Lionel Messi will face Pep Guardiola — and perhaps even Cristiano Ronaldo — in a blockbuster Champions League conflict after Paris Saint-Germain had been paired with Manchester City in Group A of this season’s competitors.
Metropolis and PSG, the final two shedding finalists within the Champions League, have each invested enormous sums in participant recruitment this summer time in an effort to finish their shared desperation to win the competitors for the primary time. And Messi, who got here near leaving Barcelona for Metropolis final season, will head to the Etihad Stadium with PSG after finishing a shock transfer to the French giants earlier this month.
Fellow former Champions League winners Sergio Ramos and Georginio Wijnaldum have additionally moved to Paris, with Gianluigi Donnarumma and Achraf Hakimi including to Mauricio Pochettino’s stellar squad. However Metropolis have additionally been busy out there, including £100m star midfielder Jack Grealish from Aston Villa. And though Spurs ahead Harry Kane deserted his hopes of a transfer to the Etihad earlier than the window closes on Aug. 31, sources have instructed ESPN that Guardiola is now near agreeing a deal to take former Manchester United star Ronaldo from Juventus.
Elsewhere within the draw, three former Champions League winners — Liverpool, Porto and AC Milan — have been drawn alongside Spanish champions Atletico Madrid in Group B, whereas Bayern Munich and Barcelona will battle for high spot in Group E. Manchester United and Villarreal have been paired collectively in Group F, guaranteeing a repeat of final season’s Europa League remaining gained by the Spanish group, whereas Moldovan champions Sheriff Tiraspol will mark their competitors debut with video games towards Inter Milan and Real Madrid in Group D.
So how will all of it play out? Listed below are our predictions for the group phases.
Manchester Metropolis, Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig, Membership Brugge
That is the group that might present the eventual winners, with Metropolis and PSG prone to be among the many favourites to make it to the ultimate in Saint Petersburg subsequent Might, however do not rule out RB Leipzig as a harmful outsider able to upsetting the 2 mega golf equipment from England and France.
American coach Jesse Marsch has taken on the powerful process of succeeding Julian Nagelsmann at Leipzig, however the squad that beat PSG and Manchester United in final season’s group stage continues to be largely intact, albeit aside from departed defenders Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate.
If Metropolis land Ronaldo as a substitute for Sergio Aguero, now at Barcelona, they’ll count on to coast by means of the group, however objectives might be an issue if they do not signal a striker earlier than the Aug 31 deadline. In the meantime, PSG could also be with out Kylian Mbappe if he will get his transfer to Actual Madrid, however such is the attacking depth of their squad, they are going to be favourites to high the group.
Groups to advance: PSG, Man Metropolis
Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Porto, AC Milan
A gaggle dripping with Champions League pedigree — Liverpool, Milan and Porto have gained 15 European Cups/Champions Leagues between them — however modern-day type and power factors to Atletico and Liverpool claiming the highest two spots.
Porto coach Sergio Conceicao has constructed a tricky and aggressive group at Estadio do Dragao they usually reached final season’s quarterfinals, however Liverpool and Atleti must be too sturdy for the Portuguese group. Milan, underneath coach Stefano Pioli, have misplaced goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to PSG, however Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to be scoring objectives and summer time signings Olivier Giroud and Fikayo Tomori will make them much more aggressive.
Will probably be tight as all 4 groups are able to taking factors off one another if not paying consideration, however it will likely be a shock if Liverpool and Atleti miss out on qualification.
Groups to advance: Liverpool, Atletico Madrid
Sporting claimed a spot among the many high seeds by profitable their first Portuguese title in 19 years final season, however Borussia Dortmund would be the strongest group within the group.
The German group have been in a position to maintain onto Erling Haaland for one more season and though Jadon Sancho has moved on to Manchester United, younger stars akin to Jude Bellingham and Gio Reyna will likely be key after spectacular performances in final season’s competitors.
Ajax have additionally been ready to withstand advances for highly-rated coach Erik ten Hag this summer time and the Dutch champions are sturdy sufficient to problem for qualification. Turkish champions Besiktas are common group stage qualifiers who battle to progress to the knockout phases, and this season will likely be no completely different.
