It is time we shed some light on the last two groups in the UEFA Champions League (Groups G and H) this season. If you missed any of Never Manage Alone UCL season 20-21 clubs survey, here are the links:
- Groups A & B featuring Bayern München, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Inter Milan
- Groups C & D featuring Manchester City, Porto, Liverpool, Ajax and Atalanta
- Groups E & F featuring Seville, Chelsea, Zenit, Dortmund and Lazio
This group discussions will most probably never be about who is going to qualify to the Round of 16 rather than who is going to win, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. It does all the difference to qualify 1st or 2nd in the Champion League, therefore; we are set for a couple of entertaining matches while the rest are fantasy points treasures.
Until last season, the Serie A title had become a monopoly owned by the Old Lady. After Conte and Allegri established a winning side, captain smoker “Sari” strategies did not mesh well with the squad at hand. It was evident by every match performance and statistics as well having won the league with only one point ahead of Inter. It was like the English Premier League and Serie A decided to switch their roles in terms of early season conclusion.
On a continental level, Juventus had no trouble winning their UCL group last season. They drew Lyon in the Round of 16, which was assumed to be an easy step towards a long awaited UCL victory. Lyon however were neither easy nor a step, knocking out Juventus.
Juventus left no stone unturned in the Summer; the club’s name appeared in many transfer rumors, scrambling to put a stop to last year’s black and blue revolution embodied in both Inter and Atalanta. Even though the market has a few tested names that would jump at the opportunity to manage Juventus, lead them to European triumph and retain domestic dominance, the blacks and whites opted to hire former player and curve ball monster Andrea Pirlo.
Key Transfers: Arthur was brought in from Barcelona, Mandragora from Udinese, Morata from Atletico on loan and a last-minute loan of Chiesa from Fiorentina. Pjanic departed to Barcelona, Matuidi and Higuain joined MLS team Inter Miami.
Recent Performance: (WD) Juventus under Pirlo is not properly tested yet. They were barely able to draw against a well-organised Roma side.
Barcelona have been delaying the inevitable for a couple of years before last season. The squad was becoming old, and after Iniesta was no longer the director of play, tactics were more random and individual based than organized or planned. Barcelona management, players and staff had been making the media headlines with reports of internal issues until the Catalonia club started imploding.
The first sign was an unexpected draw in the first leg against Napoli in the UCL Round of 16. The second sign was losing the La Liga title to one of the weakest Real Madrid squads in recent years. Finally, it happened on the pitch in UCL Quarterfinals: The odds were in Bayern’s favor to qualify through the Quarterfinals, but that was just not enough. An 8-goal demolition caused Barcelona fans momentary rage followed by sighs of relief that change was about happen.
All summer, the drama around Messi leaving Barca somehow resulted in rapid changes. Though critics’ opinions vary on how the players’ movements and contracts were handled, the club can now grasp shimmers of light breaking through the rubble of recent events under the leadership of Dutch tactician Ronald Koeman.
Key Transfers: Pjanic was brought in from Juventus, Trincao from Braga, Dest from Ajax, and Fernandes from Palmeiras; and Coutinho returned from his loan spell at Bayern. Arthur joined Juventus, Semedo joined Wolves, Perez left for Roma, Rakitic went to Sevilla, Vidal found a place at Inter, and Suarez joined Atletico Madrid.
Recent Form: (WWD) Not much to go on as well in terms of form, however; results are promising not to mention Coutinho’s new found flair.
Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine)
Led by Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko, the Ukrainians are not yet what they used to be in the recent past, Shakhtar Donetsk taking over the reigns in the domestic league. Dynamo at least did enough to secure a spot in the qualifying rounds of the UCL, placing second after a strong competition from Zorya and Desna.
Dynamo Kyiv participated in last season’s Europa League. They came in third by the end of the group stage to bow out of the competition quietly. They started this season on a higher gear, defeating Shakhtar Donetsk in the domestic super cup 3-1 and knocked out Alkmaar and Gent on their way to the UCL group stage.
Key Transfers: Not one penny spent or made by the club bringing in mainly players from their second team.
Recent Form: (WWWWD) Excellent unbeaten run since the start of the season standing on top of the domestic league after 5 matches played.
This is not the first time the Hungarian giants reach the UCL group stage; they qualified in 1995-96 season as well. Domestically, the club is its strongest in history, having won 31 first-tier league titles. Such a team is not a regular in UCL because Hungary’s domestic league winner is allocated a spot only in the first qualifying round, so they must go through four other clubs in 2-legged matches just to reach this stage.
Ferencvaros participated in the Europa League last season, finishing third even though they conceded only one defeat from six matches. In the qualifying round this season, they knocked out Djurgardens, Celtic, Dinamo Zagreb and Molde on away goals to return to UCL after 25 years. It is unlikely that Ferencvaros will have any impact in this group, but current manager Sergiy Rebrov and his boys will enjoy the experience.
Key Transfers: Zubkov arrived from Shakhtar Donetsk and Croatian talent Baturina is brought up from the second team.
Recent Form: (WWDDW) Still undefeated since the start of the season and drawn only against Molde in UCL final qualifying round.
