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.
Winners: Paris Saint-Germain
PSG should be among the favorites in the Champions League with its ultra-explosive offensive core group of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and Edinson Cavani. Frankly there aren’t many weaknesses on the team and adding the experience of Gianluigi Buffon could be a tremendous boost as this competition advances and gives Thomas Tuchel two very good options at goalkeeper with Alphonse Areola. The deeper PSG goes, however, the more important the likes of Dani Alves, Adrien Rabiot, and Angel DiMaria will be to the squad’s effort. Expect PSG and Liverpool to be a offensive slugfest when the squads meet up during group play.
How did they qualify: PSG qualified directly into the Group Stage by winning the 2017-18 French Ligue 1.
Liverpool’s group this time around will be significantly harder to get out of as Napoli, PSG, and Red Star Belgrade boast a stronger opposition than Sevilla, NK Maribor, and Spartak Moscow. The additions of Naby Keits, Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho and Alisson Becker during the summer transfer window have helped strengthen Liverpool’s depth; something that were quite short of in the latter stages of last season. When Mohamed Salah came off injured in the Champions League final, it completely changed the way Real Madrid went about their business in the match, and the played far more adventurous. Jurgen Klopp only had Adam Lallana and Emre Can to bring off of the bench at that point, albeit a Lallana that was only just back from a lengthy injury layover. Now, Klopp has a bevvy of options, especially in attack, which will give him some flexibility as the Champions League matches start to come thick and fast in between Premier League matches.
How did they qualify: Liverpool qualified directly into the Group Stage by finishing in fourth place in the 2017-18 English Premier League. They made hard work of it towards the end of the season, having to get a positive result on the final match-day against Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield. At the time, Chelsea were breathing down their necks in the fifth spot, but had only taken a single point from their last two matches against Huddersfield Town and Newcastle United, putting Liverpool firmly in the driver’s seat for the fourth spot in the table. For Liverpool, their progression to the Champions League final did take it’s toll on their league form towards the latter stages, but they were able to secure the 4th spot with that convincing 4-0 win over Brighton on Super Sunday.
— Tom Adams
Europa League: Napoli
Napoli’s hig pressing, high energy style of play under Maurizio Sarri was quite something to watch, but their style is likely to be a bit different under new manager Carlo Ancelotti. Additionally, their midfield took a hit in the summer transfer window when Sarri brought Jorginho with him to Chelsea, so Allan, Piotr Zielinski, and Marek Hamšík will see the majority of the minutes in the center of the pitch. If there’s any way that Napoli can break down the rest of their opponents in group C, it’s with their quick passing and interplay, looking to spring both Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens forward; both of them are soo good at running on to balls that are played in behind opposition defenses. With their high line and quick pass-and-move style of play, the match-ups against both Liverpool and PSG will be nothing short of savory. Ancelotti also has plenty of experience in the Champions League and knows how to get results in this competition, although we don’t like to elaborate on that as Bayern Munich fans ( sigh that night in Paris sigh).
How did they qualify: SSC qualified directly into the Group Stage by finishing in second place in the 2017-18 Italian Serie A.
— Tom Adams
Eliminated: Red Star Belgrade
Red Star is off to a blistering start in the Serbian Superliga with six wins out of six games, but how does that translate over to a really tough Champions League group? Red Star really couldn’t have asked for a worse group than Liverpool, Napoli, and Paris Saint-Germain. They lost their best player from last season Nemanja Radonjic, to Marseille for roughly €12 million. However, they did bring in a name that’s going to be familiar to Bundesliga fans. Former Borussia Mönchengladbach and Werder Bremen midfielder Marko Marin signed at the last second during the transfer window.
How did they qualify: Red Star Belgrade qualified into the First Qualifying Round by winning the 2017-18 Serbian SuperLiga. They beat 2017 Latvian Higher League champions Spartaks Jurmala 2-0 on aggregate in the First Qualifying Round, 2017 Lithuanian A Lyga champions Suduva Marijampole 5-0 on aggregate in the Second Qualifying Round, 2017-18 Macedonian First Football League champions Shkendija 4-0 on aggregate in the Third Qualifying Round, and 2017-18 Austrian Football Bundesliga champion Red Bull Salzburg 2-2 (away goals) in the Playoff Round to advance to the Group Stage.
— Phillip Quinn