As the draw for the Champions League group stage finally got over in Monaco, we were left with some interesting groups. We predict which teams will go through from each group, beginning with the first four in part I.
Group A: PSG, Real Madrid, Shakhtar, Malmo
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will make an emotional return to his boyhood club Malmo. The Swede described the draw as ‘dream’ and is already looking forward to travelling to Malmo.
However, he will also have to go to the Santiago Bernabeu to take on Real Madrid, in a group that also consists of wealthy Ukranian side Shakhtar Donetsk.
It is certainly not as easy group, as Shakhtar are hardly a pushover side, despite selling Douglas Costa and Adriano.
Expect Real Madrid and PSG to come through, though, rather easily. Rafael Benitez has always been a manager who does well in Europe. We can expect more of the same from the Spaniard as he looks to get his managerial career on track.
Prediction: 1st Place – Real Madrid, 2nd Place – PSG
Group B: PSV, Manchester United, CSKA, Wolfsburg
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal was rather coy on the draw. He said that it could have been worse, or even better. Well, the way we look at it is that Manchester United will have to guard against all of the teams to avoid an upset. This is certainly not as easy group. Wolfsburg have recently thrashed Bayern Munich in the German Super Cup. And while they may lose Kevin de Bruyne to Manchester City, surely, with the money they already have (along with more coming in), they will sign a replacement. Even without de Bruyne, they are a very good side.
CSKA Moscow are always a tough opponent to play away from home, as teams have to travel a long distance to reach Russia. And while PSV may have lost two of their most influential players in the summer in Depay and Wijnaldum, they are still a good outfit under a very good manager.
This group is very tricky and while Manchester United have added quality and more balance to their squad, we reckon they will be pipped to the top by Wolfsburg.
Prediction: 1st Place – Wolfsburg, 2nd Place – Manchester United
Group C: Benfica, Atletico Madrid, Galatasaray, Astana
Group C consists of Kazakh debutants Astana and Turkish giants Galatasaray along with Portuguese champions Benfica and Atletico Madrid.
This group is probably the most straightforward of the lot in terms of who we can expect to win it- hands down Atletico Madrid. It is the second place for which we might have a real battle between Galatasaray and Benfica. And if Astana decide that they are going to make life hell for anyone travelling half of the world to Kazakhstan, well, we might be in for an upset or two as well. We still reckon Benfica might have the edge over Galatasaray, but, not entirely convinced.
Prediction: 1st Place – Atletico Madrid, 2nd Place – Benfica
Group D: Juventus, Manchester City, Sevilla, Monchengladbach
Welcome to the group of death. And unsurprisingly, Manchester City find themselves in it. They have had a wretched luck in Champions League draw in the past few years and it just refuses to change. This group consists of a Sevilla side that have strengthened themselves considerably despite losing Carlos Bacca. Juventus may have weakened over the summer following the loss of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, and Carlos Tevez but are still a force and may still recruit more players to strengthen the side. And Monchengladbach will not be brushed aside easily.
So, just who will go through from this group? We do reckon Juventus’ loss of the players is going to haunt them in Europe, not just because they were players with quality. But, all three were unique characters and indeed, leaders.
Loss of the fighting spirit of Tevez and Vidal will be sorely felt and the calming influence of Pirlo is something very few players can offer. Juventus may find going tough in Europe this season. On the other hand, Sevilla have come into the season having won back-to-back Europa League and narrowly missing out on European Super Cup against FC Barcelona. Expect them to give Juventus a run for their money.
Determined Manchester City may just end their voodoo and finally finish top of a Champions League group to avoid a clash of giants in first knock out round. Their summer recruitment will enable them to play on the counter attack on away trips and might just come in handy big time.
Prediction: 1st Place: Manchester City, 2nd Place: Sevilla .