Champions League Group Stage Predictions

The draw for the group stage of the Champions League finally took place recently as the opening set of fixtures were revealed. Leicester were handed a relatively favourable group whilst Manchester City face a trip to Pep Guardiola’s former club, Barcelona. Two European heavyweights in Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund will also square off whilst Arsenal drew Paris St Germain.

We take a look at who will progress from each group…

GROUP A

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WINNERS: PSG
RUNNERS UP: Arsenal
EUROPA LEAGUE: FC Basel
KNOCKED OUT: Ludogorets

Group A pits Arsenal and PSG against each other in what promises to be a fantastic tie. The French club replaced Laurent Blanc with Unai Emery in search of greater European success despite their dominance in the French league. As Europe will be their main priority, they should run out group winners. Arsenal should have enough quality to finish as runners-up and secure passage to the next round whilst Basel may find themselves more suited to the Europa League but will be a tricky fixture for any side in the group. Bulgarian champions, Ludogorets, have a tough draw and will be lucky to take anything from their games.

GROUP B

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WINNERS: Napoli
RUNNERS UP: Benfica
EUROPA LEAGUE: Dynamo Kiev
KNOCKED OUT: Besiktas

Group B is an extremely open group with all four sides capable of progressing if they can play well. Napoli are the favourites to top the group despite losing Gonzalo Higuain to Juventus this summer. The Italian side will be relying on the goals of Arkadiusz Milik to replace the Argentine. Portuguese champions, Benfica, are struggling in the league but should have a good chance of reaching the knockout stages if they can get their season back on track. Besiktas and Dynamo Kiev will be no pushovers but could have to settle for a place in the Europa League.

GROUP C

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WINNERS: Barcelona
RUNNERS UP: Manchester City
EUROPA LEAGUE: Borussia Monchengladbach
KNOCKED OUT: Celtic

Group C is arguably the hardest group of the draw. Guardiola will be looking to put one over on his former club Barcelona is what could be the most exciting game of the group stage. City have looked in top form this season but no-one can deny the quality of the Catalans. Lionel Messi should lead his side to the top of the group with City progressing comfortably as runners-up. Brendan Rodgers will have a tough task of navigating his Celtic side out of the group stage and looked shaky during qualifying. Therefore, I have backed Borussia Monchengladbach to finish third, just ahead of the Hoops.

GROUP D

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WINNERS: Bayern Munich
RUNNERS UP: Atletico Madrid
EUROPA LEAGUE: PSV Eindhoven
KNOCKED OUT: Rostov

Group D has two teams that will fancy their chances of going all the way in this year’s competition. Bayern Munich were knocked out by Atletico Madrid in the semi-final of last season’s tournament and the Spanish side have reached the final two out of the last three years. However, Bayern have looked superb under Carlo Ancelotti, who has a history of performing in cup competitions. Diego Simeone and Antoine Griezmann will be fierce competition but the Bavarians should win the group. PSV and Rostov will have to battle for a place in the Europa League after being handed a tough draw.

GROUP E

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WINNERS: Tottenham
RUNNERS UP: Bayer Leverkusen
EUROPA LEAGUE: Monaco
KNOCKED OUT: CSKA Moscow

Group E is an intriguing group which provides a host of entertaining fixtures. Tottenham return to the competition after a five-year break following a third-place finish last season. Mauricio Pochettino’s side should have enough quality to top the group but were unable to perform in the Europa League last season. Bayer Leverkusen were involved in crazy ties last season and have been consistent performers in the Bundesliga. With Javier Hernandez back from injury, Leverkusen should finish as runners-up. French side, Monaco, have been unable to displace PSG in France and could struggle in a group of real quality. CSKA Moscow have a poor record in the Champions League and will also have a tough time.

GROUP F

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WINNERS: Real Madrid
RUNNERS UP: Borussia Dortmund
EUROPA LEAGUE: Sporting Lisbon
KNOCKED OUT: Legia Warsaw

Group F is home to reigning champions Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane’s side saw off Atletico Madrid in last season’s final to lift their 11th European cup. Los Blancos will be on the hunt for their 12th title this season and have added Alvaro Morata to their already star-studded attack. They are joined in Group F by Borussia Dortmund who could be the dark horses of this year’s competition. Despite losing Mats Hummels to Bayern Munich, Dortmund have strengthened well to recruit the likes of Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle and Ousmane Dembele. Joining them are Sporting Lisbon and Legia Warsaw who do not have the quality to compete with the European heavyweights.

GROUP G

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WINNERS: Porto
RUNNERS UP: Leicester
EUROPA LEAGUE: FC Copenhagen
KNOCKED OUT:
Club Brugge

Premier League champions, Leicester City, begin their Champions League adventure in group G. The Foxes have been handed a tough group but are able to progress to the knockout stages if they can rediscover their form of last season. Porto are the biggest threat to Claudio Ranieri’s men and despite falling behind Benfica in the Portuguese title races, will cause problems if they can keep hold of their star players such as Yacine Brahimi. Leicester should be able to beat FC Copenhagen and Club Brugge if Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez can perform which would secure passage to the knockout stages and continue the Foxes fairy-tale. Copenhagen and Brugge would fight it out for a place in the Europa League or face a group stage exit.

GROUP H

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WINNERS: Juventus
RUNNERS UP: Sevilla
EUROPA LEAGUE: Lyon
KNOCKED OUT: Dinamo Zagreb

Group H is another advertising group with some major European names all vying for a place in the next round. Juventus are the Serie A and group favourites and the Italian giants have bolstered their squad with the additions of Higuaín and Miralem Pjanic. Europa League winners, Sevilla, will also fancy their chances after their third European title in a row. However, the loss of key players such as Grzegorz Krychowiak could hinder their chances. Lyon will also fight for the runners-up spot and will have to rely on Alexandre Lacazette to fire them to the knockout stages or drop to the Europa League leaving Dinamo Zagreb facing an early exit

Who do you think will progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League?

Follow me on Twitter – @MarcusBanks7 | Visit my blog for more content @ www.marcusbanks7.com

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