions league football after what will seem to them like century ago😃 and they would love nothing more than to steal headlines and exceed expectations and Luciano Spalletti is the kind of head coach that’ll love this opportunity.

Inter Milan can fancy their chances against both Barcelona and Tottenham but experience in the continent’s premier competition might just count against them. Winning the first match against Tottenham will be key to their chances

VERDICT:

1st Barcelona

2nd Tottenham

3rd Inter Milan

4th PSV

Group C: PSG, Napoli, Liverpool, Red Star Belgrade

PSG are going into the new season with renewed vigor. Their defeat to Real Madrid in last season’s Champions league will remain fresh in their minds and this is the kind of group that’ll really test their quality.

I expect them to get a minimum of 7 points at home. Away match at Anfield would be tricky but winning at Belgrade and a draw or a win at Naples (this will be hard) should be enough to give them a good standing in the group.

Napoli got to the champions league playing beautifully well and coming close to usurping Juventus on the Italian throne, but their performance in last season was undesirable as Shaktar Donetsk beat them to a place in the knockout stages. Now they have a new coach and their season has been so far so good; nothing exceptional yet, but effective. With Carlo Ancelotti at the helm, they sure would hope his Champions league experience counts well for them.

Napoli would find it hard against PSG and Liverpool, but how well they manage fixtures between these two teams would determine their progress. A new coach might disrupt their gameplay awhile but they could still push for a place in the Round 16.

Liverpool are almost in the worst possible group… just throw in Inter Milan and they could go on strike for ‘unfavoritism‘. In a season where they would hope to do their run to the final last time out a justice… this group is a threat to that.

Liverpool might turn out to be the strongest of the 3 big sides in this group. But it is all a matter of turning up when needed. Home matches would be crucial in this group and Liverpool could cause an upset at Parc de Princes and/or Naples.

Red Star Belgrade have just 6 matches to play in this Champions league and shouldn’t think much about Europa league football.😂

VERDICT:

1st Liverpool

2nd PSG

3rd Napoli

4th Red Star Belgrade

Group D: Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto, Schalke, Galatasaray.

Lokomotiv Moscow are in pot 1 because they won their league. No disrespect to Russian premier league but that doesn’t count for much in Europe and they’ll find it difficult nonetheless.

Playing in Moscow would be uncomfortable for most teams and this could play to their advantage.

Porto have the best chance of making through to the next stage having progressed from a similar group to this last time out.

In a group where anyone can beat anyone, they’ll try to amass enough points in home games and grind out results away from home.

Schalke are as formidable as the lot in this group, but losing Gotetzka is obviously a big blow to their chances and might be left scrapping for points in the group.

I think Schalke will be fine and has a good chance of progressing from the group

Galatasaray are always going to try to impose themselves on a group like this.

If they can avoid home defeats… I wouldn’t put next stage beyond them

VERDICT:

1st Porto

2nd Schalke

3rd Galatasaray

4th Lokomotiv Moscow

Group E: Bayern Munich, Benfica, Ajax, AEK Athens.

Bayern Munich are in a pretty straightforward group and are already looking forward to the knockout stages.

They would top this group comfortably. Expecting nothing less than 4 wins from the Bavarians 💪🏾.

Benfica should feel comfortable being drawn against Ajax and AEK Athens. But they were drawn with slightly similar opponents last season and the flopped real bad… finishing bottom with 0 points.

Winning against Ajax and AEK in Lisbon would be their prime objective. I wouldn’t tip them to win away from home. Doing so would give them the edge but I doubt they would

Ajax would fancy their chances to continue their impressive home record in the Champions league this season (except against Bayern of course).

Winning at home against Benfica and AEK would provide the foundation they need to progress from the group.

AEK Athens aren’t necessary walkovers but apart from pushing for third spot I don’t really see them doing much as this is a fairly unfamiliar territory for them

VERDICT:

1st Bayern Munich

2nd Ajax

3rd Benfica

4th AEK Athens

Group F: Man City, Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon, Hoffenheim

Man City gets Shaktar again (the only team they lost to in last season’s group stages albeit resting key players).

Expecting another straightforward qualification from Pep and his boys. Shakhtar won’t be so lucky this time around as both matches would come at a time when everyone would be scrounging for points. I am a fan of how Guardiola plays and I would expect them to win at least 4 in this group also.💪🏾

Shakhtar Donetsk is another team that impressed to an extent last season… beating Napoli to second place in their group is no easy feat. Losing Fred to Man Utd wouldn’t be easy to cope with also.

Lyon were lucky to hold onto Fekir… tho they lost Mariano to Madrid. The season hasn’t really started well for them and they have lost their pedigree in Europe also.

Hoffenheim are not too familiar with the Champions league but the way they played last season offers much to be hopeful for, this is the perfect group to test their credibility.

It will be a 3-way battle between Shakhtar, Lyon and Hoffenheim and home matches would be so much crucial.

VERDICT:

1st Man City

2nd Hoffenheim

3rd Shakhtar

4th Lyon

Group G: Real Madrid, Roma, CSKA Moscow, Viktoria Plzen.

Real Madrid were expected to suffer after changing coaches and losing Cristiano without getting a replacement. Lopetegui has a plan tho and it seems to be working well. Madrid are playing better than they did under Zidane; whether that will translate into trophies remain to be seen.

They would win 4,5 matches in this group and top place is definitely theirs👌🏾

Roma surprised the footballing world last season knocking out Barcelona enroute to the semifinals. The Champions league however has no respect for past achievements so they’ll need to step up if they want to make it out of this group. First place is beyond them tho; they don’t have it in them

CSKA Moscow would be punching above their weight if they challenge Roma foe second place. It’ll be naive to put it beyond them tho.

They will be swatted aside by Madrid and shouldn’t have problems with Plzen (4 points at least) so it looks like Europa league football awaits them

Plzen are in the Champions league again; the same way it is hard to pronounce Plzen is exactly how it is difficult for them to progress. The bottom of the table is theirs for the taken

VERDICT:

1st Real Madrid

2nd Roma

3rd CSKA Moscow

4th Viktoria Plzen

Group H: Juventus, Man Utd, Valencia, Young Boys.

Juventus signed Cristiano and Cristiano loves the Champions league. Even tho the legendary winger is yet to score in the serie A, I wouldn’t put it past him to start firing on all cylinders once the Champions league starts.

With the way Manchester United are playing; Juventus will find it relatively easy against them and Valencia wouldn’t give the Old ladies sleepless nights. Young Boys have to accept Ronaldo would use them to increase his Champions league goal tally.😂

Manchester United look all over the place and Mourinho looks like he has lost the plot. If he is not sacked he might just take Manchester United all the way to win another Europa league (that seems to be a major achievement for him).😋

Valencia tried to rival Real Madrid to 3rd place last season and could pip United to 2nd place with help from Mourinho’s negative tactics. They had a decent transfer window with no major departures.

Their match against United would be crucial to how it turns out for them.

Young Boys would always be Young Boys. They are surely here to enjoy the view.

VERDICT:

1st Juventus

2nd Valencia

3rd Manchester United

4th Young Boys

Thank you… If you read through this, I appreciate. Drop your comments if you feel my predictions are wrong. Man Utd fans bring it on, I am ready for y’all😂😂

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😂😂😂😂 if you really want to know the teams; go back up and read the article.

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