The Champions League draw is over, and that means it’s time for predictions. With eight groups of four, the top two teams from each group make the round of 16 while the third-place team goes down to the Europa League. The last-place team heads home for the rest of the season. With the draw, there were some tricky groups that mean a big team or two will likely be headed for an early exit. Here’s how I have the group stage playing out.
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Predicted order of finish
Group APSGReal MadridGalatasarayClub Brugge
Group A thoughts: Well, PSG and Real Madrid are just light-years ahead. They have the superstar talented needed to win, and they’ll cruise through the group stage. Galatasaray could cause some trouble if Real or PSG fail to find consistency, which is certainly possible, but at best the Turkish club probably goes to the Europa League.
Group BBayern MunichTottenhamOlympiacosRed Star Belgrade
Group B thoughts: The drop off after Tottenham is pretty big. Going to Greece or Serbia won’t be easy, and it could cause Spurs trouble but not Bayern. This one is pretty easy to pick, though three and four could easily be swapped. If either can get a result against Bayern or Spurs, they’ll have a direct path to third place.
Group CManchester CityShakhtar DonetskAtalantaDinamo Zagreb
Group C thoughts: It’s Manchester City and everybody else. Shakhtar is strong at home and have a ton of technical ability, but I have my eye on first-year participants Atalanta and talented strike Duvan Zapata. City has first wrapped up, but second is wide open.
Group DJuventusAtletico MadridLeverkusenLokomotiv Moscow
Group D thoughts: Atleti nearly knocked out Juve last year, we must remember. Both teams brought in new talent and we will get to see Portuguese’s present in Cristiano Ronaldo take on the future in Joao Felix. Leverkusen has an outside shot in what could be the toughest group top to bottom.
Group ELiverpoolNapoliFC SalzburgGenk
Group E thoughts: Easy for Liverpool and Napoli. They could both clinch after Matchday 4, in theory. It’s them two battling it out for first and Salzburg taking on Genk for third. That one could go either way, but Salzburg, led by American coach Jesse Marsch, has the edge.
Group FBarcelonaInter MilanDortmundSlavia Prague
Group F thoughts: What a group this is. It’s not going to be easy for any of the big three to move on, but how can you not pick Lionel Messi and Barcelona to win it? Especially if they finish their deal for Neymar. From there, it’s a battle between Inter and Dortmund. I have seen each play a bit this season, and there’s just something about Inter I like. In the 4-0 win over Lecce last week, this team just looked organized and confident under Antonio Conte. I know, it’s just Lecce, but I have a feeling.
Group GLyonRB LeipzigBenficaZenit
Group G thoughts: The No. 1 seed finishing last? Yep, but maybe third when it is all done. There is a lot of young talent in this group and both Lyon and RB Leipzig are both potentially the next Ajax, according to our odds experts. Timo Werner and Memphis Depay are difference makers in this competition.
Group H thoughts: Interesting group. Chelsea, Ajax and Lille all lost key players, while Valencia has been able to keep its core together for the most part after winning the Copa del Rey. Chelsea’s focus will be in the Premier League, I feel, and finishing third and going to Europa League could actually be their easiest route to the Champions League for next season. I think Ajax finds its magic again and wins the group with Valencia coming in second.
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