Predicting Every 2019-20 Champions League Group

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterAugust 29, 2019

Predicting Every 2019-20 Champions League Group

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    The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League group-stage draw was completed on Thursday, teeing up eight mini-tussles between some of the continent's best clubs.

    Group D (Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow) and Group F (Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Slavia Prague) appear to be the best on paper, with three extremely strong teams in each. But every group has its own pull or angle, like Group G's uber-hipster nature or Group H's incredible parity.

    Here B/R takes a stab at predicting how each of the eight groups will play out, ordering the teams 1-4 and discussing whether an upset may be afoot.

Group A: Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Galatasaray, Club Brugge

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    Winner: Paris Saint-Germain

    Neymar or not, Paris Saint-Germain have enough to win this group, though it would obviously be much easier with the Brazilian's services at hand.

    Real Madrid's fragility plays into that, but so does PSG's changing culture—led by Thomas Tuchel—as they take a more workmanlike, or perhaps serious, approach to Europe's biggest competition.

          

    Runner-Up: Real Madrid

    On La Liga's opening weekend, Real Madrid beat Celta Vigo 3-1 in a match that hinted at a potential turnaround in fortunes.

    But they collapsed against Real Valladolid the following week, bringing back memories of the disastrous 2018-19 campaign. It's on Los Blancos to prove that this season will be different from last.

             

    Upset Alert? No

    Club Brugge's squad was ripped apart this summer, and their most impressive players are now plying their trade elsewhere. Meanwhile, Galatasaray are in a weakened state compared to earlier this decade.

Group B: Bayern Munich, Tottenham Hotspur, Olympiakos, Red Star

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    Winners: Bayern Munich

    Without Philippe Coutinho, the top spot may well have been beyond Bayern. But the Brazilian adds a dose of quality to that midfield. His playmaking ability makes Robert Lewandowski an even bigger threat than he already was.

    It's a tough call between Bayern and Tottenham Hotspur for first, but the former are stronger on paper, so they get the nod.

              

    Runners-Up: Tottenham Hotspur

    Faith in Spurs is understandably lacking right now, but by the time the Champions League kicks off, Dele Alli should be fit and the Christian Eriksen issue hanging over the club will be resolved one way or the other.

    They'll run this one close.

                      

    Upset Alert? No

    Olympiakos made mincemeat of their qualifying opponents, beating Viktoria Plzen, Istanbul Basaksehir and Krasnodar with ease, but the step up in quality here is too much. The same is true for Red Star.

Group C: Manchester City, Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb

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    Winners: Manchester City

    It's difficult to find too much to be worried about for Manchester City. Trips to Ukraine and Croatia are hardly ideal, and Atalanta are no pushovers, but for a side with such overwhelming quality and depth, this should be comfortable.

            

    Runners-Up: Atalanta

    Atalanta will capture some hearts during this Champions League campaign because they're so much fun to watch. The attacking trident of Duvan Zapata, Josip Ilicic and Alejandro Gomez will score and excite.

             

    Upset Alert? No

    Shakhtar Donetsk have lost the man responsible for their overachievement in Europe over the past few years (manager Paulo Fonseca), while Dinamo Zagreb have a star (Dani Olmo) but not a full cast strong enough to get over the line.

Group D: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Moscow

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    Winner: Atletico Madrid

    Would six consecutive 1-0 victories for Atletico Madrid shock anyone? They're in fine fettle, seem to be refreshed and have the star player in Joao Felix who can make the difference at one end while they batten down the hatches at the other.

                            

    Runners-Up: Juventus

    They wouldn't be happy with second, but they're still legitimate contenders to win the Champions League. They just seem like a bad matchup with Atletico and could easily come off second best in the tussle.

            

    Upset Alert? Yes

    When Bayer Leverkusen are around, anything can happen. Their gung-ho attacking approach can produce unpredictable results, and while they're unlikely to generate enough points to qualify from four games against Atletico Madrid and Juventus, they could well ruin those teams' plans.

Group E: Liverpool, Napoli, RB Salzburg, Genk

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    Winners: Liverpool

    Liverpool face a familiar foe in Napoli, the team that would have knocked them out at the group stage last season if not for a splendid Alisson Becker save at the death on Matchday 6.

    The Reds have come a long way since then and represent one of the truly formidable teams on the continent. They'll walk this group.

                

    Runners-Up: Napoli

    Napoli strengthened this summer through the signings of Kostas Manolas, Hirving Lozano and Eljif Elmas, and they should see a tangible benefit from it in the form of progression to the knockout stages. It would be the first time they've featured in that phase since 2017.

                     

    Upset Alert? Yes

    RB Salzburg are an extremely talented young team that present a serious threat to every side in the group. Have an off-day against them and things could turn sour.

Group F: Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Slavia Prague

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    Winner: Barcelona

    This is the group to watch, no doubt. To win it, Barcelona will have to fight off two quality sides in Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan. But with Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez at hand, they're equipped to do it.

                 

    Runners-Up: Borussia Dortmund

    Whichever team grabs second will have earned it. It's between Dortmund and Inter, two sides that will produce an incredible clash of styles. We'll tip Dortmund to edge it, as Antonio Conte has a curiously poor record in cup competitions (he's only won one despite managing dominant teams).

            

    Upset Alert? Yes...and No?

    One of Dortmund or Inter will finish third, and that isn't an upset since they're both excellent. Meanwhile, Slavia Prague won't cause too much trouble. But could Barcelona—second favourites to win the competition—drop out?

    Dortmund and Inter would both need to have great days against them to manage it, but it isn't impossible.

Group G: Lyon, RB Leipzig, Benfica, Zenit Saint Petersburg

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    Winner: Lyon

    On B/R Football Ranks, we tipped Lyon to have the potential to "do an Ajax" this season. By that, we mean enchant the world with slick football and punch above their weight in Europe.

    This group draw is a great start for that. They aren't locked-in winners, but they'll be expected to progress.

              

    Runners-Up: RB Leipzig

    Make no mistake: RB Leipzig have the ability to top this group.

    However, their manager, Julian Nagelsmann, has struggled in the past with sewing his sides up defensively when facing the best of the continent. That could make things a touch difficult.

           

    Upset Alert? Yes

    Group G is largely even. There just isn't that much separating the teams. A supercomputer could simulate it and come out with all sorts of different finishes, so consider this one open for anyone to take hold of.

Group H: Chelsea, Ajax, Lille, Valencia

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    Winners: Chelsea

    The benefits of being a first seed, eh?

    Chelsea have been handed a kind group, avoiding second seeds like Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Napoli and Borussia Dortmund. It still won't be easy—they're experiencing some growing pains under new manager Frank Lampard—but they have the quality to finish first.

               

    Runners-Up: Ajax

    The spotlight will shine brightly on Ajax, and considering they lost only three starters, people may expect them to replicate what they achieved last season.

    But the qualifying rounds have shown us that they're still adapting to the sale of Frenkie de Jong and figuring the finer details out in their new system. They should qualify, but they aren't favourites.

            

    Upset Alert? Yes

    Have you ever seen a more even group? Group G is close, but this one is almost dead level.

    Valencia must avoid another slow start, and Lille will need to use the surprise factor to their advantage, but they're both capable of stealing a qualifying spot here.