Europe’s premier club competition returns this week. English clubs will be looking to stop Spanish giants from winning the competition for a sixth successive year. The last English club to win the competition was Chelsea in 2012. Liverpool fell at the final hurdle last season against 13 time winners Real Madrid. They will be hoping to go one better this season. Here we will take a look at the Premier League sides involved in this seasons competition and assess their chances of progressing past the group stages.
Group F Opponents
- Shakhtar Donetsk
City were dominant in England last season storming to the Premier League title. They would have been bitterly disappointed with a quarter final exit to 5 times Champions Liverpool. Man City are yet to announce themselves on the European stage in a major way and this season seems like the perfect opportunity to do so. The group stage draw has been kind to Pep Guardiola’s side who should be confident in their ability to top Group F. For the second year in a row they have been drawn in the same group as Shakhtar. They lost away in the Ukraine last season but won 2-0 in Manchester. Both Lyon and Hoffenheim finished 3rd last season in their respective leagues. It would be a massive upset if they stopped City from progressing to the knockout rounds.
Group H Opponents
- Young Boys
The Champions League may be United’s best chance at major success this season as they don’t seem to be up to speed with City and Liverpool in the Premier League. Mourinho is a proven winner in the Champions League having won it twice as a manager. (In 2004 with Porto and 2010 with Inter Milan). It won’t be easy for the Red devils though. They have to travel to Spain to face Valencia. United have struggled to win in Spain in previous seasons, crashing out to Sevilla over two legs last season. The fixture most United fans will be looking forward to is the home tie against Juventus which will see Cristiano Ronaldo return to Old Trafford. Juventus have been dominant in Italy for the past number of years. With the addition of Ronaldo they will be hoping to go far in the competition this time round, and are the early favourites to top the group. Young Boys looks like the easiest fixture on paper but it’s worth noting that United have struggled in Switzerland in the past. United will have to make Old Trafford a fortress in order to progress to the knockout stages.
Group C Opponents
- Red Star Belgrade
Five time winners Liverpool will be looking to put the pain of last year’s final behind them by going one better this time round. They have made improvements during the summer and now have a world class keeper in Alisson. There first big test will come in Matchday 1 against PSG at Anfield. The French champions will be looking to go far in this year’s competition after a round of 16 exit last time out. Liverpool’s record against big clubs is impressive and they won’t be intimidated by the likes of Neymar and Mbappé. The Reds should be too strong for Napoli and Red Star over two matches and should progress to the next round if they perform as well as they can consistently.
Group B Opponents
- Inter Milan
- PSV Eindhoven
Spurs have a lot of work to do after being drawn in to a Group of Death full of European giants. They finished fourth in the league last season and have been foolish not to strengthen their side ahead of the new campaign. Like United they will need to be on top of their game at home in order to progress. They will fancy their chances against Inter who are not the power they once were and they should have too much for PSV. Though they aren’t the threat they once were Barcelona should still be too strong for Spurs especially at Camp Nou. A second place finish is achievable for the North London side.
The Champions League kicks off tomorrow evening and will end on June 1st with the final in Madrid.