The UEFA Champions League group stage balls have been drawn, and it is now time for the remaining 32 clubs to battle for European club supremacy. Grimaldi Forum in Monaco set the stage for the final draw on Thursday, August 30.
This year will mark the 64th season of top-flight UEFA club football competition. The match-by-match schedule has been issued, and the groups will begin play on September 18/19. The group stage will wrap up play on December 11/12, and 16 clubs will advance to the knockout stage. The tournament will conclude in Madrid, Spain at Wanda Metropolitano on June 1, 2019. All eight third-place clubs in the group stage will be sent down to Europa League, and that is just one of many routes involved with UEFA club tournaments.
Now that the field is set, let’s look over the results and see how group stage will play out. We’re looking forward to declaring the ‘group of death’, although it won’t be an easy choice.
Atletico Madrid – Monaco – Borussia Dortmund – Club Brugge
Barcelona – Tottenham – Inter Milan – PSV Eindhoven
Liverpool – Napoli – Paris SG – Red Star Belgrade
Porto – Schalke – Lokomotiv Moscow – Galatasaray
Bayern Munchen – Ajax – AEK Athens – Benfica
Manchester City – Lyon – Shakhtar Donetsk – Hoffenheim
AS Roma – Real Madrid – CSKA Moscow – Viktoria Plzeň
Juventus – Manchester United – Young Boys – Valencia
The process to determine where each club ends up is complicated. There are UEFA country coefficient rankings, club coefficient rankings and, of course, the qualifying rounds. This year UEFA installed a preliminary round of matches to begin the year-long event. FC Drita became the first club from Kosovo to not only advance to the qualifying stage but to also win a match in UEFA competition.
The first qualifying round featured Drita and 31 other clubs who earned automatic bids to that stage of the tournament. Winners of the two-legged ties moved on to the second qualifying round, and the losers moved down to Europa League.
Europa League contains arguably the wildest schedule in all of sports because so many teams compete in the event. Let’s put it this way: Champions League will only feature 79 clubs. The whole Europa League will end up seeing 213 clubs compete. I’d like to thank the folks at STL for not making me do a Europa League article! LOL
ed note: Europa League up next 🙂
Seriously though, Europa League is such a grueling tournament, which can certainly take a club to its limits.
In determining the Champions League ‘group of death’ distinction, I again claim it is not easy to assign. Group B will catch the eye of many fans, being that Barcelona and Tottenham both appear in it. Inter Milan might draw the biggest argument to be included in the ”group of death’ distinctions, seeing that they are not a powerhouse anymore.
Group C, featuring Liverpool, Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain, sure does qualify at first blush. Liverpool obviously lost the finals last year to Real Madrid, although an injury to Mo Salah certainly affected that outcome. I definitely felt bad for that Egypt squad that had to play the World Cup without Salah. Let’s assume that no one in Cairo sent a Christmas card to the Sergio Ramos family, and leave the rest to your imagination. (That situation actually did get a little ugly, but that’s another football story.)
Group H could be considered the ‘group of death’, simply because Juventus and Manchester United have their hopes set on lifting the trophy. Juventus came close just two years ago, but couldn’t stop Real Madrid from taking their second of three straight Champions League wins.
Right above that is group G, with defending champs Real Madrid, AS Roma and CSKA Moscow. Granted, none of the three won their league title last campaign, but they all have high expectations this year. Yes, even with Real Madrid losing Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo, they still have plenty of household names left behind.
Tricky stuff to break down, but that’s what makes it fun to watch it play out in front of our eyes.
Group C will be the call made around here, as PSG might be taken a little more seriously this campaign. The addition of Gigi Buffon, much less the amount of money that PSG can spend, should make the opposing managers lives difficult all throughout the event. Despite Ligue 1 of France not providing a European Champions in quite some time, could this be the year we see it?
Don’t get stuck thinking that because France won the World Cup, that it will carry over to Ligue 1. Most of, if not all, the major players for France play in other leagues around the globe. Neymar, Edinson Cavani, and Gigi Buffon certainly have no concern with anything French related! Well, outside of thanking them for their lovely paychecks, of course.
Let’s talk about some odds on the teams to win the Champions League title. Manchester City is listed as the favorite to win the tournament at +470 (5.70 EU).
Barcelona and Juventus are together at +600 (7.00 EU), while Paris S.G creeps in not far behind at +700 (8.00 EU).
Bayern Munchen and Real Madrid follow suit at +800 (9.00) and +850 (9.50), respectively. Naturally, from there the lines start to get fluctuated, as one might expect.
Bwin even offers the prop-bet of ‘Which Country Will the Winning Club Come From?’ Headlining the betting odds, the line setters offer Spain at +180 and England at +200. Italy (+500), France (+600) and Germany (+700) round out the big five, with the ‘other’ category comes in at +3300.
I will have articles going up all throughout Champions League group play, with predictions and analysis to come. I can all only hope that this year’s tournament provides storylines to remember like there were the last time around. The Roma comeback on Barcelona, the Liverpool goal festival, and Real Madrid taking a third-straight trophy home certainly come to mind.
Stay tuned to STL for all sorts of new features and content, #BecauseFutbol!