Predicting How Every Champions League Group Finishes

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Predicting How Every Champions League Group Finishes

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    MARCO BERTORELLO/Getty Images

    The 2018-19 Champions League draw is the books, and the discussions have already started: Who is topping each group? Who are the teams capable of causing an upset? And which teams fell into the age-old “Group of Death” scenario?

    Here, we take a forensic look at each of the eight groups and predict the final standings, a breakout star and the can’t-miss game, as well as offer a reason to take a keen interest in how things pan out.

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    Final standings

    1. Atletico Madrid
    2. Borussia Dortmund
    3. Monaco
    4. Club Brugge

            

    Why you should watch

    This is the first of two pretty damn hipster groups. Atletico Madrid are everyone’s perennial underdogs, Borussia Dortmund’s charm never goes unnoticed and Monaco are the greatest stockpiler of elite young talent on the continent. It’s guaranteed to be a lot of fun.

            

    Breakout star

    Monaco have myriad young talents that fit this bill, so take your pick between them, but also watch out for Rodri at Atletico Madrid. Drafted in as a fresh heartbeat to the side this summer, he’s a commanding central midfielder who has already made a great impression.

            

    Can’t-miss game

    In terms of pure entertainment, Monaco vs. Dortmund is superbly poised. Their 2017 quarter-final featured nine goals over two legs, and there’s no reason that can’t be repeated; they’re just set up to excite.

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    JOSEP LAGO/Getty Images

    Final standings

    1. Barcelona
    2. Tottenham
    3. Inter Milan
    4
    . PSV Eindhoven

            

    Why you should watch

    Hello, Group of Death. Three excellent teams—Barcelona, Spurs and Inter—will lock horns and fight for two qualification spots. All the while, PSV will act as a willing banana skin, all too happy to cause a few skids.

            

    Breakout star

    Lautaro Martinez carries a lot of hype, but for good reason: He’s expected to star for Inter Milan this season and will have the chance to strut his stuff against two of Europe’s best.

             

    Can’t-miss game

    The last time Tottenham hosted a Spanish giant at Wembley, they beat Real Madrid on a momentous night. Can they dish out the same punishment to Barcelona?

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    Final standings

    1. Paris Saint-Germain
    2. Liverpool
    3
    . Napoli
    4. Red Star Belgrade

            

    Why you should watch

    Carlo Ancelotti will reunite with the Parc des Princes as he leads his new club, Napoli, up against his old charges in PSG. The group features three forward lines who consistently excite, and we have potential for tremendous atmospheres at all four grounds.

             

    Breakout star

    Perhaps Amadou Diawara can grasp the mantle in Napoli’s midfield now Jorginho’s gone, but if not, Tim Weah has the chance to make a real name for himself—either as a super-sub or if given a shot from the start.

            

    Can’t-miss game

    Ancelotti is an interesting story, but it pales in comparison to the thought of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe taking on Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. PSG vs. Liverpool should be brilliant.

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    Final standings

    1. Schalke
    2. Galatasaray
    3. FC Porto
    4. Lokomotiv Moscow

            

    Why you should watch: Even we’re scratching around here. If Group B is your Group of Death, this is the Group of Life. Schalke will have to learn to juggle two competitions on the fly in 2017-18, and the draw has done them a massive favour.

            

    Breakout star: Galatasaray look a bit more like their old selves this season, and Henry Onyekuru—on loan from Everton—possesses the sort of speed and finishing that will impress observers.

           

    Can’t-miss game: Schalke’s trip to Galatasaray could have a big say in who nabs top spot, and it will feature some exciting players playing in front of a raucous crowd.

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    Final standings

    1. Bayern Munich
    2. Ajax
    3
    . Benfica
    4. AEK Athens

              

    Why you should watch

    The battle for second here, featuring two sides that qualified via the playoffs, will be fierce and feature a number of stellar young talents. When you watch Ajax and Benfica in 2018, you watch the game’s future best players.

            

    Breakout star

    If we consider Matthijs de Ligt already broken out, Frenkie de Jong (Ajax) and Gedson Fernandes (Benfica) are the prime candidates here. Both midfielders have played big parts so far this season.

           

    Can’t-miss game

    The second iteration of Benfica vs. Ajax will not only be exciting but will also likely decide how this group shakes out.

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    Final standings

    1. Manchester City
    2. Lyon
    3. Hoffenheim
    4. Shakhtar Donetsk

            

    Why you should watch

    This is a pretty hipster selection. Lyon offer a plethora of young stars to keep your eye on, Shakhtar possess their usual glut of Brazilian brilliance and Hoffenheim are managed by one of Europe’s top young coaching minds in Julian Nagelsmann.

            

    Breakout star

    Pick your poison among Lyon’s talent, but Tanguy Ndombele is the most exciting of the lot and is most likely to stand out. He rumbles through midfield like a cross between Mousa Dembele and Naby Keita. You can’t help but admire him.

           

    Can’t-miss game

    How will Nabil Fekir get on against one of the very best sides in European football? Lyon vs. Manchester City gives us a front seat for the answer.

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    Final standings

    1. Real Madrid
    2. Roma
    3. CSKA Moscow
    4. Viktoria Plzen

            

    Why you should watch

    It’s the beginning of Real Madrid’s Champions League defence—and they’re tackling it without Cristiano Ronaldo. How will it go? Tune in, find out.

           

    Breakout star

    Roma’s season feels like it could go either way—the turnover of players has made projecting things tough—but if Eusebio Di Francesco puts his faith in Justin Kluivert, we could witness the next stage in a potentially special player’s development.

           

    Can’t-miss game

    There won’t be too much interest in CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen, who are the clear third- and fourth-best teams in the group. Real Madrid vs. Roma is the showpiece event here.

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    Final standings

    1. Juventus
    2. Valencia
    3. Manchester United
    4. Young Boys

               

    Why you should watch

    Cristiano Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford in his first season with Juventus. It’s exactly the storyline we all wanted—though perhaps not a storyline Jose Mourinho will be happy with. Valencia will also provide a really tricky test, and given the atmosphere simmering at Old Trafford, United are officially on group stage exit alert.

             

    Breakout star

    Valencia have re-signed Goncalo Guedes, and he will now grace the Champions League stage, but he’s probably already too big a name for this section. Instead, look to Carlos Soler, Los Che’s exciting, homegrown midfielder.

             

    Can’t-miss game

    Manchester United hosting Juventus. Nothing else comes close.

              

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    All statistics via WhoScored.com

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