Analysis of the 2018/19 Champions League Groups
The 2018-19 UEFA Champions league group stage draw took place last Thursday and it looks set to be a fantastic competition.
The full listing was completed on Wednesday when Benfica, PSV Eindhoven and Red Star Belgrade took the final three sports in the group stage after winning their qualifying playoffs. The top pot consisted of the reigning Champions League and Europa League winners, followed by the six champions of the top-ranked leagues in Europe put together using UEFA’s coefficient system.
The remaining three pots were then filled in order of club coefficient ranking. It left some tantalising possibilities for the draw and when it took place, it certainly produced some exciting matchups.
Following the draw, here are the groups in full:
Group A: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Monaco, Club Brugge
Group B: Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, PSV Eindhoven, Inter Milan
Group C: PSG, Napoli, Liverpool, Red Star Belgrade
Group D: Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto, Schalke, Galatasaray
Group E: Bayern Munich, Benfica, Ajax, AEK Athens
Group F: Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon, Hoffenheim
Group G: Real Madrid, Roma, CSKA Moscow, Viktoria Plzen
Group H: Juventus, Manchester United, Valencia, Young Boys
Here we will take a closer look at these groups and who is most likely to go through to the knockout stages of the competition.
It is most likely that the top two teams in the group will be the ones to advance. However, a weakened Monaco, who did not receive any home-draw advantage, still has the talent to put up a fight and they could pull off a surprise. It would be surprising if Club Brugge were to be of any serious threat to the other clubs, there is a clear divide between them and the rest. Taking on Atletico Madrid, where the competition’s final is due to take place on June 1, 2019, will be a great challenge for Christian Pulisic, the US midfielder is looking to cultivate his role under new manager Lucien Favre. Atletico Madrid is probably the best team in the group, and there is a real chance that they will be playing in the final at their home stadium.
At the bookies, Atletico Madrid is easily a favourite to qualify, with odds of around 1/10, followed by Borussia Dortmund at 1/3. Monaco is at 7/4 while Club Brugge are at 8/1.
Group B has already been pegged as this year’s Group of Death. Barcelona will be the favourite, but they are likely to face a tough test playing away at White Hart Lane, and also against an Inter Milan side that has made a number of signings in order to improve their European chances. Tottenham Hotspur have performed well in recent Champions League matches against Real Madrid, so they are unlikely to be too phased by the idea of facing Barcelona.
PSV Eindhoven are not serious contenders to go through, but the group will give Mexico star Hirving Lozano a chance to show his worth. There have been rumours linking him to Barcelona but in the end he remained at PSV this summer, and this group stage is the perfect chance for him to show his value to three big teams that could then try to sign him in the January transfer window. All in all, this is certainly going to be one of the most exciting groups to watch.
Barcelona are the clear favourites to qualify at the bookies with odds of 1/10. Not far behind are Tottenham Hotspur with odds of 2/5. They are followed by Inter Milan at 11/8 and PSV Eindhoven at 10/1.
Group C could also be considered as a Group of Death and it looks set to have some very exciting matches. Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool are both capable of winning the group. Napoli are weakened after losing manager Maurizio Sarri and the midfielder Jorginho to Chelsea, but they could still cause problems under the guidance of experienced Champions League manager Carlo Ancelotti.
It is unlikely that Red Star Belgrade will cause any real problems for the other teams, but all the teams in the group are facing tough away games. It is most likely that Neymar and Kylian Mbappe will see PSG through the group stage, and Liverpool, who have made some clever signings, are highly likely to join them.
There is not a huge difference between the odds on PSG and Liverpool when it comes to qualifying. PSG are at 1/5 while Liverpool are at 3/10. Napoli are at 5/6 and Red Star Belgrade are all the way behind at 17/1.
This group in many ways resembles a qualifying stage grouping, but that is just the way draws work. Lokomotiv Moscow are the top seeded team in name alone, while Porto and Schalke will be very happy with the draw. Playing Galatasaray away is likely to be a tricky match for all three teams. Essentially, there is no overwhelming favourite in this group, and as a result, it is probably the widest open and possibly the most entertaining of them all.
Porto are the favourites to win the group with odds of 5/4, followed by Schalke at 2/1. In terms of qualifying, Porto are also favourites at 4/9 with Schalke at 4/7. Lokomotiv Moscow are at 6/5 and Galatasaray are at 13/8.
Bayern Munich are likely to be breathing a sigh of relief after the draw. They will be challenged by Benfica and Ajax, but all in all, they should have a fairly straightforward time. Bayern are the clear favourites in the group, but Benfica, who recently signed ex-Shakhtar striker Facundo Ferreyra, will be looking to mount a challenge. However, it seems unlikely that the Portuguese team or Ajax will have the quality to keep up with Bayern.
The bookies are offering very short odds of 1/33 on Bayern Munich to qualify, both Benfica and Ajax are at 11/10, while AEK Athens are at 4/1.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City will be pleased with their draw as they have to navigate the group stage without Kevin De Bruyne. He should return just in time to join the team for the Round of 16. Manchester City will remember that they suffered their first loss last season to Shakhtar, even though it was in a late group game that meant nothing. However, Shakhtar has since sold a number of key players and they look to be far weaker than last season. Lyon will be boosted by Nabil Fekir’s surprise return to the club but are unlikely to prove a serious problem. One highlight of the group may be seeing a Manchester City take on Hoffenheim. Both teams have managers who are tactical wizards and it could be an interesting game.
Realistically though, Manchester City are clear favourites to qualify and they have odds of 1/40. Lyon are behind at 13/10, followed by Hoffenheim at 6/4 and Shakhtar Donetsk at 15/8.
Group G looks to be very straightforward. It is clear that there are two favourites and that the other teams will struggle to keep up. Real Madrid and Roma will be battling it out to finish top of the group, and for a Real Madrid team that is adjusting to life after Cristiano Ronaldo, it is a great start to their title defence. They will not need to play their absolute best to secure full points in most of the games, while Roma, who are also undergoing some changes, are clearly better than both CSKA Moscow and VIktoria Plzen.
Real Madrid are clear favourites at the bookies with odds of around 1/33. Roma are some way behind, but still have very short odds of 2/11. CSKA Moscow is at 6/1 while Plzen is at 7/1.
This was a nasty draw for Manchester United. Not only do they have to face Cristiano Ronaldo in a competition that he has dominated for the last few years, but they are also the third best team in the group on paper. After Valencia’s summer signings, they are now one of Spain’s most interesting clubs and could come to threaten the traditional domination of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at the top of the league. Paul Pogba will be going up against Juventus, a club that is reportedly interested in bringing him back to Turin. It won’t be an easy road for Juventus either, but overall they are favourites to top the group. There could be quite a battle between Manchester United and Valencia for second place.
Juventus are the favourites to qualify with odds of 1/8, Manchester United are behind at 4/9, while Valencia is at 5/4 and Young Boys are at 20/1.