The groups are all set and we’re on the brink of another exciting Champions League season in Europe. Some of the top teams have gotten off to very slow starts, including Liverpool, so will they be able to rebound and find their way through to the knockout stages? Without further adieu, here are my predictions for how each group will finish plus one bold prediction for each group:
Group A aka The Group of Goals
On paper this is a very tricky group, with four teams fully capable of bringing sublime attacking football onto their opposition. Liverpool have made a really slow start to the season and could be vulnerable if they don’t pick up their pace and play up to their standards. Napoli look like a real threat in Serie A so far this season while Ajax despite some big player losses, including their manager, are always capable of putting together a performance. Rounding out the group are Rangers, which would have been a real treat had Stevie G still been at the helm, but they have shown real grit to get this far and will certainly be up for it in their return to the European elite.
In the end, Jurgen Klopp just knows how to win in Europe and Liverpool cannot possibly be as disorganized as they’ve been so far. The odds say they’ll figure it out, though a repeat of last season’s utter group stage dominance is less likely. If they can win their home games and nick at least one road victory, they should sail through.
Bold Prediction: Rangers win one of their home games and give their fans a real big European lift, though it won’t be enough to escape the group’s basement.
Group B aka The Group of Grit
Diego Simeone will be overall very glad for this draw, as his team have started somewhat scrappy in La Liga and can maybe ease through the gears with some gritty 1-0 Atleti specialities. Much like Klopp and Liverpool, he finds a way to maximize his teams and navigate them through in Europe. The rest of this group is very up for grabs. Leverkusen have had an abysmal start to their season and look like a side that might not figure things out in a hurry. Not great for their Champions League chances and also a real ding to my prediction of them finishing in the Top 4 this season in the Bundesliga. Porto meanwhile have started strong in the Portuguese league and could fancy their chances of sneaking into the last 16. Their matchups with Atletico will have an over/under of at least 2 red cards per match.
This is a group ripe for some upsets. Club Brugge in particular might be able to pounce on the struggles with Bayer and sneak into 3rd. If Leverkusen start slow, there could be changes quickly at the top which could throw their entire campaign into chaos and leave them focused solely on trying to salvage their domestic standing.
Bold Prediction: Brugge striker Cyle Larin scores in multiple games and jumps on the radar of some clubs throughout Europe as well as highlights Canada’s prospects in the upcoming World Cup.
Group C aka The Group of Glamour
As everyone has been calling it, the group of Death, with 3 heavyweights together. The immediate return of Lewy to Bayern gives European football fans a real treat right off the bat. Bayern have started the season without missing a beat and might even be more fluid with Sadio Mane leading the line, which is downright scary. Meanwhile, Inter have brought back Lukaku and shown early on they have the grit to reclaim top spot in Serie A. Then, there is Barcelona, which somehow is both a mess and also are showing signs of being on the rise again. Their financial books are completely wrecked, with their constant selling off tomorrow to pay for today and hoping it all goes through in the wash. They have a core of elite young players and some real class at the front as well lead by Lewandowski but can this team gel together in time?
A complete afterthought are Viktoria Plzen, who on paper seems like a lamb being led to slaughter but teams in this position have shown they can surprise and might just be the difference in who finishes where in the group. Bayern are frankly too good to not finish top and it will come down to Inter’s grit versus Barca’s youth. I expect the two ties between those clubs to be very cagey and in the end, just trust Inter’s squad a bit more.
Bold Prediction: Despite being the best team in the group, Bayern do not finish with maximum points again, perhaps settling for a draw in the final match or two after securing passage.
Group D aka The Group of Uncertainty
Much like Simeone, Antonio Conte will be pleased he avoided the real heavyweights in his group. Unlike Simeone however, he doesn’t have the track record of success to lean on with a tendency to underachieve even with elite teams. This could rear its head again later in the tournament but Spurs seem clearly the class of this group. The squad has real depth in attack and are coming together at the right time to easily sail through to the knockout stages. Harry Kane appears to be back to close to his best form after a very strange season and that alone gives Spurs the edge they’ll need.
Beyond them, this group has a lot of unknowns. Frankfurt, fresh off their Cinderella run to the Europa glory, have also started slowly in this campaign and are lacking a lot of the same firepower they relied upon last season. Same can be said for Sporting, which already look a step behind rivals Porto and unless the whispers of perhaps a Cristiano Ronaldo reunion materialize, don’t seem up to getting out of the group. That leaves Marseille, who has started in decent form, to find a way through to 2nd spot.
