After a lengthy preliminary round, which saw eight teams earn their place in the next phase of the tournament, the 2019/20 Champions League tournament will get underway in earnest this week with the big boys in the competition joining the action in the first of six Matchdays in the Group Stages of the tournament.
Holders Liverpool and finalists Spurs are two of the four British teams taking part, while the likes of Juventus, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Paris St Germain, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will all likely be amongst the favourites to go far in this tournament this season.
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Lets’ now bring you a closer look at each of the games taking place this week, together with our tips for how we see each of the four groups finishing up.
Champions League – Tuesday 17th September
- Red Bull Salzburg v Genk
- Napoli v Liverpool
As holders, Liverpool should be confident of progressing from Group E, even though they start with their toughest test away to Napoli. If they Reds can take a point there, I fancy them to top the group as I think they will win all three home games, plus at least two on the road.
Napoli should finish second to the Reds but Carlo Ancelotti’s team will have to improve defensively after a worrying start to the Serie A season defensively. Even so, they have more than enough talent to push Liverpool close and get the better of the two other teams in the Group.
I fancy Red Bull Salzburg to take third ahead of a young Genk side as the Austrian side has plenty of European experience in recent years and they are not a bad team. I can see them taking four points from their games with Genk plus maybe a point at home to Napoli to finish third.
Predicted Group E Standings
- Red Bull Salzburg
- Inter Milan v Slavia Prague (5.55pm)
- B.Dortmund v Barcelona
This group all depends on how strong Inter Milan are. They have invested in some big-name players in the summer and if they fire, then I can see them being a real challenger to Dortmund and Barcelona for one of the top two spots in the group.
With Slavia Prague the likely whipping boys in this section, the outcome of the games between the top trio will decide the group and I fancy Barcelona with all their star quality, to bounce back from an indifferent start to the La Liga season to claim top spot.
Dortmund I feel will just shade it past Inter thanks to their greater experience and more settled team, but it will hinge on how they perform in Milan as to how comfortable their progress into the knockout round is so don’t rule out a surprise from Inter in this group.
Predicted Group F Standings
- Borussia Dortmund
- Inter Milan
- Slavia Prague
- Lyon v Zenit St Petersburg (5.55pm)
- Benfica v Red Bull Leipzig
This is a very tough group to call and you can make a case for any number of permutations within the group. I feel that this will go down to the final set of games on Matchday six and it could well be the teams that prevail in those two games that earn the qualifying spots.
Benfica for me are the strongest team, but only just ahead of Lyon who I just have ahead of Leipzig and Zenit St Petersburg. I expect the team who does the best on the road out of the four to top the group and while last year I’d have backed Lyon for that, I think the sales they have made means Benfica are the pick.
I’m still backing the French team to finish second and qualify and I think Red Bull Leipzig will have to content themselves with Europa League knockout stage qualification in third. However, this could well be a very close group.
Predicted Group G Standings
- Red Bull Leipzig
- Zenit St Petersburg
- Ajax v Lille
- Chelsea v Valencia
This is another very competitive group and you can make a case for any of the four sides qualifying. I think Lille are the weakest team, but even so I expect them to make things very difficult for all their other opponents at home in France and it may well be who does best there that has the edge in this group.
Ajax reached the semifinals last season but I feel they have lost a couple of key players from that team and it is going to take them a while to get that swagger back. Chelsea are another team in transition and I think their youth could see them at a disadvantage here, especially at home to Ajax and Valencia in particular.
Valencia are a tricky side to predict and they do tend to be stoic and hard to beat and play on the counter which is not suited to Chelsea or Lille. As such, I think Valencia and Ajax will be the teams going through with perhaps Chelsea making it only into the Europa League.
Predicted Group H Standings
Champions League – Wednesday 18th September
- Club Brugge v Galatasaray (5.55pm)
- Paris St Germain v Real Madrid
Group A is one of the more clearcut groups in my view with Paris St Germain and Real Madrid the two huge favourites to qualify and in truth, I cannot see any way in which these two giants of the European game do not make the next phase.
I fancy PSG to come out on top as I think Real Madrid are having a bit of a transitional phase at the moment and Zidane has not quite got the balance in this team right. PSG, even with the Neymar situation ongoing, should be capable of beating them at home and maybe clinching a draw in Spain.
As for third, I think if Galatasaray can earn a point or better in Belgium on the opening night then they will be hot favourites to earn the Europa League spot on offer for third.
Predicted Group A Standings
- Paris St Germain
- Real Madrid
- Club Brugge
- Olympiakos v Tottenham (5.55pm)
- Bayern Munich v Red Star Belgrade
Rather like Group A, I fancy the two strongest teams to qualify from Group B with Bayern Munich and last years beaten finalists Tottenham taking the top two spots comfortably ahead of the team in third place.
The German side have loaned Coutinho from Barcelona and I think that is a wise move which will give them a slight edge in this group once he is fully fit. Spurs should be more than capable of a second placed finish but will want to qualify more impressively than they did when scraping through their group last season.
Red Star are tough to beat at home but I think Olympiakos have a better team and better experience and as such, I think they will claim third place in the group.
Predicted Group B Standings
- Bayern Munich
- Red Star Belgrade
- Dinamo Zagreb v Atalanta
- Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City
For me, Group C is all about who finishes behind Manchester City in the group as I can see the English Champions winning at least five, if not all six, of their games in the group stage.
The remaining three teams are all pretty well matched but I do feel Atalanta are the most exciting team of the trio and I think they will be more likely than anyone to take a point off City, which I think could be vital in deciding who finishes second.
I think Zagreb have potential to be a good side but are not quite there yet which means Donetsk would be my choice to finish in the Europa League qualifying spot.
Predicted Group C Standings
- Man City
- Shakhtar Donetsk
- Dinamo Zagreb
- Atletico Madrid v Juventus
- Bayer Leverkusen v Lokomotiv Moscow
Group D has two big names in that I expect to dominate the group and I can see Atletico Madrid and Juventus both qualifying from this group, both perhaps unbeaten and with the same number of points but with Juventus perhaps having a better goal difference.
Atletico have started the season well, as have Juventus but I feel that Juve’s added firepower makes them the team likely to have the better goal difference and perhaps earn more points if it is possible to separate the two teams by points.
As for third, Leverkusen for me are the stronger and more capable of the two other teams and I’d expect them to see of Lokomotive for a third spot in this group.
Predicted Group D Standings
- Atletico Madrid
- Bayer Leverkusen
- Lokomotiv Moscow