The 2018 UEFA Champions League Final is mercifully in the books with Real Madrid beating Liverpool. It’s hard to deny the greatness of this Madrid team, having won four of the last five Champions Leagues. However, it’s time to move on and forget about it. We’re on to the 2018-19 Champions League already.
Next season will be the first with the restructured Champions League Group Stage. The big change is that all four qualified teams from Europe’s top four leagues enter directly into the Group Stage, completely bypassing any Playoff Round.
We already know 26 of the 32 teams that will be in the Group Stage starting in September.
Spain: Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia
Germany: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Hoffenheim, Schalke
England: Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham
Italy: Juventus, Napoli, Roma, Inter
France: Lyon, Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain
Russia: CSKA Moscow, Lokomotiv Moscow
Ukraine: Shakhtar Donetsk
Czech Republic: Viktoria Plzen
Belgium: Club Brugge
Thanks to the kind people running the UEFA Calculator Twitter account, we can sort everyone into the correct pots for the draw if we fill in the final six spots with the highest ranked teams per their UEFA country coefficient.
Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Lokomotiv Moscow, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid
Basel, Benfica, Borussia Dortmund, Manchester United, Napoli, Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Tottenham
CSKA Moscow, Liverpool, Ludogorets Razgrad, Lyon, Monaco, Red Bull Salzburg, Roma, Schalke
As we know, Bayern can’t draw any of the other Bundesliga clubs in the draw, but we can project out the possibilities of three rather intense possible groups for Bayern.
Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Monaco, Inter Milan
Anyone who has watched the Champions League in the past understands that Option 1 is unlikely as Manchester United very rarely (if ever) get placed in a group that could be described as “difficult.” Still, we know that Man United will spend to bulk up their squad again this summer, and they’re unlikely to be an easy opponent. Monaco and Inter would both offer difficult matches, even though Bayern would remain the favorite.
Bayern Munich, Napoli, Liverpool, Galatasaray
This may actually be the toughest possible group for Bayern. It would include the second-place Italian team that pushed Juventus for the title until the end, the Champions League runners-up, and a trip to Turkey, which nobody wants. Napoli and Liverpool both appear to be in a bit of an upswing, even though, again, Bayern would remain the favorite.
Bayern Munich, Tottenham, Roma, Valencia
If you’re looking for a sneaky tough group, then it’s Option 3. If these three teams can keep their squads intact heading into next season, they could easily give Bayern a run for their money on any given day. Obviously, as is usually the case, Bayern will enter the group as the favorite to finish in first place.
Which teams do you want to avoid? Do you see a group that you’d love to get?