Bold Prediction: 2nd place in this group is up for grabs right until the last few minutes of the final matchday and things could hinge frankly on whether any of these squads make a last-minute transfer swoop to strengthen themselves. If Ronaldo does somehow end up at Sporting (Very unlikely but who knows) they could sneak into 2nd.
Group E aka The Group of Origi
This group seems to have two clearcut favorites in Chelsea and AC Milan who both might be able to use some of these matches to figure things out tactically. Chelsea have been a bit of a shambles so far this season after being torn apart by Leeds last week while AC Milan had an up and down match against Atalanta themselves. Both still have superior squads and are capable of turning things around, especially with more time and games under their belts.
RB Salzburg continue to be a team that is very fun to watch and have proven they can hang in there and perhaps pounce on an opportunity if either of the other clubs continue to have up-and-down form. Finally Zagreb are a team that have had some recent European success with a quarterfinals run in Europa and might have to really push hard to return to the fold in that tournament again if they are able to finish in 3rd.
Bold Prediction: AC Milan are able to finish top of the group because of that secret European weapon they’ve acquired: Sir Divock Origi who manages a last minute winner against Chelsea. Remember- Football is nothing without Origi.
Group F aka The Group of Hope (For 2nd Place)
Ho Hum, Real Madrid have been handed what looks to be a particularly easy group so far. They remain the team no one wants to face in Europe, seemingly able to pull victory out of the fire no matter the odds and even if they start slow, find a way through in the end. Losing Casemiro will be an interesting wrinkle for them, though they have the depth to compensate and Benzema remains the most in-form striker in the game at the moment. They should sail through to the knockout stages where it will take a truly concerted effort to eliminate them. With Madrid, they are never dead even when they have been given a knockout blow.
RB Leipzig seem like the second-best team of the group but they also are shipping goals at an alarming rate and could be vulnerable to a courageous Celtic or plucky Donetsk squad who will have the entire international community cheering them on. Donetsk problems however are they have lost a good deal of their key talent and likewise have to play their home matches in Poland for obvious reasons, which might blunt the real goodwill and energy they would need to pull out a miracle.
Bold Prediction: Leipzig’s tendency to play wide open games leaves them vulnerable and despite being able to hang with Real Madrid, they lose vital points to Celtic.
Group G aka The Group of Haaland
Thus begins another quest for Pep and Man City to finally win the elusive Champions League trophy. The squad looks frighteningly strong yet again though there are some curious areas of concern, especially defensively. This shouldn’t trouble them in the group stages and though it isn’t as straightforward a challenge as perhaps they’d like, they should finish top of the group without problem. The real battle will be for who can join them in the knockout phase with a talented but still growing Dortmund squad against a resilient Sevilla.
Neither of these two teams have gotten off to a flying start and Dortmund are clearly still trying to sort out the post-Haaland world they are in, but they still have some world-class talent on the roster. Sevilla are also a threat in Europe but can they find the goals necessary to advance through to the group stages? Copenhagen meanwhile will give their all but look most likely destined for 4th place. Perhaps their fans can take solace in a beautiful city filled with bikes and excellent food to take their mind off of the expected hardships.
Bold Prediction: Haaland scores in all 6 matches if he plays in all of them since Pep is known to shuffle the pack sometimes unexpectedly. He is a very good shout to be the leading scorer in the entire competition, which isn’t that bold a prediction at all.
Group H aka The Group of Chemistry
As with Man City, PSG are on a quest to finally achieve European glory. They’ve started the season in absurd form although there does seem to be some storm clouds looming in the chemistry department. As is always the case when you have so many elite talents and egos, keeping them all happy together is the biggest task and could ultimately prove to be their undoing. That should not stop them from qualifying for the knockout stages though.
Juventus can cause some serious problems and might be able to rain on the PSG parade at times but they look more likely to finish 2nd in the group and be a very lively matchup for whoever gets them in the knockout round.
Benfica are still adjusting to life after Darwin Nunez and will miss the striker after his prowess in last year’s European run. They still should have more than enough to finish third over Maccabi Haifa who barely squeaked through the qualifying rounds themselves.
Bold Prediction: While Mbappe and Neymar make the headlines, both for their goalscoring and with body language experts, its two Argentines in Messi for PSG and Di Maria for Juve that run the highlight reels early and strengthen the case that Argentina might be a real threat in the upcoming World Cup. It seems a bit of a cheat to have Messi in for any bold predictions frankly, but somehow he is flying under the radar at the moment, which could be exactly how he wants it.