The UEFA Champions League groups have been set and teams will begin their road to capture the most expensive prize in European football. Let’s look at some of the tournament’s favorites, intriguing groups, and players to watch.
Liverpool made some intelligent moves to not only keep their main players but as well as fix the holes they had to try and make it to a second straight final. They still have their big three in Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino. However, they added some extremely key pieces like Alisson Becker as goalkeeper in a transfer from Roma and Xherdan Shaqiri at forward position coming in from Stoke City.
Last year was almost like an experience year for this young group when they reached the UEFA Final. Salah, Mane, and Firmino combined for 29 goals in total making them the highest in this competition amongst other great trios. Last year, Salah tallied 36 goals in league play along with winning the Player of the year Award and the Golden Boot. If Salah can resemble the same type of play with assistance from his other attackers, we could see Liverpool in the final for a second straight year.
Paris-Saint Germain is an interesting team to watch this upcoming season as they were the ultimate favorites last year because of how much money they spent in the summer to acquire two of soccer’s biggest stars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
PSG is almost similar, in a way, to Liverpool having the big three of Edison Cavani, Neymar, and Mbappe. The problem for PSG was they ran into Real Madrid, the best team in the tournament, early in the competition as well as losing Neymar in the second leg.
There were two important things that happened to PSG this summer and that was the acquisition of legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and the growth of Mbappe in this year’s World Cup.
Mbappe and his French national team won the Grand Daddy of them all this past summer and Mbappe played a significant role resembling the great Thierry Henry. Mbappe tallied four goals in the knockout rounds of this World Cup. This World Cup has helped Mbappe grow and will only make him a more explosive player which makes it exciting when knockout stages come around to see the development of this young superstar.
The Spanish heavyweight in Barcelona will look to avenge their odd exit as they were upset by underdogs Roma in last year’s quarterfinal. Barcelona did not lose any main pieces this past summer and added some young talent as well as some veteran presence.
Malcom Oliveira and Arthur Melo are the two new young additions to the team and will look to make push off the bench for manager Ernesto Valverde. Malcom is a winger who played 35 games for Bordeaux and scored 12 goals. That may not seem like so much but for a winger in this system can benefit Valverde’s 4-4-2 and could also make him change to a 4-2-4.
The emergence of Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho is huge for this team as well if they want to go far this season. Barcelona also added center back Clement Lenglet and veteran midfielder Arturo Vidal.
In the past three years, Barcelona has had trouble making it past the quarterfinals and each team they lost to ended up making the final except this past season with Roma. The team that they have put together is too talented to end in the quarterfinals for a fourth consecutive year especially with one of the top players in the world in Lionel Messi. There is no question this team can win it all if the appropriate mindset is there.
In the entire tournament, the two groups that are deemed most interesting are Group B and Group H.
In Group B, the teams are Barcelona, Tottenham, Inter Milan, and PSV Eindhoven. The favorites are Barcelona and Tottenham, but Inter Milan could make it interesting. Inter’s Mauro Icardi can make some noise in the front as he is coming off a season with 29 goals. He also will have a good midfield to back him up with World Cup finalist Ivan Perisic and Roma transfer Radja Nainggolan, who knows a little something about beating Barcelona.
In Group H, Juventus, Manchester United, Valencia, and BSC Young Boys headline the stout group. The riveting factor that plays into this specific group is that Manchester United and Juventus have not been up to their level of greatness so far this season with lots of question marks on both teams.
Valencia is a team that can sneak in and capture second place away from one of these heavyweight teams. In last year’s competition, Manchester United was eliminated by a Spanish team in Sevilla and if they do not play their cards right early on in this tournament can face the same ending by La Liga’s other underrated Spanish team of Valencia.
In this year’s UEFA tournament, we could see a new champion with Cristiano Ronaldo no longer around to carry Madrid. Madrid also lost their manager in Zinedine Zidane. There will be some rising stars who will continue to showcase their skills and prove they are the up and coming. We can also expect some early upsets in group stage if one of the favorites try to play to their competition’s level.