As we edge closer and closer towards Thursday’s Champions League group stage draw, now be a good time to take a closer look at the possible opponents Bayern Munich may face in the group stage this season. While teams like Liverpool and Barcelona cannot be faced this early, there are still plenty of tough opponents that can cause the Bavarians some trouble.
Because the UCL qualifiers haven’t reached their conclusion yet, every pot outside of Pot 1 is still unconfirmed. Here’s how it looks at the moment [via squawka]:
Pot 1: Liverpool, Chelsea, Barcelona, Manchester City, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Zenit.
Pot 2 (unconfirmed): Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Shakhtar Donetsk, Tottenham Hotspur, Benfica, Lyon.
Pot 3 (unconfirmed): Bayer Leverkusen, Red Bull Salzburg, Valencia, Inter Milan, Lokomotiv Moscow, Genk.
Pot 4 (unconfirmed): Galatasaray, RB Leipzig, Atalanta, Lille.
The pots could change depending on how the qualifiers go. Teams such as Ajax and Olympiacos could still qualify.
The only rules for the draw are that no two teams from the same country can play against each other, and teams from Russia and Ukraine cannot be in the same group. That means that Bayern cannot face Dortmund, Leverkusen, or Leipzig in the group stage.
BayernForum.com simulated draw probabilities for the first and second pots, with the assumption that Ajax would qualify (and therefore be placed in Pot 2):
We've simulated the 2019-20 #UCLdraw for the group stage, assuming Ajax make it through, for 50 million times, and here are the probabilities for the matches between the teams in pot 1 and the ones in pot 2. pic.twitter.com/nCUnAvCWAo— BayernForum.com (@BayernForumCom) August 25, 2019
Looking at the above, some names in Pot 2 and 3 immediately stand out. There are the two Madrid teams (never easy opponents) and Tottenham Hotspur, who are Bayern’s likeliest draw. Despite the fact that there are no English teams in Pot 3, the likes of Valenica, Inter Milan, and Red Bull Salzburg all stand out. Pot 4 is no slouch either — Atalanta, Galatasaray, and Lille could all be formidable opponents.
Therefore, given what we know so far, what would be the worst-case scenarios for Bayern Munich? Well, there are a number of things to consider, but here are the top three:
Possibility #1: Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Galatasaray
The members of this group need no introduction, but let’s give them one anyway. Despite a poor 2018-2019 and another shaky start this season, Real Madrid remain a formidable opponent just because of how much talent they have on the team. Eden Hazard, their new signing, could be the difference between this season and the last, but Zinedine Zidane still has his work cut out to replace the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Inter Milan, meanwhile, look like a rejuvenated club under Antonio Conte. While issues with striker Mauro Icardi persist, the Nerazzurri won their first game of the league season by a comfortable 4-0 margin. While Conte has a poor record in Europe, this is still a team that Bayern Munich need to be wary of.
Finally, you have Galatasaray. It’s a known fact that travelling to Turkey is always a difficult proposition, which makes them one of the trickiest teams in Pot 4 (given that RB Leipzig cannot be drawn with Bayern). Atalanta would have been another alternative, but two Serie A teams cannot be drawn together in the same group.
Possibility #2: Tottenham, Valencia, Atalanta
Looking at recent results, it’s hard to say that Tottenham Hotspur are anything other than a top European side. Their Champions League final appearance last season was just a culmination of years of patient work and overall progress. The North Londoners possess a balanced and quality-laden squad, guided by the hand of an excellent manager in Mauricio Pochettino. They might even be the strongest team in Pot 2.
Up next is Valencia. It might seem strange to put them in a list of the hardest possible draws, but hear me out. Last season, Valencia gave the big boys of La Liga a lot trouble, drawing Barcelona twice and even beating Real Madrid once. They also won the Copa del Rey by beating Barcelona in the final — no menial feat. Underestimate them at your own risk.
Finally, while Atalanta might look out of place here, we must remember that last year they drew Juventus 2-2 in the league, and knocked them out of the Coppa Italia in a 3-0 victory. Despite not having the same pedigree as the big boys, Atalanta are not to be underestimated.
Possibility #3: Atletico Madrid, Red Bull Salzburg, Lille
For our last potential group, we have the best of the rest. Atletico Madrid underwent a whole host of changes over the summer, losing both Lucas Hernandez (thanks for that, by the way) and Antoine Griezmann. However, they remain a formidable team and Diego Simeone will not let any points go without a fight.
Next up, you have Red Bull Salzburg. Last season, they beat RB Leipzig twice in the Europa League, proving that they’re strong than your average Pot 3 team. Alongside them you have Lille, a team that caused PSG and Thomas Tuchel much grief last season. They round out a tough group that could easily trip up the Bavarians if given the chance.
Looking at the above, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of potential for Bayern Munich to get a group of death this season. Any one of those above groups could cause a premature exit from the Champions League, something that was unthinkable just a couple of years ago.
While it’s unlikely that any of the specific groups listed will actually be drawn, they show that Niko Kovac doesn’t have the luxury of taking it easy until the knockout stages. Europe is extremely competitive this year, and given what we’ve seen so far this season, Bayern will need to up its game to stay ahead of the pack.
How will Bayern Munich fare in the group stages this season?
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Top the group!
Second place. :)
Arsenal, here we come!
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