clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Champions League Preview: Group E

Can the new-look Barca take its chance at redemption?

Philippe Coutinho - Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League
Barcelona loanee Philippe Coutinho wins the Champions League with Bayern
Photo by Michael Regan - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Welcome to a one-stop destination for everything you need to know about Group E!

This group comprises 2019-20 Champions Bayern Munich, heavily changed Barcelona, perennial UCL contenders Benfica, and Ukrainian champion Dinamo Kiev. Don’t be mistaken by the two big names in the group – Benfica is a genuine contender, and Kiev isn’t a pushover either. Let’s take a comprehensive look at each of these teams.


Bayern

  • Coach: Julian Nagelsmann
  • Average player age: 26.1
  • Market Value: €852m
  • 2020-21 UCL Finish: Quarter Finals
  • Penalties: Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller
  • Direct Free Kicks: Robert Lewandowski (near), Leroy Sané, Marcel Sabitzer
  • Indirect Free Kicks: Joshua Kimmich
  • Corners: Joshua Kimmich, Leroy Sané

Bayern’s most recent success came in the 2019-20 season, when they went on to win an unprecedented sextuple. Then Bayern manager and current German national team coach Hansi Flick setup an extremely high line coupled with frantic and physical gegenpress. This worked to the strengths of the team and the “final-eight” format to finish the 2020 tournament (only four games to play).

Bayern put seven past Chelsea (on aggregate), eight past Barcelona, and won 3-0 against Lyon. The final pitted Bayern against PSG, and it was a tight affair. Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are practically unstoppable when they’re on the ball, so Bayern’s approach to the game was to stop just that. Manuel Neuer was also in the form of his life, saving the few chances PSG managed to create. On the other end of the pitch, a lob from Joshua Kimmich was converted by Kingsley Coman, a Paris native himself. In this process, Bayern also broke the record for the number of consecutive wins, at 11.

UEFA Champions League 2020/21 Group Stage Draw Photo by Harold Cunningham - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

This invincible form couldn’t be taken deep into the 2020-21 run. The winning streak was ended at 15 by Atletico Madrid against squad rotation. Injuries piled up and hampered an already thin squad. A Bayern side without talisman Robert Lewandowski could only manage a draw against PSG, thus eliminated by away goals in the quarterfinals. (PSG were subsequently knocked out by City, without their main man Mbappe – goes to show how important squad depth is; that’s what won it in the end).

The extreme high line is undoubtedly a defensive liability, but the “Mia san Mia” attitude of the club conveys that they aren’t going to change that. Instead, their motto has been “concede but outscore”.

~

In the transfer market, the experienced but injury prone Jerome Boateng was replaced by a more than capable Dayot Upamecano. Meanwhile, teenage phenom Jamal Musiala’s meteoric rise earns him a place in the starting XI. Finally, Marcel Sabitzer was brought in near deadline day to provide the much-needed squad depth, to say the least.

Julian Nagelsmann was also brought in (at a record fee for a coach at €25m), to fill a Hansi Flick-sized void. The tactically astute 34-year-old manager had driven RB Leipzig to compete on all three fronts. Though he is known to favor a back three, he plans to tinker with the finer details in Bayern’s traditional 4-2-3-1.


Barcelona

  • Coach: Ronald Koeman
  • Average player age: 26.1
  • Market Value: €676m
  • 2020-21 UCL Finish: Round of 16
  • Penalties: Memphis Depay, Martin Braithwaite
  • Free Kicks: Memphis Depay, Phillipe Coutinho
  • Corners: Memphis Depay, Phillipe Coutinho

Ever since they were knocked out by a particular team by a particular score line, it has all been going south for Barcelona. In fact, the decline coincided with the later part of ex-President Josep Bartomeo’s term. High profile, big name signings were prioritized over long term stability. A grand total of 1.08 billion euros were spent in the term, and even after factoring in Neymar’s 222 million sale, it left them with a loss of around 250 million euros. The biggest buys were Coutinho (€145m), Dembélé (€130m), and Griezmann (€120m), none of whom have justified their price tags to date.

In an optimist’s view, the 2019-20 defeat was the much-required punch in the face. Several players made their opinions public, exposing what was already known by most. The infamous “Burofax” by Messi himself led to changes in the power dynamics of the club, which ultimately led to Bartomeu resigning.

Fast forward to now, and Barca has a new manager, a new president, and pretty much a new team. The clean-up was never going to be easy; being unable to register arguably the team’s best ever player speaks volumes.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-MESSI Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images

Selling the club’s second highest earner, Antoine Griezmann, to a direct rival (following Luis Suarez’s path) and Miralem Pjanić’s post-deadline day loan move, along with a number of pay cuts, shaved a hefty 145 million euros off the wage bill, putting the club on course to fit La Liga’s salary caps and achieve long term financial recovery.

Back on the pitch, Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong join the Dutch contingent. The La Masia talents, including new #10 Ansu Fati, Pedri, Riqui Puig, Gavi, Eric Garcia and Oscar Mingueza, will see a LOT more minutes. Barca will look to play their quick, attacking tiki taka style of football, especially with the dynamism of Depay up front. Even though they have been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately, this Barcelona team still has the personnel required for a deep run in the competition. All the new names might just be a blessing in disguise that could, at least initially, add a sense of unpredictability to their game plan.


