This is one glamorous item!
The group stage of the Champions League can feel at times like a frustrating procession, but after Thursday’s draw in Monaco at least two of this season’s groups look wide open, while the presence of Real Madrid, Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid in the second pot of seeds means at least a handful of major games will take place before Christmas.
Here’s a closer look at the eight groups drawn and who the favorites to go through to the knockout stage will be:
PSG, Real Madrid, Club Brugge, Galatasaray
There’s no doubting the stand-out fixture in Group A, where Paris Saint-Germain will meet Real Madrid in a repeat of the last-16 tie of 2017-18 when Madrid won handsomely. The PSG project has gone badly of the rails in recent seasons, with constant success in France habitually exposed as soon as it faced an elite team in Europe, while the Neymar circus proved to be an ever-growing distraction. His probable departure may clarify some minds. Madrid is also a club in turmoil. Zinedine Zidane may have won the Champions League on each of the three occasions he’s managed in it, but he returned to the job with the understanding there would be a major squad overhaul that simply hasn’t happened in full despite a summer that has featured some major signings. There’s more than enough talent at the club to achieve great things, but the mood is wrong, and it’s hard to see aging limbs being able to compete on two fronts.
The draw, though, has been relatively kind. Club Brugge responded to coming second in the Belgian League last season by appointing the manager of the champion, Genk’s Philippe Clement. His biggest task is finding a way of replicating the physical heft and goals brought by Wesley Moraes, who was sold to Aston Villa. In a world of change, some things remain eternal: last season, for the ninth time, Fatih Terim led Galatasaray to the Turkish title. It was a far from emphatic success, though, and this season Galatasaray has started the season with a draw and a defeat from its opening two games.
PREDICTED TO GO THROUGH: PSG and Real Madrid
Bayern Munich, Tottenham, Olympiakos, Red Star Belgrade
Like Group A, Group B features two big sides whose meetings will no doubt draw a lot of attention, but also two weaker teams whose presence means whatever happens between the giants, they should both still go through. After seven league titles in a row, Bayern is another club that needs European success for validation. The arrival of France’s World Cup-winning fullbacks, Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard, plus the loan signing of a pair of classy midfielders in Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic, makes the squad look rather better balanced and less superannuated than it has for some time.
Tottenham’s struggle is where it goes next after reaching the final of the Champions League last season. Spurs have beaten Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City and Ajax in recent seasons, so nobody will regard them as the soft touch they once were, and they have bolstered the squad with Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon, but their start to the season has been oddly flat.
For the first time since 2010, Olympiakos goes into a European campaign not as champions, after PAOK won the league last season. Pedro Martins’s side impressed in the qualifiers, though, conceding only one goal in six games, and that came after the tie agains
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