DRAW & GROUP A
To be honest with you, I really enjoyed the draw, they sort of got on with it, and it was a refreshing change. Obviously, it’s an unprecedented Champions League as it’s the last one in this format, as more teams will be integrated next season, and obviously, the World Cup being smack down the middle of it, everything is condensed.
So the draw obviously was taken place in Istanbul, and the games are really on our toes next week, and no one has much time to think about it, but some interesting groups and things that have come up, such as Lewandowski going back to face Bayern, having signed with Barcelona and obviously Haaland going back to face Borussia Dortmund so their games will surely be interesting.
As far as everything else, the transfer window is still open, and you see Group A for example, as my team Liverpool taking on Napoli, sitting at the top of Serie A, they got Ajax and obviously Rangers. With Ajax, they might lose their star player in Anthony going to Manchester United for 90+ Million, so that might weaken them a touch which will help Liverpool.
With the games taking place next week, you got to look at the form table and where everyone is; and I just mentioned that Napoli sits at the top of Serie A, Liverpool not going well in the Premier League, Rangers obviously going through against PSV and that will give them a massive lift. They will be full of confidence in this group, and it will be nice to have an English – Scottish game as well. Something that we have seen in the past with Liverpool and Celtic. Yeah, so, that is an interesting group.
I think Liverpool will come out on top, and I think Napoli will come second in that group, and Ajax, who has done so well in the Champions League in the last few years with Ten Hag as their manager – they missed out against Tottenham in that dramatic semi-final and they also got knocked out last year in the group stages and not having lost a game.
I think this season, losing Anthony, and a couple of other players, including Ten Hag, who has been a massive influence for the team, so I don’t think they are going to be a force to be reckoned with this season. So I am going with Liverpool at 2/7 (1.28), and Napoli to get out of Group A.
Obviously, one of the other English teams, Spurs, have spent heavily in the transfer market. Conte had a good run with his team this season with lots of options and is probably equipped to go far in the Champions League.
In the draw, they got Eintracht Frankfurt and currently sitting at the bottom half of the Bundesliga after winning last year’s Europa League, so they were in pot one, so all the teams were eyeing them to fall into their group, and they ended up in Spurs’ group.
On the other side, Sporting Lisbon and Marseille. Marseille they are doing really, really well this season I know it’s still early days, but like most other teams, they are losing players to the Premier League they have a little bit of a rebuild, and it gives the youngster a chance to get to the starting eleven.
Marseille have brought up some great talent, and they have a good manager there, they currently sit second just behind PSG, so they will surely be the team to look out for Spurs to go through. Sporting and Frankfurt, I am not so sure that they’ve got the strength to get out of the group this season, especially when mentioning how well Tottenham have been, so I am going for Tottenham at 1/2 (1.50) and Marseille to progress from Group D.
Chelsea, I think they might have just gotten Anthony Gordon from Everton to add to their armoury, which will be a very good signing; not so good for Everton, but maybe something in a swap deal might help them.
As far as the Champions League goes, Chelsea have gotten a favourable group as well. Milan won the Serie A last season; Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still in the Milan camp, so he will be massively important when it comes to experience; they also lost Kessie, who has gone to Barcelona.
AC Milan are not the AC Milan of old, and they haven’t offered as much as we have expected to. Last season they were in Liverpool’s group, and unfortunately for them, it wasn’t meant to be. AC Milan did not offer much, and I honestly was a bit disappointed by them. They have gone and won the Serie A, which gives them great confidence, and they recruited some good players in good areas.
Nothing that should worry Chelsea too much but I still think Milan will go through. Dinamo Zagreb and Salzburg played against Liverpool in the pre-season, and I was impressed by them, but I still think that Chelsea to win the group at 1/3 (1.33) and Milan to finish second.
Celtic have been drawn with RB Leipzig, Real Madrid and Shakhtar. Real Madrid have gone to the semi-final 10 times in the last 12 years and obviously won it last season, serial winners of this competition and Ancelotti losing Casemeiro and the evolution of the team in the middle of the park with Tchouameni coming in, he has been a very good acquisition.
Karim Benzema was the top goalscorer in last season’s champions league campaign with 15 goals, he will obviously want to go again. He has come to his own after Ronaldo and Bale moved on as he assumed that main man figure at Real. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos will be pulling the strings.
Real Madrid are the nailed-on favourites to go through at 1/5 (1.20), with Celtic looking to maybe cause an upset and deal with the threat that Shaktar Donetsk pose as they are a very good team, and they should be respected. So I am going with Real Madrid to win the group and Celtic to come in second place.
They are not bad Copenhagen, they have lots of good young talent that should not be discredited.
Now for the final English team, Manchester City are expected to do well, especially after acquiring the services of Haaland from Dortmund, and that is an interesting tie that is with the Norwegian going back to face his old club.
It might not be as easy as we might think, on paper Sevilla have done well in Europe they have won the Europa League a couple of times, and they have always languished around the European scene for a while now, not going well at the moment in the La Liga.
Dortmund had a slow start to the season, which you would expect to lose their main man, but Jude Bellingham is still there. Copenhagen are a good young team lots of young players are quick and sharp, and they go into this as the underdogs, and this might favour them as they might cause an upset. I think Man City would need to respect all the clubs they will play against,
I still think City will win the group at 2/9 (1.22), but it won’t be as easy as people make it out to be. I will put City to win and the second place is wide open, you know, but I am going to go with Sevilla.
My Champions League special are Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester City all to win their group.
Outright winner: PSG 5/1 (6.00)
Outsider: Spurs 14/1 (15.00)
With the Champions League being condensed with the World Cup in the middle of it, teams have brought in players such as Barcelona, which took a massive gamble with their club to recruit the best players and hopefully, for them, they will get up to speed pretty quickly.
Barcelona have been drawn into the group of death as we call it and they would want to progress to the latter stages. I think they will make it out of the group and will progress quite well into the knockout stages.
Atletico Madrid they have shown signs of slowing down with Diego Simeone as they are conceding more goals, so I don’t think they will be a force to be reckoned with this season, I think they will drop away.
I think the obvious teams will feature in the late stages of the competition, as in Real Madrid and Liverpool, but if you are asking me for the outright winner of this season’s Champions League, I am going to go with PSG. They look like a very stable team, Mpabbe signed a new contract, a new manager, Messi is on fire this season in Paris, Neymar is playing well, and I think that it might be PSG’s year. I think for the team that will progress to the semi-final and go far into the competition, I am going for Spurs, I think Conte will get them far after working so hard last season to get his side into fourth. He has the depth and quality that you would want and come to expect from a team that has lofty ambitions. I am going with Spurs to reach the semi-final.
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*Odds subject to change. Odds correct at time of publishing