On Thursday afternoon, the draw was announced for the group stages of the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League campaign. Here is my take on some very intriguing groups and what I think will happen in each of them.
Group A: Club Brugge Galatasaray PSG Real Madrid
The future of Brazilian superstar Neymar could have a lot to say when it comes to which of the two European superpowers will finish top of these standings. If the French champions retain his services and his transfer saga is forgotten, they will be the Group A favourites. If Neymar leaves, whether that’s to move to the Bernabeu or more likely, back to his old club Barcelona, Real Madrid will fancy their chances of finishing 1st in this group. Both sides have a massive season ahead of them for differing reasons and neither could have asked for a better two teams to accompany them in their group of four, with Galatasaray and Club Brugge almost certainly having to battle it out for third position and a place in the last 32 of the Europa League.
Prediction: 1.PSG 2.Real Madrid 3. Galatasaray 4.Club Brugge
Group B: Bayern Munich Olympiacos Red Star Belgrade Tottenham Hotspur
Similarly to the prior set of teams, this group has two standout outfits. Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich are looking for their first Champions League title since 2013 while Tottenham are aiming to reach the final for successive reasons. The pair will likely finish in first and second but Olympiacos and Red Star will provide tricky atmospheres in their home grounds and won’t be looking to just make up the numbers.
Prediction: 1.Bayern Munich 2.Tottenham 3.Olympiacos 4.Red Star Belgrade
Group C: Atalanta Dinamo Zagreb Manchester City Shakhtar Donetsk
As has been the case in recent seasons, Premier League holders Man City, have been dealt a favourable draw and anything other than a first-place finish in Group C would be deemed a failure. There’s little to call between their three opponents though, with the experienced duo of Dinamo and Shakhtar contrasting Atalanta, who have qualified for the last 32 for the first time in their history after placing third in Italy last season.
Prediction: 1.Manchester City 2.Shakhtar Donetsk 3.Atalanta 4.Dinamo Zagreb
Group D: Atletico Madrid Bayer Leverkusen Juventus Lokomotiv Moscow
Unfortunately for them, it seems that Lokomotiv Moscow have little chance of making the second round of the tournament after being drawn against some quality opposition. Bayer Leverkusen could cause a shock and make it through but that too is unlikely and so it will be down to Atletico and Juve to battle it out for top spot.
Prediction: 1.Juventus 2.Atletico Madrid 3.Bayer Leverkusen 4.Lokomotiv Moscow
Group E: Genk Liverpool Napoli Red Bull Salzburg
For the second successive year, Liverpool and Napoli have been drawn to play each other in the group phase. Last time around, both sides won their home match against the other by a 1-0 margin, so it will be interesting to see if things are different this time, as despite winning the competition, Liverpool failed to strengthen in the summer. Red Bull Salzburg could challenge Napoli in a battle for second but it’d be more realistic to see them in the Europa League come next February, unless Genk surprise and snatch third place in Group E instead.
Group F: Borussia Dortmund FC Barcelona Inter Milan Slavia Prague
For many, this could be considered the ‘Group of Death.’ Slavia Prague will probably finish bottom of the table by most people’s estimations but the other three are great sides. Inter Milan have a talented squad that has been boosted even more so by the recent arrival of forwards Romelu Lukaku (£74m) and Alexis Sanchez (loan) from Manchester United. Borussia Dortmund pushed Bayern all the way in the Bundesliga title race last campaign and have an exciting, fearless team. While Barcelona can never be ruled out of winning the whole competition, given that arguably the greatest player of all time is still on their books alongside summer signings Frenkie De Jong, Antoine Griezmann and potentially even, Neymar. Little will split the three clubs but one thing’s for sure, Group F will definitely be one to watch.
Prediction: 1.FC Barcelona 2.Borussia Dortmund 3.Inter Milan 4.Slavia Prague
Group G: Benfica Lyon Red Bull Leipzig Zenit Saint Petersburg
These four teams are extremely well balanced so it is difficult to predict what is going to happen but I’ll try my best. I think Lyon and Benfica’s greater Champions League experience will perhaps just give them the edge over the other two. Then, it’s a toss-up as to who will get the Europa League spot and I feel like Zenit, just about, will be the ones to seize it.
Prediction: 1.Lyon 2.Benfica 3.Zenit Saint Petersburg 4.Red Bull Leipzig
Group H: Ajax Chelsea Lille Valencia
This is another very even group. Ajax got to the semi-finals of last year’s competition so I think their clear ability, coupled with the fact that they’ve only lost two of their half-dozen or so key players, will be enough to see them through as group winners. I see Lille as the weakest outfit in the grouping, although not by much, leaving Chelsea and Valencia to fight it out for the runners-up position to the Dutch Champions. Because Frank Lampard only has his current crop of players to choose from and as he is new to his role, I believe that Valencia will steal a place in the last 16 at the expense of the Blues due to their greater squad depth and European know-how.
Prediction: 1.Ajax 2.Valencia 3.Chelsea 4.Lille
What are your thoughts on these predictions? Let us know in the comments below!