The group stage of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is set following Thursday’s gala draw in Monaco, where the 32 clubs that will compete for Europe’s biggest prize learned which teams stand between them and next year’s knockout stage:
Group A: Club Brugge, Galatasaray, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid
Group B: Bayern Munich, Olympiacos, Red Star Belgrade, Tottenham Hotspur
Group C: Atalanta, Dinamo Zagreb, Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk
Group D: Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus, Lokomotiv Moscow
Group E: Genk, Liverpool, Napoli, RB Salzburg
Group F: Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Slavia Prague.
Group G: Benfica, Lyon, RB Leipzig, Zenit Saint Petersburg
Group H: Ajax, Chelsea, Lille, Valencia
Which teams are positioned best to advance? Who got stuck in the Group of Death instead? Let’s take a look.
Manchester City: Probably the best team on the continent last season, City had to settle for a second consecutive Premier League title after being upset in the cruelest fashion imaginable in the quarterfinals by domestic rival Spurs.
Winning the European Cup for the first time in club history will be an even bigger priority this season for Pep Guardiola’s men. Based on their luck Thursday, it’s unfathomable that the Cityzens won’t reach the second round with ease, with all due respect to overmatched Group C opponents Atalanta, Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk.
Tottenham Hotspur: So what if Spurs will have to face German titan Bayern Munich twice in the group phase? The North London club has no reason to fear anyone after reaching the final last spring. And even if they dropped all six points against the Bundesliga holders, they only need to finish above Olympiacos and Red Star to advance.
American fans: Group H will be one-stop shopping for supporters of the United States men’s national team, with highly touted young USMNT players on three of the four participants. Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, 20, headlines the trio, which also includes 19-year-old Ajax fullback Sergino Dest (who received his first senior international call-up on Wednesday) and Lille attacker Tim Weah, also 19. The only downside is that Yank backers might have to choose which of their countrymen to watch with matches being played simultaneously.
Group E is cool, too, as Red Bull Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch will match wits against two of the most revered coaches of the modern era in Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Napoli’s Carlo Ancelotti.
Everyone in Group G: With just one team — RB Leipzig — from Europe’s big four leagues, this one is wide open. The German side, which features rising USMNT star Tyler Adams, seems like the favorite.
Barcelona: It’s going on five years since Lionel Messi et. al. hoisted the hardware. Since then, they’ve watched Spanish rival Real Madrid win it all three times. But if that drought is to end in 2020, Barca will have to navigate what many consider this season’s “Group of Death.”
For while Slavia Prague shouldn’t put up much resistance, Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund are both formidable. And only two of the three can move on to the business end of the tournament.
Juventus: The Italian champs are desperate to win the Champions League for the first time since 1996, but Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. will have their hands full with Bayer Leverkusen and especially Atletico Madrid, who will be bent on revenge after Juve eliminated them last year. And while playing Lokomotiv seems more than manageable in Turin, traveling to Moscow is never easy.
Real Madrid: There’s always pressure at the Bernabeu, and even more so this year after Real were stunned by Ajax in the round of 16 last term. On paper, they’ll battle with similarly free-spending Paris Saint-Germain for the quartet’s top spot. In reality, Galatasaray has the ability to spoil the party — especially if it can steal some points from the favorites when they play to a packed house in Istanbul.
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