2017 is the first year in history that five Premier League teams will participate in the Champions League. Some of them were drawn into favorable groups. Some, more average. And two were absolutely shattered. Read on to find out!
Benfica, the champions of the Portuguese Liga NOS, were the first team off the board. Featuring the dangerous Goncalves Jonas, they are still a beatable opponent. Most sides would be content with facing them.
Manchester United would like their chances. They have posted two straight 4-0 wins at the start of the Premier League, and the attack of Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford may not be PSG/Barcelona/Atletico Madrid quality, but is still quite fearsome. But. . .
Swiss giants FC Basel were the team from the third pot. The last time the Red Devils faced Benfica and Basel in the same group was the disastrous 2011/12 campaign in which they crashed out of the group in third. Don’t underestimate CSKA Moscow either.
It’s time for “supposedly predictable group with four really, really good teams”, featuring Bayern Munich. The Bavarians added Colombian superstar James Rodriguez from Real Madrid, (more on them later) which adds yet another element to an attack already featuring Robert Lewandowski and Arjen Robben.
The defending German Bundesliga champions were drawn against perhaps the best Pot 2 side in PSG. The Parisians shattered transfer records and shocked the world, acquiring Neymar from Barcelona for €222 million. They also manage to include Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria, and Marco Verratti in what must be an enormous wage budget.
Anderlecht won their 34th title domestically in Belgium last year. Due to Belgium’s rapid rise in the UEFA coefficient rankings, they would be in Pot 1. . . next year. As it stands, everybody is ignoring a dangerous side that features Leander Dendoncker and Łukasz Teodorczyk. Whoever of Anderlecht and Celtic finishes third will likely go far in the Europa League. It’s a shame one of these talented sides has to finish fourth.
How fun! The Diego Costa transfer saga has reached a new height, as Chelsea and Atlético Madrid were the first two teams drawn into the group. Eden Hazard vs. Filipe Luis? Yes, please!
However, they will have a tough time of it. Italian giants AS Roma were in the third pot thanks in part to an awful coefficient. Just to name names, how will the vaunted Blues defense manage against the likes of Radja Nainggolan, Edin Dzeko, and Stephan El Shaarawy? All three of these sides will also have to take the long, loooong trip to Qarabag in Azerbaijan, a place that has become a bit of a fortress as of late.
There will be a high level of quality in this gauntlet UEFA calls a group. First off, Italian champions and last year’s UCL runners-up, Juventus need no introduction. Barcelona don’t either, though it is curious how they will replace the departed Neymar.
Olympiakos are sneaky good. Quality summer signings such as Vadis Odidja-Ofoe add to a side that has dominated Greece’s Superleague for what feels like forever. Are they ready to make the jump and progress to the knockout rounds of the UCL? Not in this group. Not with Sporting CP pushing them just to stay out of the bottom.
Spartak Moscow are probably not going to win their group. The surprise Russian champions occupy the spot that would have gone to Anderlecht if any Belgian side’s goal differential would have been one better last year.
At the moment, star Dutch winger Quincy Promes hasn’t left for a bigger club. They will need him to stay if they have any hope of beating Liverpool and Sevilla. Good luck. NK Maribor likely won’t pose a threat, as they only managed to keep six clean sheets all season in the Slovenian league.
Because Real Madrid won the Champions League and La Liga, and because they are one team, not two. . . the other Pot 1 spot for some reason goes to Shakhtar Donetsk? Not sure how that works, but okay. Having produced the likes of Douglas Costa, the Ukranian side’s academy has propelled them into the UCL. They face a tough task with Manchester City. The three-pronged attack of Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, and David Silva has been ripping apart Premier League defenses so far this year. I didn’t even mention Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, or Leroy Sane.
The Napoli are no stranger to the underdog role. They live it every year in the Serie A with Juventus and Roma. But that attack. Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne, and Jose Callejon highlight a side that also appreciates the defending of Kalidou Koulibaly and Raul Albiol.
When you beat Ajax and PSV, you’re no joke. When you do it twice? Enter Feyenoord. The Dutch side’s chances in this brutal group start and end with star midfielder Jens Toornstra.
AS Monaco shocked the world last year. Not only did they beat out PSG and Lyon to win Ligue 1, they dominated it. But Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, and Tiemoué Bakayoko have all left for the Premier League. Kylian Mbappe and Thomas Lemar are the subjects of massive transfer sagas that seem to have no end. They should get past a weakened Porto side, and an always-underperforming Besiktas.
RB Leipzig are a Pot 4 team. Why? They’ve not been in the Champions League since the club was founded in 2009. Apparently that trumps having the likes of Naby Keita, Emil Forsberg, and Timo Werner in a side that beat out Borussia Dortmund to finish second in the Bundesliga.
I don’t get it either.
Just what is this group?!?!?!?
Title holding Real Madrid don’t need any introduction. What does is how screwed they were with this group. Borussia Dortmund actually finished above Madrid in last year’s group stage, but they have lost Ousmane Dembéle to Barcelona.
Tottenham finished second in the Premier League last year behind Golden Boot winning Harry Kane and Young Player of the Year Dele Alli. The added burden of the UCL will be more difficult for them, especially in this group. Don’t dismiss APOEL Nicosia, as the Cypriot champions usually pull a surprise or two.