The 2018-19 UEFA Champions League is upon us, and Bavarian Football Works is here for your preview and predictions. Our writers predicted the finish of the groups.
Find out who from Group F is advancing to the Knockout Rounds, who is heading to the Europa League, and who is going home between Hoffenheim, Lyon, Manchester City, and Shakhtar Donetsk.
Winners: Manchester City
Despite a disappointing end to their Champions League campaign that saw them exit the competition at the hands of their domestic rivals and finalist, Liverpool, City are one of the favorites to win the competition. With quality and depth all over the park, losing Kevin De Bruyne for the group stage is shockingly manageable for the “cityzens” who have Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez to pick up the slack. Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus will lead the line and it is less a question of who will get the goals, but how many each of these world class talents will bag with service from the most expensive fullbacks in soccer.
Manchester City have the best manager in the world at the helm in Pep Guardiola whose team not only understands his style, but has perfected it. Although Pep’s bona fides are undeniable, he may be the only thing standing in the way of Champions League glory for the noisy neighbors. As many Bayern Munich fans can recall, Pep has the tendency to get in his own way in big matches, tinkering with the lineup or formation and abandoning what got his team on the verge of the final. Just last year Guardiola employed a formation to cope with Liverpool’s potent attack that went horribly wrong. If the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager can find (and stick with) a winning formula, City will be a tough out.
How did they qualify: Manchester City qualified directly into the Group Stage by winning the 2017-18 English Premier League.
— Ben Erwin
Lyon are a team who are consistently poached in the transfer market yet continue to reload and remain competitive. Losing the likes of Corentin Tolisso, Alexandre Lacazette and, most recently, Mariano Diaz could prove catastrophic for most clubs, but they continue to find a way. What makes them especially dangerous this year is the degree of continuity the French-club have had this off-season. Despite losing the aforementioned Mariano to Real Madrid, Lyon have been able to keep hold of a solid core consisting of Memphis Depay, Bertrand Traore, Nabil Fekir, Lucas Tousart, and Tanguy Ndombele. The midfield and attack are loaded with young and exciting players with the only glaring questions coming in the defense. The play of Portuguese goalkeeper Anthony Lopes along with the ability of new-signing Moussa Dembele to lead the line in place of Mariano will be two deciding factors in Lyon’s ability to make a run in the knockout rounds of the competition.
How did they qualify: Lyon qualified directly into the Group Stage by finishing in third place in the 2017-18 French Ligue 1.
— Ben Erwin
Europa League: Hoffenheim
Julian Nagelsmann is tasked with leading Hoffenheim into a very difficult group. To secure a trip to the the next round, Hoffenheim will likely to look to muck each game up and look to capitalize on the scoring ability of Andrej Kramaric and Adam Szalai, while Florian Grillitsch will look to provide defensive stability from the midfield in front of Kevin Vogt and Pavel Kaderabek. In addition, goalkeeper Oliver Baumann will likely be put to the test by each of Group F teams regardless of how well the defense plays in front of him. It won’t be easy for Die Kraichgauer.
How did they qualify: Hoffenheim qualified directly into the Group Stage by finishing in third place in the 2017-18 German Bundesliga.
— Chuck Smith
Eliminated: Shakhtar Donetsk
It was another summer of massive turnover for the Ukrainian club that gave us Douglas Costa once upon a time. This summer, Shakhtar’s transfer coup was Brazilian central midfielder Fred, whom the Ukrainians sold to Manchester United for all of €59 million. The new crop of young Brazilians is as promising and interesting as ever: central midfielder Maycon (20) and wingers Fernando (19) and Marquinhos Cipriano (19) are the raw youngsters to watch, but for now Shakhtar has plenty of Brazilian and Ukrainian veterans to fill its ranks. The club is already on top of the Ukrainian Premier League, but they will not truly be tested until the Champions League.
How did they qualify: Shakhtar Donetsk qualified directly into the Group Stage by winning the 2017-18 Ukrainian Premier League.
— John Dillon