Part one of the Champions League overview is done, so in this one, we will take a look at the second half of the field that occupies Groups E-H. Same format in the sense that there will be an overview of each group, with predictions of the two teams to make it out alive at the end of each section.
Group E- Bayern Munich, Benfica, Ajax, AEK
Bayern is simply the big dog in this group, and it’s theirs to lose. They have always made deep runs in the tournament, and last year Real Madrid just squeaked by past them in the semis. They are among the world’s elite and anything less than a finals appearance could be considered a disappointment. The team is littered with world-class talent, with a good mix of veterans and youth. The vets include Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowski, Thiago, and Franck Ribery among others, while in youth, they have Renato Sanches, Leon Goretzka, and Kingsley Coman.
Their biggest challenge may come from either Ajax or Benfica. Ajax has historically been the best Dutch team in the Eredivisie’s history, and it continues to churn out quality players. However, surprisingly, they have not reached the group stage in four years, but will always be a formidable opponent. And Benfica is on the level of their Portuguese counterpart FC Porto: a solid team which can put up a fight, but not serious contenders.
Seeing these two go up against each other will be a treat because each team has good players and there isn’t too much of a gap between them so it will be a competitive matchup. But they will be fighting for second place. AEK Athens is from the Greek Superleague and has not reached the group stages of the Champions League since the 2006/2007 season. To put it mildly, they are no threat to make any substantial noise, but it’s a sweet story to see them come this far after over a decade.
Prediction: Bayern and Ajax advance
Group F- Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon, Hoffenheim
Like Group E, Group F has one top dog, and that is Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. They made it to the quarters last year before losing to Liverpool 5-1 on aggregate over two games. They are the reigning Premier League champs and have a legitimate claim to be the best team in the world, and expectations are a Champions League victory.
Shakhtar Donetsk is one of the two best Ukrainian teams around and has a respectable team that should not be taken lightly. They are frequent participants in this tournament so have experience working in their favor.
Lyon can be the surprise team and sneak out of this group in second place. They have a young but talented team. Nabil Fekir and Memphis Depay are good players that can be match-winners on any given night and Bertrand Traore is an up-and-coming striker in the game. They have a history of producing excellent talents such as Karim Benzema, Alexandre Lacazette, and Hugo Lloris, and have always found people to replace them. And this season is no different, as they have a team full of talented and hungry youngsters.
Hoffenheim reminds me of Schalke in the sense that they are a solid German side with a good developmental program, but no elite factor to them because they usually sell off the ones that become excellent. But they are no pushover because they still have solid players.
Prediction: Manchester City and Lyon advance
Group G- Real Madrid, AS Roma, CSKA Moskva, Plzen
As the two groups before them, this is Real Madrid’s group to lose. They won the tournament last year, and even with the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo, they have fantastic players all over. AS Roma made a surprise run to the semi-finals last year, before falling to Liverpool in a thrilling semi-final. They have a good team, but should not endure similar success, yet could easily make it to the Round of 16. And realistically, the other two sides should not pose too much of a threat.
Prediction: Real Madrid and AS Roma advance
Group H- Juventus, Manchester United, Valencia, Young Boys
You can argue that this could be another ‘Group of Death.’ Juventus is among the best teams in the world, and two years ago, was the best for an extended run. They should be favored to finish atop the group. Manchester United is a team we consistently associate with greatness and winning, but they have become somewhat of an enigma under Jose Mourinho. They have fantastic talent, but Mourinho has ruined it with his bad tactics. But at the same time, they can play like the best team in the world any given night, but it’s a matter of when they decide to, and how much Mourinho will hold his players back.
Valencia is one of the good teams in La Liga that gets no attention or shine because of Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid, to an extent. But they have good players on the team, and after a four-year absence, they can be a surprise face to the competition with players like Rodrigo, Michy Batshuayi, Kevin Gameiro, Jose Gaya, Ezequiel Garay, Denis Cheryshev (one of the World Cup breakout stars), and others. Young Boys aren’t a team to be worried about too much, and honestly, I don’t know any of their players, which says enough.
Prediction: Juventus and Valencia advance
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