Welcome back for the third installment UCL group overviews. To go back and read about Groups A & B teams, click here. If you missed Groups C & D survey, click here. Also, it is highly recommended for new and returning players alike to refer to my colleague Prakhar Patel’s article to kick off your UCL fantasy season well prepared!
Spanish manager Julen Lopetegui won his first team level trophy (UEFA Europa League) as a manager last season in his first year with Seville. It is highly unlikely for the Spanish outfit to win the Europa League again this season since Group E is as straight forward as it gets, so Seville will be expected to qualify comfortably to the Round of 16.
The Spanish team started last season’s Europa League by winning five out of six in the group stage while having a slightly rocky start at the domestic level. Sevilla ended up third in La Liga on head to head results against Atletico Madrid. In the process to reach the final of the Europa League, Seville eliminated CFR Cluj on penalty shootouts, Roma, Wolves, Manchester United and finally Inter Milan to win the competition.
Key Transfers: Susu signed permanently in the summer after starting a successful loan last January. Oscar Rodriguez joined from Real Madrid, Idrissi from Alkmaar, Acuna from Sporting CP, and Ivan Rakitic from Barcelona. Off went Kjaer to AC Milan, goalkeeper Rico to PSG among other releases at the ends of their contracts.
Recent Form: (LWWD) Sevilla started the season losing the UEFA super cup to Bayern in an entertaining match (1-2) followed by two comfortable La Liga victories and finally a draw against rejuvenated Barcelona to sit in fourth position in the table.
Lead by Frank Lampard, Chelsea was inconsistent yet entertaining and energetic last season. It took a whole season for the English former international to find his groove as a manager. The London based club was unfortunate in the group stage drawing against Valencia and Ajax in last season’s Champions League. That group produced some of the most jaw dropping moments and matches, especially the 4-4 draw between Chelsea and Ajax that eventually lead to Chelsea advancing only to draw Bayern in the Round of 16. The English team and their manager were no match for last season’s best team in Europe, losing both legs of the tie.
In the Premier League, Chelsea occupied 4th position most of the season, fighting Manchester United for third place (and falling short). Chelsea had a busy summer transfer market, so their squad looks more established on paper and stronger on the field than last season. Unless a dark horse emerges from this group, Lampard will comfortably go to the Round of 16 and hope for a better draw this year.
Key Transfers: Around 250 million Euros worth: Kai Havertz from Leverkuzen, Timo Werner from Leipzig, Ben Chilwell from Leicester, Hakim Ziyech from Ajax, and keeper Edouard Mendy from Rennes. Plus Sarr and Thaigo Silva joined as free transfers. Alvaro Morata and Pasalic transfered out after successful loan spells at Atletico Madrid and Atalanta respectively, while Nathan was sold to Brazilian team Atletico MG, and Bakayoko is on loan to Napoli. Both Willian and Pedro left on free transfers to Arsenal and Roma.
Recent Form: (LWDLW) The form looks inconsistent, but considering that the first loss came against Premier League title holders Liverpool and the second against out of this world Tottenham by penalty shootout in the EFL cup, Chelsea has been performing well this season so far. To say the least, Chelsea may be the only big name EPL club to avoid a 5+ goal thrashing.
Not only is the Russian team a first timer in the Champions League, but their qualification brings in more than that. Season 2020-21 is the first to have three Russian clubs in the group stage. These Russians sport a green outfit, which is an unusually rare sight among European top flight clubs.
Krasnodar is led by a young Russian 36-years-old Murad Musaev. They placed third in the Russian Premier League, leaping over CSKA Moscow in the final week. In the Europa League, they came close to second place in the group stage behind Getafe after winning three and losing three. This season, Krasnodar qualified to the group stage after beating Greeks PAOK Salonika 4-2 on aggregate in the qualifying round. Most of the attacking players in their starting XI made the team of the year domestically, so it may be worth looking here for potential fantasy points from budget candidates.
Key Transfers: Chernov joined from Rostov, Markov from Dynamo Moscow, and Smolnikov from Zenit. Some players contracts were expired and signed by other clubs.
Recent Form: (WWDWL) after a rocky start to the season, ten matches in and Krasnodar are in 8th place trying to catch up to the UCL qualifying spots.
