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.
After an odd season in which the Blaugrauna lost Neymar to PSG, ran away with La Liga and the Copa del Rey, all the while losing a shocker to AS Roma in the Champions League Quarter Final, Barcelona looked primed to return to the top of European soccer. The availability of Phillipe Coutinho (cup-tied to Liverpool last season), in addition to the arrival of Arturo Vidal, Arthur, Clement Lenglet, and Malcom has provided the La Liga champions with a degree of depth they severely lacked last campaign, while also addressing holes in the midfield and defense. Ernesto Valverde’s more pragmatic style coupled with the quality of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, and EVERYONE else on the pitch make the Catalonian club a difficult beast to manage. Quite simply, Barcelona are favorites to bring home the treble.
How did they qualify: Barcelona qualified directly into the Group Stage by winning the 2017-18 Spanish La Liga.
— Ben Erwin
Runners-Up: Tottenham Hotspur
Champions League draws have not been kind to the London-based club. After finishing atop last season’s group of death including Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Apoel Nicosia, Spurs drew Juventus in the first-round of the knockout stages, where they put up a valiant, yet ultimately futile, effort. This season is no different. Despite a lack of depth and summer transfer activity, Mauricio Pochettino’s men are well-drilled and feature a host of big names. The likes of Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Son Hueng-min are elite attacking options, while a defense of Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Hugo Lloris make them a formidable foe. With one of world football’s brightest tactical minds at the helm, they can challenge Barcelona for top of the group. If Tottenham can stay healthy and avoid a “spursy”, look forward to an aggressive pressing-style coupled with a deadly counterattack.
How did they qualify: Tottenham Hotspur qualified directly into the Group Stage by finishing in third place in the 2017-18 English Premier League.
— Ben Erwin
Europa League: Inter Milan
The sleeping giants of Milan may be a sleeper pick to make a run in this competition. A solid spine as well as a degree of unpredictability make them a team to be feared in the latter stages of the Champions League. Coming out of pot 4, Internazionale was the last team anyone wanted to come up in the draw. With the clinical Mauro Icardi and Lauturo Martinez leading the line and Ivan Perisic, Keita Balde Diao, and Radja Nainnggolan providing the creative spark, Inter have the perfect combination of experience, youth, and quality to terrorize opposition defenders. Miranda, Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar are all world-class center backs who will allow the Italian-challengers to play an open style. If they end up being casualties of this group of death, look for them to challenge for silverware in the Europa League.
How did they qualify: Inter Milan qualified directly into the Group Stage by finishing in fourth place in the 2017-18 Italian Serie A.
— Ben Erwin
Eliminated: PSV Eindhoven
You really have to feel for PSV following this catastrophic draw. Coming out of pot 3 the Dutch-champions would have hoped for a more favorable draw to match their league rivals, Ajax. Alas, that is how the cookie crumbles. Although they have about a 0% chance of advancing to the knockout rounds, the Dutch-giants may be able to sneak into the Europa League. With a squad full of international talent and promising prospects, the quality is there. Hirving “Chucky” Lozano will be critical to any success they have this campaign. As the Mexican winger showed Germany this summer at the World Cup, he is deadly on the counter and can be just about unguardable. New manager and former Bayern Munich player Mark van Bommel is looking to replace Eredivisie-winning manager Phillip Cocu, who utilized a posession-based, attacking style. Considering their opposition Van Bommel can count on losing the possession battle. How he sets his team up to hit on the counter will be critical to any success they have in this group.
How did they qualify: PSV Eindhoven qualified into the Play-off Round by winning the 2017-18 Dutch Eredivisie, and they beat BATE Borisov 6-2 on aggregate to advance to the Group Stage.
— Ben Erwin