The UEFA Champions League Draw took place last Thursday, placing Europe’s 32 top teams into 8 groups.
The event provided us football fans with an early dose of intrigue – and I’m not referring to Eric Cantona’s mad philosophical ramble – with some exciting fixtures on the football calendar.
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LEAGUE NAME: NeverManageAlone
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Here is the UEFA Champions League group stage draw in full:
- Paris Saint-Germain
- Real Madrid
- Club Brugge
- RB Leipzig
For Champions League Fantasy managers, the settled groups mean that we can begin picking our first draft teams.
Here’s my verdict on the groups and a first glance at the Fantasy League prospects to consider.
Group A (PSG, Real Madrid, Club Brugge, Galatasaray)
The two heavyweights in this group already look like they have been through a few tough boxing rounds in the transfer market. PSG’s summer has been all about the Neymar saga, while Real Madrid had its own soap opera surrounding Gareth Bale. Nevertheless, Club Brugge and Galatasaray should find it difficult to upset the apple cart in this group.
Verdict: PSG and Real Madrid to advance comfortably to the next round.
Fantasy Highlights: Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and a reintegrated Neymar are the headline acts for Thomas Tuchel’s men. For Real Madrid, Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema are the main draws with strong defensive options in Marcelo and jiu jitsu master Sergio Ramos. Galatasaray may present some bargain defenders for their traditionally challenging home ties, and a young Brugge team may be more of a wait and see.
Group B (Bayern Munich, Tottenham, Olympiakos, Red Star Belgrade)
This group pits last year’s tournament runner up Spurs against the German champions. Spurs have shown that they have the quality to beat anyone in Europe, while Bayern are always a strong contender. Greek champions Olympiakos are a plucky outfit, while Red Star Belgrade (aka Crvena Zvezda) showed last year that they can be a banana skin on their home turf.
Verdict: Spurs and Bayern to advance with a few upsets along the way.
Fantasy Highlights: Harry Kane is the main man for Mauricio Pocchetino’s men alongside Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen. For Robert Kovac’s Bayern, Robert Lewandowski is the chief threat with Kingsley Coman and the newly arrived Coutinho supporting in attack. Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba are attacking defenders for fantasy managers to have. El-Arabi and Randelovic are in form for Olympiakos, while Red Star Belgrade may give us some cheap defenders to consider around their home ties.
Group C (Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb, Atalanta)
Manchester City should dominate this group on their quest for a first UCL title. Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb are difficult away trips, and newcomers Atalanta have enough tools in the locker to put together a creditable UCL campaign.
Verdict: Manchester City to top the group with Atalanta probably squeezing into the next round.
Fantasy Highlights: Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling carry the attacking burden for Pep Guardiola’s team. Both Shakhtar Donetsk and Atalanta have goals in them, and Zagreb may offer some cheap squad fillers around their home fixtures.
Group D (Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Moscow)
Atletico Madrid would have seen enough of Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus after last season’s Round of 16 elimination, but the football gods do have a sense of humor. Each has undergone something of a makeover in the offseason and can be considered a legitimate title contender. Bayer Leverkusen is no pushover though, and Lokomotiv Moscow may leverage a home field advantage during the winter period.
Verdict: Juventus and Atletico Madrid to advance while serving up two classic head to head encounters.
Fantasy Highlights: Cristiano Ronaldo is the top marksman in this group, but Juventus present a slew of fantasy prospects across the park to consider. A new-look Atletico Madrid squad may add more attacking prospects than usual, with record signing Joao Felix on the radar for Diego Simeone’s team. Leverkusen’s Jamaican wunderkind Leon Bailey will relish his debut UCL campaign while I’m keeping an eye on Aleksey Miranchuk and Fedor Smolov from the Russian outfit.
Group E (Liverpool, Napoli, Salzburg, Genk)
Napoli and last season’s winners Liverpool provided us with showpiece attacking football a year ago, and they’ll likely continue, having drawn together again in Group E. Salzburg are always in the goals on home turf, while Belgian champs Genk may surprise some.
