The Champions League group stages begin two weeks after the international break and all the participants know who they will be battling with for a chance at Liverpool’s crown.
We have four La Liga teams in this year’s edition – the usual suspects of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, and Valencia. Each of these teams have submitted their squads to UEFA and are now intensifying preparations for the first match of the campaign. Last edition’s semi-finalists Barcelona will begin their campaign away to Dortmund, Atletico will welcome Juventus, Madrid will travel to PSG, and Valencia will travel to Chelsea.
See our predictions below.
GROUP A PREDICTION: 1 – Real Madrid; 2 – PSG; 3 – Galatasaray; 4 –Club Brugge
Madrid and PSG will slug it out again at this stage just like they did four years ago. Madrid topped the group (of course) and went on to win the tournament while PSG finished second behind them and reached the last eight.
They will be facing stiff competition this time around from PSG who are bearing scars of three consecutive round of 16 exits. Thomas Tuchel, PSG’s manager, will also be looking to pull an upset as he will likely not survive another early exit from the competition.
We won’t rule out the possibility of the other teams in the group (Club Brugge and Galatasaray) to pull off an upset, but evaluating the difference in quality on paper, they will have to dig deeper to make something happen. The Champions League is usually more predictable during the group stages than the knockout rounds, and this is why they are going to be left to fight for the Europa League spot.
GROUP D PREDICTION: 1 – Juventus; 2 – Atlético Madrid; 3 – Bayer 04 Leverkusen; 4 – Lokomotiv Moscow
Atlético will most definitely be out for blood when they face Ronaldo and Juventus. From his Madrid days, Ronaldo has been a terror to los Rojiblancos and last campaign, he scored a hat-trick to help Juventus overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit to knock them out from the round of 16.
Atletico look poised to make a real statement this season in all competitions however and will look to channel the same energy used in defeating Juventus in the pre-season when they clash in the Champions’ League.
They will face some tough away fixtures to Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow, but will surely more than make up for it at the Wanda Metropolitano.
GROUP F PREDICTION: 1 – Barcelona; 2 – Borussia Dortmund; 3 – Inter Milan; 4 – Slavia Prague
This is definitely the group of death in the Champions League this season, although Slavia Prague should provide some kind of breathing space for the other three teams. The biggest challenge is likely to come from Inter, now managed by Antonio Conte who means business, following the acquisitions of Romelu Lukaku, Diego Godín and Alexis Sánchez. They last reached the knockout stage in 2011/12 and will be looking to get one over Barcelona who ended their campaign in this same stage last season.
However, Borussia Dortmund will not take Inter’s challenge with a pinch of salt. They have started their season strongly and have more cohesiveness than the new-look Inter squad does. This is why I believe they will finish second.
Barcelona always get through the group stages, even with unconvincing performances. With Messi set to return after the international break, and Antoine Griezmann slowly finding his footing, and Luis Suarez (along with the manager Ernesto Valverde and the rest of the team) who has a point to prove, they will brush the oppositions off, especially at the Camp Nou.
GROUP H PREDICTION: 1 – Ajax; 2 – Chelsea; 3 – Valencia; 4 – Lille
This is the most unpredictable group in the group stages of the 2019/20 campaign.
Last season’s semi-finalists will be looking to replicate their form again, but with an all-new squad. Erik ten Haag has the ability to shape the players into proper contenders as can be seen from their strong start to the season, but the unknown factor still remains. Many of the lads in Ajax will be playing European football for the first time ever and it may prove too much for them.
Last season’s Europa League champions Chelsea have lost Eden Hazard to Madrid and will be the happiest from this draw as this is a group where anything can happen.
And Valencia, last season’s Europa League semi-finalists will come into the campaign with an unwanted record – they have never beaten Chelsea in the six meetings they’ve had in the Champions League. Also, their general record against English clubs is not that great and this will be a big plus for the London club.
Lille have officially lost their status as the underdog when they were confirmed as one of the French contingent for this season’s Champions League when they sold the man who dragged them to this stage, Nicolas Pépé to Arsenal. They also sold two of their key players from last season in Rafael Leão and Thiago Mendes. However, Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen has made a flying start for Lille and could cause an upset, which totally doesn’t rule them out of this group.
However, my predictions for this group are as they are because of historical factors which always have a role to play in tournaments like these.
Come 17 September, we will be witnessing the first round of matches and we will be looking forward to surprises from the biggest competition in world football.