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Champions League Preview: Group F

We take a look at Group F, which contains last season’s Europa League finalists.

Unai Emery & Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - Villarreal CF v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League
Unai Emery got the better of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in last season’s Europa League Final.
Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Group F features European heavyweight Man United spurred by the surprise return of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Red Devils were frustrated in last year’s Europa League final, losing on penalties to Unai Emery’s Villarreal who also feature in Group F. This will be Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s chance for redemption after strengthening significantly in the summer.

Elsewhere we have an exciting Atalanta side who have made it to the latter stages in the competition over the last couple of seasons and hope to do the same after earning their place by finishing 3rd in Serie A. Swiss Champion Young Boys are the final team to make up the group, led by former Huddersfield and Schalke 04 Manager, David Wagner.


Villarreal

  • Coach: Unai Emery
  • 2020-21 League finish: 7th (La Liga)
  • Odds to win the tournament: 90/1
  • Penalties: Moreno (€8.5m), Alcácer (€7.5m)
  • Direct Free kicks: Parejo (€6.5m), Trigueros (€6m), Gómez (€6m)
  • Corners & Indirect Freekicks: Parejo (€6.5m), Trigueros (€6m), Gómez (€6m)

Manager Unai Emery certainly has great European pedigree, winning the Europa League four times (Sevilla: 3, Villarreal: 1) and reaching the final five times. Villarreal will now try their luck in the Champions League, having never won the competition previously.

Striker Gerard Moreno (€8.5m) is the main source of goals, having scored 23 in La Liga last season plus seven goals and five assists in the Europa League. His namesake, Alberto Moreno (€4m) offers good value as a defender who has been deployed to the left side of the midfield this season where he should increase his potential attacking returns.

Daniel Parejo (€6.5m) has been out with an injury for over a month so free-kicks and corners have been shared between Moi Gómez (€6m) and Manu Trigueros (€6m), the latter scoring in his most recent league game.


Manchester United

  • Coach: Ole Gunnar Solskjær
  • 2020-21 League finish: 2nd (Premier League)
  • Odds to win the tournament: 10/1
  • Penalties: Ronaldo (€11M), Fernandes (€10.5M)
  • Direct Free kicks: Ronaldo (€11M), Fernandes (€10.5M)
  • Corners & Indirect Freekicks: Fernandes (€10.5M), Shaw (€6m)

Man United is raring to go with new talisman Cristiano Ronaldo looking to lift the Champions League trophy once more after blanking with Juventus. Unsurprisingly, Ronaldo is the most expensive player in the game at €11m, and for good reason. He has great pedigree in this competition, and he will be set for a starring role. Overshadowing Bruno Fernandes’ potential as we’ve seen in the Portuguese national team, Ronaldo is likely to take PK and free-kick duty. Ronaldo also has the threat of his aerial prowess so Bruno Fernandes looks set to step up and take corners and some free-kicks.

Solskjær has a large squad and has been known to rotate players in Europe, so fringe players such as Jessie Lingard (€6m) could well feature and offer an attractive bargain option. Edinson Cavani (€9m) performed well last season and should receive game time in this competition. It’s difficult to predict a starting lineup due to squad depth, with Marcus Rashford looking to return from injury. He will rival Mason Greenwood and new signing Jadon Sancho for a place in the side. Mason Greenwood has been deployed at center forward so far this season, but this will be under threat from Ronaldo.


Atalanta

  • Coach: Gian Piero Gasperini
  • 2020-21 League finish: 3rd (Serie A)
  • Odds to win the tournament: 60/1
  • Penalties: Iličić (€9m), Muriel (€8.5m)
  • Direct Free kicks: Iličić (€9m), Malinovskyi (€7.5m)
  • Corners & Indirect Freekicks: Iličić (€9m), Malinovskyi (€7.5m)

We saw a host of Atalanta players feature over the summer in Euro 2020, so we know they’re capable of big performances. Attack-minded defender Joakim Mæhle (€5m) was one of the players who impressed during the Euros and can deliver returns at both ends of the pitch, offering great value for money as a differential (2% ownership). Left-back Robert Gosens (€5.5m) is proving to be a popular pick after showing his strong attacking returns in the Euros, especially his goal and assist in a MOTM performance against Portugal.

Elsewhere, Iličić (€9m) is listed as a midfielder in the game and will be relied on for creating opportunities in front of goal. Forward Duván Zapata (€9.5m) is currently injured so Luis Muriel (€8.5m) will be expected to lead the line.


Young Boys

  • Coach: David Wagner
  • 2020-21 League finish: 1st (Swiss Super League)
  • Odds to win the tournament: 250/1
  • Penalties: Siebatcheu (€6.5m), Sierro (€5.5m)
  • Direct Free kicks: Sierro (€5.5m)
  • Corners & Indirect Freekicks: Sierro (€5.5m), Garcia (€4.5m)

Young Boys may have great success in their domestic league, but they are certainly the weakest side in this group. They have even had a poor start in this year’s domestic league, having won only once in their first four fixtures.

Forward Siebatcheu (€6.5m) is currently their danger man, with three goals and an assist so far in the season. Striker Jean-Pierre Nsame who would usually be on penalty duty is currently out injured and not in the UCL squad.

Young Boys gained their entry to this year’s competition via the playoffs, having played in six games to get to this point. Siebatcheu (€6.5m), scored three goals in these games while defender Garcia (€4.5m) and midfielder Sierro (€5.5m) each picked up a couple goals.


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What do you think of Group F? Which players are you backing to do well? Which team will finish where? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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