Verdict: Liverpool and Napoli to advance comfortably from this group.
Fantasy Highlights: Liverpool warrant hefty investment starting with their feared attacking trio (Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino). UEFA’s player of the season Virgil Van Dijk and the two marauding wing backs (Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson) also present strong value in defense. For Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli, look to Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and company with defensive options as well. Keep an eye on the player prices for Salzburg and Genk midfielders for possible bargain filler options.
Group F (Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Slavia Prague)
The Group of Death! Inter Milan could not have feared a tougher return to the Champions League being placed in a group with La Liga champs Barcelona and athletic Borussia Dortmund. If this reaction is anything to go by, minnows Slavia Prague do not seem happy with their lot!
Verdict: Barcelona to advance, but it’s a toss up between Dortmund and Inter for the other available spot.
Fantasy Highlights: Lionel Messi is top prospect for Ernesto Valverde’s men, but I’ve got my eye on the newly signed Antoine Griezmann and the Barca defense. Dortmund’s athletic young outfit are always amongst the goals, so look to Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus and Paco Alcacer to flourish. For Antonio Conte’s men, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez spearhead the attack. While there are options in defense, the difficulty of the group calls for caution. Slavia Prague will struggle for credibility.
Group G (Zenit, Benfica, Lyon, RB Leipzig)
What’s the opposite of a group of death? Group of opportunity? The absence of a powerhouse club in this group makes for an open playing field. Russian champions Zenit are inconsistent on the European stage but have good home advantage. Lyon are probably the strongest team in the group, while either Benfica and RB Leipzig could advance by consistently showing us their best game.
Verdict: Really anyone from this group can advance to the next stage, but I’ll go for Lyon and Benfica based on their better tournament know how.
Fantasy Highlights: Artem Dyzuba is the attacking outlet for Zenit, and newly signed Malcom is another prospect to watch. For Lyon, Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele are great options. I’ve got my eye on Benfica’s striker Pizzi as well as attacking defender Alex Grimaldo. Timo Werner is the hotshot striker for Leipzig, while midfielder Marcel Sabitzer is another one to watch.
Group H (Chelsea, Ajax, Valencia, Lille)
A youthful Chelsea outfit return to the Champions League and will meet last year’s beaten semi-finalists Ajax, La Liga’s Valencia and Ligue 1 runners up Lille.
Verdict: Ajax to advance from this group. I’ll go for Chelsea as well, but with some tough lessons along the way for the youthful Londoners.
Fantasy Highlights: Frank Lampard’s attacking ethos gives us a few options in Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic. We’ll look to Erik Ten Hag’s men to present a number of strong options in Dusan Tadic, Hakim Ziyech and Nicolas Tagliafico. For Valencia, I’ve got my eye on (the other) Rodrigo, Carlos Soler and Kevin Gameiro. Victor Osimhen already has four goals for Lille, and Timothy Weah is also worth mention.
HOW TO JOIN THE NEVER MANAGE ALONE LEAGUE
SIGNING UP FOR UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FANTASY
If you have not already done so, you will want to register at the UEFA Champions League fantasy site. Then you need to create your UEFA Champions League fantasy team, selecting all 15 players, your captain, a badge and your team name.
JOINING THE NMA LEAGUE
It’s great to play against everybody in the world, but it’s also brilliant fun competing against the whip-smart Never Manage Alone bloggers and our global gathering of savvy community members. So once you have registered and created your team, you will want to be sure to join the NMA league.
LEAGUE NAME: NeverManageAlone
LEAGUE CODE: 86QD7Y2TGE
(Enter the league name and code, then click on “Join.”)
We will have plenty more Champions League fantasy coverage this season, including our initial Player Picks post coming soon to help you put together your teams before the Group Stage starts, so be sure to check back with us at Never Manage Alone regularly.
What do you think of the UCL draw? Do you see any must-haves for your team? Are you new to NMA’s UCL coverage? Have you vied with us before? Are you joining just to have something to do in the middle of some weeks? Please introduce yourself in the comments below!