Soccer

Champions League group stage draw rankings: If PSG and Man City are in the group of death, who’s behind them?

The UEFA Champions League groups have been drawn for the group stage starting next month, and we were treated with some of the most intriguing matchups imaginable. We may just get Lionel Messi against Cristiano Ronaldo twice, Barcelona get to face Bayern Munich again and the reigning champs Chelsea have a manageable, yet tricky group. You can catch all the action this season on Paramount+

The groups this coming campaign are so much better and more balanced than last season, where we had Group G with Juventus, Barcelona, Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros or Group E with Chelsea, Sevilla, Krasnodar and Rennes, for example. Every single group has consistent, quality teams that should make for perhaps the best Champions League campaign in recent memory.

Here are all eight groups ranked from worst to best, though even the lowest ranked group features three teams from the big five European leagues and is wide open.

8. Group G

Teams: Lille, Sevilla, Salzburg and Wolfsburg
Why here: A solid group with Sevilla as the favorite, you can make a case for any of the four making the knockout stage. RB Salzburg face the biggest battle to go through, but with Lille having lost some talent and with Wolfsburg and Sevilla looking strong with quality acquisitions, this feels like a group that will go down to the final day. 

7. Group C

Teams: Sporting Lisbon, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax and Besiktas
Why: A group with no real contenders but two dark horses in Dortmund and Ajax. Yes, I know they are both massive clubs and have made runs in the competition recently, but their defenses need some work. Still, this is another group where every team has a real chance. Dortmund and Ajax are the clear favorites to advance, but don’t be shocked if Ajax slip out and Sporting Lisbon go through. The over/under on Erling Haaland goals for the group stage has to bet set at like 7.5, doesn’t it? Expect plenty of goals from this group.

6. Group H

Teams: Chelsea, Juventus, Zenit and Malmo
Why: One true contender in Chelsea, a wannabee contender in Juventus that may lose Ronaldo, and little else. This is as clear-cut as any group in terms of what two teams should advance to the next round. If any team gives them trouble, it would be Zenit, but this isn’t the same Russian side of five or so years ago that had serious quality. 

5. Group  D

Teams: Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk and Sheriff Tiraspol
Why: For back-to-back seasons, Inter, Real and Shakhtar are drawn together. As you may remember, they were joined by Borussia Monchengladbach last season with Inter finishing dead last in the group. This season, don’t be surprised if they miss out on the knockout stage again after losing Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea. Sherrif will likely suffer six defeats, and it may come down to just how these teams do head to head with a tiebreaker feeling likely to be needed. It’s going to be a blood bath.

4. Group  F

Teams: Villarreal, Manchester United, Atalanta and Young Boys
Why: This is a fun group for a lot of reasons. First, you’ve got two rematches of last year’s Europa League final between Villarreal and Man United. Then, you’ve got one of the high-flying squads of Europe in Atalanta that can produce four goals a game like it is nothing. Young Boys aren’t a pushover either, especially at home, and there is one team with dreams of a deep run that fail to advance.

3. Group E

Teams: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Benfica and Dynamo Kyiv
Why: Three legendary clubs in Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Benfica, but only one of which has a chance to do something big. Obviously, that is Bayern, but Barca and Benfica should battle it out for the second spot. What makes this even more enticing is all of these teams having to go play in a tricky play like Kyiv, where points are far from guaranteed. 

2. Group B

Teams: Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Porto and AC Milan
Why: Just think that Milan got this draw, and it was the better of the two options they had. Their consolation is Atleti, Liverpool and Porto. That’s tricky, and it is hard to see how either Porto or Milan get past Atleti and Liverpool, though we should never discount what Zlatan Ibrahimovic can bring to Milan. This team has two clear contenders to win the title. The other fun factor here is that Luis Suarez gets to return to Anfield again after doing so as a member of Barcelona in the 2019 knockout stage.

1. Group A 

Teams: Man City, PSG, Leipzig and Brugge
Why: Come on. This group is the best for a lot of reasons, one being Messi and his new club facing the team people thought Messi would join in Man City. Messi against Pep Guardiola again, but this will be ever bigger if Ronaldo does indeed leave Juventus for City. We would get Messi and Ronaldo in the group stage for back-to-back seasons and then have a team in RB Leipzig that won’t fear anybody, led by ultra-confident American manager Jesse Marsch. But no other group can top one that potentially features the two best players in the entire world. 



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