On Tuesday, Champions League group stage play kicks off, with 16 matches in total. This is the first installment of TSW’s predictions and preview for each Champions League group. I will be covering groups A, B, and C, headlined by Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and Manchester City. Fellow journalist Armaan Sodhi will be covering groups D, E, and F, and Preston Helfand has groups G and H. Be sure to also check out their articles
GROUP A: Atletico Madrid (Spain) , Bayern Munich (Germany), Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia), RB Salzburg (Austria)
Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid headline group A of the upcoming installment of the UEFA Champions League. Reigning champions Bayern Munich will be looking to regain the form that crowned them as Europe’s best.
Bayern: Bayern are coming into the new season as champions hungry for more. They hope to use their youth mixed with veteran leadership to help them move past group A. Serge Gnabry, Alphonso Davies, and Robert Lewandowski will help Bayern in close games and push Munich through.
Atletico: Diego Simeone’s team hasn’t made much noise since their 2016 loss to their rival Real Madrid. Atletico lost to RB Leipzig in the quarter-finals last season and are keen to make it further this year. Key additions like quality striker Luis Suarez and defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira are going to be big for Madrid. This is going to be a test, but if any team can own it it’s “Cholo” Simeone’s side.
Lokomotiv/RB Salzburg: Both Lokomotiv and Salzburg are heavily overlooked in this group. Both squads were knocked out of the group stage last year and haven’t really been a team that made big moves this offseason.
PREDICTION: I think Bayern Munich will win Group A with Atletico just behind them. Bayern and Atletico are set to meet in game one and Bayern should win, giving them a lift in the group. I also believe Salzburg will be transferred to Europa League and Lokomotiv will be out completely.
GROUP B: Inter Milan, Monchengladbach, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk
Inter Milan and Real Madrid headline a very interesting Group B. Although both squads seem to be the favorites as of now, both Shakhtar and Monchengladbach are not pushovers.
Inter Milan: Inter Milan finished third in their group last season and are looking to make up for it this time around. They got transferred to the Europa League, where they finished as the runner-up, and can use that defeat as fuel in group B. They added some very talented youth in Achraf Hakimi and Nicolo Barella, and have great strikers. Expect Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez to be a lot of trouble for opposing defenses.
Real Madrid: Zinedine Zidane’s squad hasn’t been the same since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. The team at times lacks an identity in the attacking third yet somehow stay consistent in play. The squad hasn’t made any signings as of yet but are pleased with Federico Valverde’s play recently. If Real Madrid can regain that identity they had before, they might enjoy a deep playoff run.
Monchengladbach/Shakhtar: Although these squads aren’t pushovers, they just simply aren’t at a level that Real and Inter are at. Both teams missed out on last year’s UCL and this year may be a run for experience.
PREDICTION: I believe Inter wins this group off of two huge wins against Real Madrid, but Real take the second slot. Of the two other teams, Shakhtar is transferred to the Europa League and Monchengladbach goes home empty handed.
Group C: Manchester City, Marseille, Olympiacos, Porto
In perhaps the closest out of the three, Man City headlines a very daunting group C. The Citizens are miles ahead of the rest but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are off the hook.
Manchester City: Pep Guardiola’s squads are always contenders in any tournament they play in. The loss of Leroy Sane and David Silva dealt a blow to the English squad, but they brought in some talent to try and balance things out. City brought in rising star Ferran Torres, who easily was one of the best players at Valencia at just 20 years old. They also added a defensive presence by bringing in Nathan Ake and Ruben Diaz. If City can build chemistry and get back to their ways last year, they can easily be a finals candidate.
Marseille: Marseille are an interesting team to watch, and they are also an overlooked one too. They didn’t qualify to either European tournaments last season, but after placing second in Ligue 1 last year they return to UCL. Luis Henrique is the biggest player they brought in and he only cost about $8 million dollars. The French squad might be the biggest surprise of this group.
Olympiacos: What is mostly regarded as the odd man out in this group, Olympiacos aren’t seen as a team moving on at all. Adding Bruma from PSV gives them a talented winger, but overall they don’t have enough all-round talent.
Porto: Losing Alex Telles and Fabio Silva really dealt a blow to Sergio Conceicao’s squad, and Porto hasn’t really addressed that gap he leaves behind. They brought in Felipe Anderson off loan as well as Evanilson to boost their offense. Porto lost in the round of 16 of last years Europa League, after a bitter 5-2 loss to Wolfsburg. Players like “Tecatito” Corona and Moussa Marega are really showing poise on the attacking third thus far in Liga NOS. If Port can fix their defensive gaps left behind by their star departures, they can potentially have a nice squad in group c.
PREDICTION: Manchester City wins the group, but Marseille beat City to secure second in a tight Group C race. Porto gets transferred to Europa League after finishing third in the group, and Olympiacos finishes their European run empty handed.