The 2018-2019 Champions League Group draws are complete, with all 32 teams aware of their initial schedules. Each season, it is fun to look at and analyze each group, and here, there will be a quick overview of each group. This article will do half of the eight groups, so Groups A-D, and at the end of each section a prediction of which two teams will advance to the knockout stages.
Group A- Atletico Madrid, Borrusia Dortmund, Monaco, Club Brugge
This is the group of underdogs. Atletico Madrid has always been overlooked in Spain because they are in the same league as Barcelona and share a city with Real Madrid. But, there is no doubt that Diego Simeone is one of the best managers in the world and has one of the most talented teams in the world. This year’s team may be even better than the two squads that went to the 2014 and 2016 Champions League Final, and it can very well be a top-five team in the world, but you wouldn’t know that by the coverage they get.
Dortmund has always been overlooked because of Bayern Munich always winning the Bundesliga year in and year out. They usually have success quietly while developing and fielding some of the best young players in the world. However, they end up selling off their best players, once they start to complete development.
The German side was hugely successful under Jurgen Klopp, but even back then, were overlooked and had the stigma as more of a developmental club that would bring players up through their academy and make a profit on them because the bigger clubs would come eventually come calling. But they are an excellent and deep team.
Monaco plays in Ligue 1, France’s top-flight division, but the French league is mainly known for Paris Saint-German, so Monaco isn’t known to everyone. But they are a club that recently had an infusion of money and players yet have played second fiddle to them for years. And this is considering them winning their respective league two seasons ago. Monaco has players, but have never been viewed as a viable threat to join the upper-echelon of European teams, but they are a scary side that can do damage because they do have a handful of quality players and money.
And Club Brugge is easily the weakest team from the four. They play in Belgium’s top division and have won two of the last three titles. But again, it’s Belgium’s top league; not exactly filled with good competition or players. They have spent most of their time in the Europa League, not the UEFA Champions League, so this will be an experience for them.
Prediction: Atletico and Dortmund advance
Group B- Barcelona, Tottenham, PSV, Internazionale (Inter Milan)
There’s always a ‘Group of Death’ in every group format soccer has to offer, from the World Cup to the Euro Cup, and Champions League. And Group B has a strong claim to be it. Everyone knows about Barcelona and their success, so there isn’t a need to go into them at all.
Over the last two seasons, Tottenham has grown into one of the best teams around and a top-ten or top-fifteen team in Europe. They have players of extreme quality and some world-class players as well. Tottenham has a mix of youth and veterans who have experience from last season, which will work in their favor. Not to mention, they have one of the world’s best managers in Mauricio Pochettino.
PSV Eindhoven won last year’s Eredivisie, the top league in the Netherlands. They may not be an elite team, but a strong argument can be made that they are in the next tier down. They are no pushover and can surprise a club like Tottenham and take their spot for second place.
And Inter Milan has long been among Italy’s elite but used to be one of the best, if not the best, teams in the world. They have excellent players in Mauro Icardi, Ivan Perisic, Stefan De Vrij, Miranda, Radga Nainggolan, Asamoah, etc. On any given night, they can hang with anyone, and the Italian side is better than a year ago, or at least is expected to. So, you have one good team, two borderline elite, and one elite. Yeah sounds like a slugfest.
Predictions: Barcelona and Inter Milan advance
Group C- Paris Saint-German, Napoli, Liverpool, Crevena Zvezda
This is the other group that can be considered the ‘Group of Death.’ You have three dangerous teams that are considered three of the best 10 or 12 sides in the world. They are legitimate threats to make a deep run in the tournament, with two of them viable candidates to actually win it all.
PSG is one of Europe’s elites with a top-5 player in the world in Neymar Jr. along the sport’s next generational superstar in Kylian Mbappe. But they have surrounded them with other world-class players like Edison Cavani, Julian Draxler, Thiago Silva, Angel Di Maria, Marquinhos, etc. They won their league comfortably last season and are at the level where their judgment will be based on how they do in the Champions League only. If not for Neymar’s injury, PSG may have beaten Real Madrid in last season’s quarterfinal’s and potentially won it all.
Napoli finished second in Italy’s Serie A by just four points and have a good all-around team that can make a case for being a top-ten side. And Liverpool is back amongst Europe’s elite. They were the runner-up in the competition last year and strengthened the squad tremendously by filling in gaping holes. Last season, they had the best attacking trio in the world, and it was just their first season together. Now you pair their increased chemistry with a good midfield, dependable backline, and outstanding goalkeeper, and they have a legit chance to make an appearance in the final again.
And Crevena Zveda, aka “Red Star,” frankly have no chance of doing anything.
Predictions: Paris Saint-German and Liverpool advance
Group D- Lokomotiv Moskva, Porto, Schalke, Galatasaray
This is an interesting group because there is no “great team” but that is what will make this one so interesting. It will be evenly matched and competitive, adding another spin to the term ‘Group of Death.’ None of the four are anything special, and because of that, it may also be the most boring of the eight.
Predictions: Schalke and Porto advance