Group G – Matchday-1 Fixtures:
- Dynamo Kyiv vs Juventus
- Barcelona vs Ferencvaros
Paris Saint-Germain (France)
There has been no competition for the French capital giants on a domestic level in recent years. They spent heavily to form a world class squad aiming to become a major force in Europe. Last season was the first occasion that PSG reached the UCL final. They won their group over Real Madrid, defeated Dortmund convincingly in the round of 16, tired out Atalanta to turn the tide in the quarterfinals, and had no trouble against Leipzig in the semifinals. In one of the most closed off finals of UCL history, PSG lost 0-1 against Bayern.
PSG is one of a handful of clubs in Europe where a manager is not really a factor for 99% of the time due to the high quality of the players starting or on the bench. Bayern Munchen were not as outrageously strong as many onlookers would perceive; they were merely the only good side in Europe last season. While PSG’s Tuchel tactics against Atalanta were to use his club’s squad depth of quality to tire out the Italian defences, the same cannot be applied against a team like the Bavarians with an equivalent squad depth, so the victory is more Flick’s than anyone else’s.
PSG is in the group of death, and every bit of information is power. Leipzig tasted PSG power (individual quality) in the 0-3 defeat in the UCL Semi-finals of last season, so Tuchel needs to start acting like a manager who does not depend on the quality of individuals rather than the whole team cohesion.
Key Transfers: Mauro Icardi transfer is completed after a successful loan spell. Rico joined from Seville, Rafinha from Barcelona, and Pereira is loaned from Porto. Meunier left for Dortmund, Choupo-Moting to Bayern, Cavani to Manchester United and Thiago Silva to Chelsea.
Recent Form: (LWWWW) After two early losses, PSG has won four in a row to rise up to 4th in the Ligue 1 table.
Former Manchester United player and current manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer was appointed in March 2019 to help the club recover that season, and he led United to Europa League qualification. The Red Devils reached the semifinals of the ensuing Europa League last season by winning their group and then knocking out Club Brugge, LASK and Copenhagen before bowing out to competition veterans Seville. In my humble opinion, there is no shame in losing to Seville in the Europa League.
Solskjaer managed to end the domestic season in third place, edging Chelsea on head to head results to achieve UCL qualification this season. Even though Manchester United odds are to drop back into Europa League by the end of the group stage, it won’t be without a difficult fight.
Key Transfers: Manchester United brought in Donny van de Beek from Ajax, Alex Telles from Porto, and Cavani from PSG; Chris Smalling was offloaded to Roma.
Recent Form: (LWWWL) Manchester United are going strong in the EFL Cup, but they were unfortunately one of the EPL gw-4 victims, suffering a 1-6 home loss to Tottenham at Old Trafford.
RB Leipzig (Germany)
RB Leipzig is an 11-year-old club managed by 33-year-old German coach Julian Nagelsmann. RB Leipzig has become a major name in the Bundesliga, and its management is not showing any intentions of slowing down. They spent the first half of the season on top of the table, but the regulars Bayern and Dortmund caught up eventually to leave Leipzig behind in 3rd.
In the UCL, Leipzig won the underdogs group of death over Zenit and Benfica. They knocked out weakened Tottenham Hotspur with ease in the round of 16. They then surprised Europe by knocking out title-holder slayers Atletico Madrid 2-1 before facing reality and quality against PSG in a 0-3 defeat. Leipzig may have the edge to win this group based on the evident team work and the tactically well-established players and manager.
Key Transfers: Sorloth joined in from Crystal Palace and Hee-chan from Salzburg. Timo Werner left the club for Chelsea.
Recent Form: (WWDW) Once again, Leipzig is at the top of the Bundesliga early on. Losing Werner in the transfer market triggered the purchase of two replacements in front while the remainder of the team remains intact.
Istanbul Basaksehir (Turkey)
Here’s another recently created club in the group; founded in 2014, Basaksehir took only six years to win its first domestic league last season. Our three known clubs will be in the dark. This may sound optimistic for the Turks, but looking at the club’s recent achievements, this group will be trouble for all.
In Europa League last season, the Turkish outfit won their group over Roma, knocking out Borussia Monchengladbach in the process. In the round of 32, they reversed a 1-3 defeat in the first leg to force extra time and eventually defeat Sporting CP 5-4 on aggregate. They were knocked out by Copenhagen in the round of 16 by a 1-3 aggregate. This is a club looking to achieve results. It is having Istanbul Basaksehir under Okan Buruk’s management in addition to the other three clubs in this group that makes it the group of death.
Key Transfers: Rafael joined from Lyon, Hasan Ali and Turuc from Fenerbahce, and Chadli from Monaco.
Recent Form: (LLLD) Goalless so far this season, the Turks conceded two goals in each defeat and are currently ranked last in the domestic league, the complete opposite of last season’s performance.
Group H – Matchday-1 Fixtures:
- PSG vs Manchester United
- RB Leipzig vs Istanbul Basaksehir
Please join us at Never Manage Alone next Tuesday in our UCL Matchday-1 live chat to discuss your player picks, premium players, budget players and more. What are your UCL fantasy thoughts on groups E & F? Please share in the comments below!