The Champions League draws are out and with it comes the speculation as to who will progress beyond the group stage. Meanwhile, the defending champions Barcelona will try everything to become the first side to retain the famous prize.
While some big clubs have relatively easier groups, others have been placed in tougher ones. But this is tfootball and anything can happen. So, let us analyse and predict the likely outcomes of individual groups:
This is perhaps the easiest call as Real Madrid and PSG will both battle for top spot in the group. The French champions will be hoping to break their quarter jinx while Los Blancos will be hoping to snatch the title from their arch rivals Barcelona. Shakhtar Donetsk will be counting on their experience to pip Malmo for a Europa League berth.
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Manchester United are back in the Champions League after thrashing Club Brugge in the qualifying round. In spite of their absence from the competition last year, they are widely expected to reach the last 16. However they face some stern tests along the way, particularly in Bundesliga club Wolfsburg who are playing some brilliant football. PSV are weakened by the departure of Memphis Depay while CSKA Moscow do not have a good record in the Champions League.
Atletico Madrid should be able to dominate the group with ease and are overwhelming favourites to top it. Astana, the Kazakhstan club, will be participating in the competition for the first time but are likely to finish bottom. Benfica and Galatasaray, on the other hand will be battling for the second spot.
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Nicknamed the 'Group of Death', it promises the most action among all the groups. Manchester City continue to remain unlucky in the group stages as they find themselves in the toughest of the groups. Juventus are not the same team that had reached the final last season while City have boosted their squad with some big money signings. Sevilla will be eager to make an impression on the Champions League while Borussia Monchengladbach are back among the elite. Its hard to predict the group because of so much competition prevalent in it, yet ultimately City and Juve should make it through.
Barcelona should ease through despite a summer of calm in Catalonia. Roma have bolstered their attacking front by signing Edin Dzeko and Mohammed Salah and they are likely to beat Bayer Leverkusen to second spot. BATE Borisov complete the group but are favourites to finish bottom.
Bayern Munich and Arsenal are the clear front-runners in this group. The Bavarian side will most certainly outclass the London outfit having eliminated them two times before in the past three years. Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb are ill equipped to battle Bayern and Arsenal and will fight for Europa League spot.
Chelsea, the Premier League champions have an easy group. They might steamroll their opponents, such is the vast difference of quality between them and other clubs in the group. Porto will surely miss Jackson Martinez but are a good side and will finish ahead of Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv.
This group contains the clubs that have under-performed in the tournament in recent editions and is consequently hard to figure out. Lyon, Valencia and Zenit will engage in a three way battle to qualify for the next round while newcomers Ghent have nothing to lose. Valencia and Zenit are likely to overtake Lyon in the race as they are more experienced campaigners which provides them with a bit of an edge.