The long road to Madrid began this afternoon, when the eyes of the football world turned to Monaco, where Kaka and Diego Forlan decided the fates of the 32 teams in the biggest club competition in the world.
Here are the groups:
Group A— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 30, 2018
Game of the Group: Atletico Madrid @ Borussia Dortmund
The two teams have met only once before in the group stage, in the 1996-97 season. The teams traded away wins, and Dortmund went on to win their only Champions League final over Juventus. An Atleti team featuring Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godin, and Koke among others travel to the Westfalenstadion to face the Yellow Wall and the likes of Marco Reus, Christian Pulisic, and Paco Alcácer.
Monaco will put up a good fight, and they have the depth to truly fight for their spot. However, the two top teams in this group should have no trouble being able to manage them.
1. Atletico Madrid 2. Borussia Dortmund
Group B— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 30, 2018
Game of the Group: Any of them
Make no mistake, this is the Group of Death. None of these teams should be getting out without broken bones and bruises. The away days for these teams are going to be brutal, between a new White Hart Lane, the size of the crowds at the San Siro and Camp Nou, and the raucous crowd at Phillips Arena. There will be blood.
This is a really hard call, and it comes down to who wins the most away games, because everyone is going to lose at least one. I’m picking Barca as my winner, but without much confidence after their collapse last year against Roma. The second place team is going to advance on goal difference, and knowing that, I’ll say Inter Milan advances by one goal over Tottenham.
1. Barcelona 2. Internazionale Milan
Group C— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 30, 2018
Game of the Group: PSG @ Liverpool
Neymar, Mbappe and Co. travel to Anfield to take on the side that almost won it all last year. If everyone on Liverpool is healthy, this should be a high scoring game with an intense atmosphere that will definitely have Tom Adams really disappointed.
I don’t know why Liverpool was placed in Pot 3, but regardless, they should be qualifying for this one. They will have some interesting games against Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli side, but they will make it out of this group. Oh yeah, and PSG wins it.
1. Paris Saint-Germain 2. Liverpool
Group D— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 30, 2018
Game of the Group: Schalke @ Galatasaray
Another matchup of two pretty good teams at a great venue. This is going to be a drawn out 2-1 win for somebody that will decide who wins the group.
And seeing as how I think Schalke will scrape by 2-1, I say they win the group with Galatasaray in second. I still don’t know how Lokomotiv got in Pot A. Maybe there was some form of collusion....
1. Schalke 2. Galatasaray
Game of the Group: Benfica @ Ajax
That’s right, I’m not picking a Bayern game. This is going to be the best game in the group because it’s a battle for second place. Ajax has young starlet Hakim Zayich and ageless wonder Klass-Jan Huntelaar, while Benfica has (*checks sheet*) Andre Almeida and Jonas...okay, Ajax should win this but it’ll be good.
Ajax knocked Bayern out of the UCL in 1972/73 and 1994/95, but Bayern knocked them out of the Group Stage in 2004/05. Bayern is 5-3-0 against Benfica all time including Bayern knocking Benfica out in 1981/82 and 2015/16. Bayern has never played AEK Athens in this competition. But, none of this matters, because we know Bayern is going to win.
1. Bayern Munich 2. Ajax
Group F— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 30, 2018
Game of the Group: Olympique Lyon @ Shakhtar Donetsk
Shakhtar has had all of their talent robbed from them over the last few years. Since the 2014/15 season they’ve lost Douglas Costa, Luis Adriano, and most recently Bernard and Fred. Now, they’re picking up the pieces with a team of mostly Ukrainian and old Brazilian players against a Lyon team featuring Memphis Depay and Nabil Fekir. Can they defend their home turf?
Manchester City is going to walk away from this one easily. Lyon should be able to do enough in order to survive the group. As for Hoffenheim? Well, at least the Bundesliga has the other three teams moving on.
1.Manchester City 2. Olympique Lyonnais
Group G— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 30, 2018
Game of the Group: Real Madrid @ AS Roma
Let’s all take a moment to remember how Roma beat Barcelona in the Quarterfinals last year. As much as it would be amazing to see a CR7-less Real team get knocked out in the Group Stage, it’s just not going to happen given the rest of the teams.
It’s Real and Roma. Next.
1.Real Madrid 2. AS Roma
Group H— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 30, 2018
Young Boys #UCLdraw
Game of the Group: Juventus @ Manchester United
This is going to be the most-hyped game of the Group Stages. Cristiano Ronaldo, fresh off a move to Juve, will be going back to Old Trafford in front of the fans he loved as a Red Devil. It should be a good matchup, and, if Jose Mourinho isn’t fired by then, this could be the moment we see him crash and burn out of the Group Stage.
Conventional wisdom calls for me to pick Juventus over Manchester United. But, the way ManU has been playing, and the fact that this is Mourinho’s third year tells me to go with my gut. In front of a sold out Old Trafford, CR7 bags a hat trick, dooming Manchester United to finish third in the group, going to the Europa League again. Mourinho gets fired, Zidane takes over and they win the Champions League next year. But, not this time.
1. Juventus 2. Valencia C.F.
So, who do you think advances? Who is going to be the underdog story this year? Is Viktoria Pilzen going to win it all? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments.