At last it’s here, the group stage of the Champions League.
There are some mouth-watering matchups to come in the upcoming months, none bigger than Real Madrid against Paris Saint-Germain. The Spanish giants, as well as the French champions will like their chances outside of that encounter, with Shakhtar Donetsk and Malmo completing Group A. Another small storyline in the group is Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to Malmo, a club where he started his career.
Manchester United will love their chances in Group B, the only real threat to them topping the group should be Wolfsburg, with Shakhtar and PSV hoping to sneak in ahead of those two. The biggest talking point in this group is whether Manchester City will make United’s group much easier by taking Kevin De Bruyne to the blue side of Manchester from Wolfsburg.
Group C sees Atletico Madrid as the clear favorite with Galatasaray and Benfica fighting for the second spot. Kazakh newcomers Astana certainly look like the team everyone will want to face, albeit no one will know what to expect from them.
The “Group of Death” is Group D without any doubt as runners up Juve will rue their bad lack. In form Manchester City and Europa League winners Sevilla will hope to keep Juventus from advancing to the knockout stage. Borussia Monchengladbach will play the role of the outsider here and want to prove they are better than their awful form at the start of the season would suggest.
Titleholders Barcelona would have hoped for an easier group but it could have been worse as well. The Catalan giants will surely top Group E at the end of 6 matches while Roma and Leverkusen will fight for the second place. How well either of those teams play against Barca could potentially decide who gets out as the second seed. Bate Borisov hope to be more than just an annoying trip to Belarus and would love to emulate 2012 form when they beat Bayern Munich 3:1 in a huge surprise.
Group F pits the aforementioned Bavarian giants alongside Arsenal as both team will absolutely love their chances of progress with Olympiakos and Dynamo Zagreb concluding the group. In all honesty it should be just a matter which team will win the group, Bayern or Dynamo, and which team will go on to Europa League, Olympiakos or Dinamo.
Jose Mourinho gets to return to Porto with whom he won the Champions League in 2004, as his Chelsea squad will fancy their chances of progressing through to the knockout rounds. Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel-Aviv round out Group G and will hope to wrestle with Porto for the second spot in the group.
The final group of the draw sees perhaps the most open one as well. Valencia and Lyon will be the favorites to progress based on history in the competition while Zenit are not far behind. Belgian newcomers Gent will hope to spring a surprise on everyone in Group H and show that they do deserve to be in Europe’s premier club competition.
FULL GROUP STAGE DRAW
Group A: Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Malmo
Group B: PSV, Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Wolfsburg
Group C: Benfica, Atletico Madrid, Galatasaray, Astana
Group D: Juventus, Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Monchengladbach
Group E: Barcelona, Bayer Leverkusen, Roma, BATE Borisov
Group F: Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Olympiakos, Dinamo Zagreb
Group G: Chelsea, Porto, Dynamo Kiev, Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Group H: Zenit, Valencia, Lyon, Gent