Groups to advance: Dortmund, Ajax
Inter Milan, Actual Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, FC Sheriff Tiraspol
Though Inter Milan are the “seeded” group on this group by advantage of profitable Serie A final season, the Italian champions have stated goodbye to teach Antonio Conte and main scorer Romelu Lukaku this summer time and will additionally see striker Lautaro Martinez go away earlier than the switch deadline. All of it signifies that the 2010 Champions League winners are susceptible to being knocked out on the group stage.
Actual Madrid at all times make it by means of, even when final season’s marketing campaign was extra turbulent than most, and Carlo Ancelotti’s group will qualify once more. However as they proved by eliminating Monaco with a late struggle again within the Play-Off spherical, Shakhtar are at all times a menace to any group and they’re going to problem for qualification.
As for Sheriff Tiraspol, they’ll do effectively to choose up a degree, however the massive achievement for the Moldovan champions is just reaching the group stage.
Groups to advance: Actual Madrid, Shakhtar
Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Benfica, FC Dynamo Kyiv
One other group full of Champions League historical past, however one which Bayern Munich ought to high with out an excessive amount of concern.
The German champions, unbeaten away from dwelling within the competitors since Oct. 2017, will face Barcelona for the primary time since their 8-2 win within the 2020 quarterfinal in Lisbon, and the summer time exit of Lionel Messi from Camp Nou has left enormous query marks over Barca’s capacity to compete on the high stage. Ronald Koeman’s group continues to be stuffed with high quality, however they’re a way wanting Bayern, so for the primary time in nearly 20 years, Barcelona face a battle to qualify for the Spherical of 16.
Benfica, bolstered by the summer time signing of Ukraine striker Roman Yaremchuk, and Dynamo most likely lack the depth to assert a high two spot, however each will likely be able to make the most of Barcelona’s vulnerability.
Groups to advance: Bayern, Barcelona
Villarreal, Manchester United, Atalanta, BSC Younger Boys
An unpredictable group, Manchester United’s historical past and squad depth suggests they need to declare high spot, however Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s group has proven inconsistency in Europe in current seasons, making qualification in no way sure.
Villarreal, having overwhelmed United in final season’s Europa League remaining, will likely be powerful to beat once more, whereas Atalanta have proven themselves to be world-beaters or also-rans, relying on their temper, over the previous two Champions League campaigns. Swiss champions Younger Boys, managed by former Huddersfield coach David Wagner, have U.S. ahead Jordan Siebatcheu of their squad and will likely be outsiders, however the unpredictability of the opposite groups within the group imply this one is vast open.
Groups to advance: Man United, Villarreal
French champions Lille have misplaced coach Christophe Galtier to Nice since profitable the title final season and in addition seen defender Boubakary Soumare and keeper Mike Maigan go away for Leicester and AC Milan respectively. Timothy Weah could have the prospect to impress within the competitors, with Spanish membership Sevilla would be the favourites to qualify, with Lille, Salzburg and Wolfsburg all battling it out for runners-up spot.
In what’s arguably the weakest group within the competitors, Lille’s summer time losses imply that they’ll battle to make it by means of the group.
Groups to advance: Sevilla, Wolfsburg
Chelsea, Juventus, Zenit St. Petersburg, Malmo
Chelsea have strengthened their possibilities of retaining their Champions League title by signing Romelu Lukaku from Inter this summer time, and they are going to be favourites to high this group with Juventus becoming a member of them within the subsequent spherical. But when Juve do let Cristiano Ronaldo go away earlier than the switch deadline, it might go away Massimiliano Allegri’s groups struggling for objectives within the group.
Will that matter? Russian champions Zenit are perennial underachievers within the group phases, whereas Malmo will likely be outsiders after overcoming Rangers and Ludogorets to make it this far.
Finally, the weak spot of the group might but show to be Juventus’s salvation, although Chelsea ought to cruise by means of forward of them.
Groups to advance: Chelsea, Juventus