The group-stage draw for the UEFA Champions League is at all times an odd, thrilling, however largely unusual day. The path to European glory turns into extra in focus with a simple objective: end within the high half of your group and also you make it to the knockout stage that begins subsequent 12 months. If you don’t you’re onto the Europa League or out of continental competitors all collectively. Why is that so stress-inducing? Is it the strain of watching somebody swish little balls round in a see-through case throughout a ceremony that might take two minutes and lasts an hour?
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This 12 months’s ball tug and shuffle left some fascinating outcomes, most likely none extra tantalizing than Group C, the place Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Viktoria Plzen will face one another. Let’s disregard the Czech Republic’s most interesting for a second and deal with the three European giants, every of whom have received the UCL within the final dozen years. Some might name within the “Group of Death” however I’d really go someplace else with that honor.
Inter very quietly completed second in Serie A final season, two factors shy of profitable the league with a a lot better objective differential than crosstown rival AC Milan. To assume this group mechanically goes to the employers over the past calendar 12 months of Robert Lewandowski is silly. The Italians have an opportunity to win the group and I’ll name Inter as my shock staff for the complete event, making a deep run into the knockout stage.
The aforementioned Lewandowski is one other massive motive why Group C is so fascinating, in addition to the general historical past between Barca and Bayern. The Polish striker made the transfer from Germany to Spain this offseason and received’t have to attend lengthy for 2 necessary video games towards his former staff. Over the final decade, Bayern has bested Barcelona in 4 UCL video games by a mixed rating of 21-2, together with three shutouts for the German juggernauts.
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My alternative for the toughest foursome to advance from this 12 months is Group A. Any of the 4 groups may make it to the final 16. Ajax, Napoli, Liverpool and Rangers all may win the group and all may crash out of the competitors. That could be a bit of arduous to imagine for Liverpool supporters, coming off a runner-up end final season and largely the identical staff intact. Yet, the trio of highway video games in Amsterdam, Glasgow and Naples removed from ensures factors. In truth, the final two occasions Liverpool has confronted Napoli on the highway within the UCL — two losses for the Reds.
The staff with the best highway to the knockout stage is, shocker, Real Madrid. The defending champions bought a comparatively simple draw, having to finest two out of the three of RB Leipzig, Celtic and Shakhtar Donetsk to advance to the knockout stage. Manchester City can be a detailed second in that class, with Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund offering semi-challenges to maintain Pep Guardiola and crew from advancing.
It’s arduous to foretell a winner for the UCL yearly due to what number of totally different parts go into re-drawing every spherical. If present tendencies maintain out, a staff that’s received a European crown earlier than will do it once more this season. The final 4 groups to make their UEFA Champions League finals debuts all misplaced, courting again to 2013. That additionally consists of every of the final three of the final 4 finals with Tottenham, PSG and Manchester City. I’ll take my finest stab at it anyway and say Paris Saint-Germain win its first UCL title. Lionel Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and crew lastly get it completed.