Having done well in the first two thirds of last season, Rennes qualified as a recommendation from the French Football Federation after the league was abandoned. Their participation in the Europa League last season was not satisfactory, losing four, drawing one and winning only one match in the group stage. It is worth noting that Rennes (jointly with Lille) currently tops Ligue 1 with 14 points from six matches.
Key Transfers: Spending well this summer, Rennes bought Doku from Anderlecht, Guirassy from Amiens, Terrier from Lyon, and Gomis from Dijon. Mendy was sold to Chelsea, and Raphinha was sold to Leeds.
Recent Form: (WWWWD) In excellent form since the start of the season on a domestic level, Rennes are poised to be a dark horse in the UCL this year.
The third toughest group of all — all teams have an equal chance to qualify to the Round of 16 except for Club Brugge who will have their work cut out for them.
Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia)
The Russian Premier League title holders have become a major force in the Russian football scene and regular participant in the UCL since Gazprom purchased a controlling stake in the club in 2005. Last season, they won the domestic league comfortably with by 15 points. They also played in the UCL in a similar group. Such groups can be referred to as the underdogs’ group of death. Zenit came in last place only one point behind qualification to the Round of 16, losing third place due to head to head results with Benfica. Lazio and Dortmund may have more quality than Zenit, but the Russians should have a better chance than last year since the Germans and Italians have not performed well in recent years on a continental level.
Key Transfers: Zenit brought in Wendel from Sporting CP and Lovren from Liverpool. The only notable departure is Hernani to Parma.
Recent Form: (DWDWD) Having slight difficulty in away matches, the Russians have lost only once in the ten matches played this season and are on top of the Russian League jointly with Spartak Moscow.
Last season’s UCL journey for Dortmund was a difficult one. They managed to qualify from the group of death along with Barcelona only to draw PSG in the Round of 16. Even though the Germans showed promise to knockout the eventual finalists, the return leg did not go their way. On a domestic level, Dortmund ended the season in second place after a tough four-way race for three UCL spots. The club has one of the strongest attacking trios in Europe, led by young talent Haland under the management of Swiss coach Lucien Favre. The odds are in their favor to top this group.
Key Transfers: Emre Can signed from Juventus after his loan spell. 17-years-old Bellingham was bought from Birmingham, while Munier joined on a free transfer. Notably, Gotze left the club to join Eindhoven.
Recent Form: (WWLLW) Dortmund is currently sitting 5th after playing three only matches. They lost the domestic super cup to Bayern earlier, but as usual have no issues to bounce back from any loss with thrashing their next opponent.
By March 2020, Lazio was in top form while Juventus and Inter were struggling. It was apparent that a new Serie A title holder would be named. Then the league was suspended, returning in July. Lazio was timid at that time and could not continue their title chase. They were so focused on the domestic league early in the season, so they placed third in the Europa League group stage last season as well. Eventually, Lazio finished the league in fourth just to qualify to UCL group stage. While Zenit is more established in the UCL than Lazio in recent years, it is all up to former player and current manager Simeone Inzaghi to focus on Europe as much as Serie A and the results will come.
Key Transfers: Vedat Muriqi arrived from Fenerbahce and Fares from SPAL. Pereira is on loan from Manchester United, and Lazio’s bench is this season’s choice of unsettled Spanish goalkeeper Pepe Reina. World Cup runner-up Milan Badelj departed to Genoa, and Berisha left for Stade Reims among many other young talent loans.
Recent Form: (WLD) faced with two strong teams early in the season, Lazio conceded a heavy 4-1 loss against Atalanta and held Inter to a draw. The capital team is currently sitting mid-table.
Club Brugge (Belgium)
Club Brugge were as usual comfortable winners of the Jupiler Pro League last season by 15 points. They are led by Belgian coach Philippe Clement since Summer of 2019. In last season’s UCL, Club Brugge was in the same group as PSG and Real Madrid, so they were really competing with Galatasaray to qualify for the Europa League. Brugge succeed, recording three draws and three losses; one draw better than Galatasaray. Unfortunately, they drew Manchester United in Europa League and lost 6-1 on aggregate.
Key Transfers: Young talent Lang is on loan from Ajax to add to a squad that remains almost intact.
Recent Form: (WWWWW) Perfect 5 out of 5 on a domestic level and currently in second place after eight matches played.
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What are your UCL fantasy thoughts on groups E & F? Please share in the comments below!