Benfica

  • Coach: Jorge Jesus
  • Average player age: 27
  • Market Value: €286m
  • 2020-21 UCL Finish: N/A
  • Penalties: Pizzi, Haris Seferovic
  • Direct Free Kicks: Alejandro Grimaldo, Julian Weigl, João Mário
  • Indirect Free Kicks: Pizzi, Éverton, Alejandro Grimaldo
  • Corners: Pizzi, Éverton, Alejandro Grimaldo

SL Benfica plays in the Portuguese top flight, the Primeira Liga. It is also known as Liga Portugal Bwin and Liga NOS for sponsorship reasons. With a total of 37 league wins, Benfica is one of the “Big Three” in Portugal, along with Porto (29 wins) and Sporting CP (19 wins). The bigger news surrounding this league is that they have just surmounted the Ligue 1 to break into the top 5 leagues in Europe (according to UEFA Country Coefficients). What we can comprehend from all this is simply that Benfica is not to be taken lightly.

Benfica’s last UCL appearance was in the 2019-20 season, bowing out at the group stage. They failed to get through UCL qualifying last year, hence participating in the Europa League. With three wins and three draws, Benfica finished second in the group behind Rangers before being knocked out by Arsenal 3-4 on aggregate in the round of 32.

However the Portuguese have put up some strong performances in their domestic league, finishing third last season and winning four of four so far this time around. They have also strengthened considerably by making multiple marquee signings.

Under reappointed head coach Jorge Jesus, they tend to field a back three while pushing their high-flying wing-backs Grimaldo and Gilberto far up the field. They prefer to absorb the pressure and launch quick and incisive counters. They defend narrow and look to win balls in the midfield. Such a tactics could reap rewards against high line defenses like Bayern Munich’s. A weakness in their game however, is the gap left behind the pushing wingbacks.


Dinamo Kiev

  • Coach: Mircea Lucescu
  • Average player age: 25.5
  • Market Value: €133m
  • 2020-21 UCL Finish: Group Stage
  • Penalties: Viktor Tsygankov, Carlos De Pena, Gerson Rodrigues
  • Free Kicks: Viktor Tsygankov, Carlos De Pena, Gerson Rodrigues
  • Corners: Viktor Tsygankov, Carlos De Pena, Gerson Rodrigues

Ukrainian Premier League serial winners Dinamo Kyiv (the “Bilo-Syn”) won last season’s domestic title by a whole eleven points. The team is a constant presence in the Champions League.

Last season, the Ukrainians also drew a group with Barcelona (plus Juventus and Ferencvaros). The results were surprisingly symmetrical, with Barcelona and Juventus tied in the top two spots on points. Dinamo lost all four matches against those two, drew one and won one against Ferencvaros to finish in a Europa League spot.

Dinamo (Greek for power) plays a 4-2-3-1. Viktor Tsygankov on the right wing and Vitaliy Buyalskyi in attacking midfield are the team’s primary sources for goals.

Between the Bilo-Syn and Benfica (and probably even Barcelona), the fight for the Europa League spot in the group is going to be tense.


Possible Lineups and Transfers

Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1)

Manuel Neuer – Benjamin Pavard, Dayot Upamecano, Niklas Sule, Alphonso Davies – Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka – Jamal Musiala (Leroy Sané), Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry (Kingsley Coman) – Robert Lewandowski.

In: Dayot Upamecano (Leipzig), Omar Richards (Reading), Sven Ulreich (Hamburg), Marcel Sabitzer (Leipzig)

Out: Angelo Stiller (Hoffenheim), Javi Martínez (Qatar SC), David Alaba (Real Madrid), Jérôme Boateng (Olympique Lyonnais), Lasse Günther (Augsburg), Fiete Arp (Holstein Kiel), Alexander Nübel (Monaco), Nicolas Kühn (Erzgebirge Aue), Lars Lukas Mai (Werder Bremen), Sarpreet Singh (Jahn Regensburg), Adrian Fein (Greuther Fürth, loan), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim, loan)

~

Barcelona (4-3-3)

Marc-André ter Stegen - Sergiño Dest, Gerard Piqué, Clément Lenglet (Eric Garcia), Jordi Alba - Pedri, Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong - Ousmane Dembélé, Memphis Depay, Martin Braithwaite (Ansu Fati/Philippe Coutinho).

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-NED-DEPAY Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images

In: Sergio Agüero (Manchester City), Eric García (Manchester City), Emerson Royal (Real Betis), Memphis Depay (Lyon), Luuk de Jong (Sevilla, loan)

Out: Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Juan Miranda (Real Betis), Jean-Clair Todibo (Nice), Konrad de la Fuente (Marseille), Matheus Fernandes (released), Francisco Trincão (Wolves, loan), Junior Firpo (Leeds), Carles Aleñá (Getafe), Monchu (Granada), Ilaix Moriba (Leipzig), Rey Manaj (Spezia, loan), Emerson Royal (Tottenham), Antoine Griezmann (Atlético, loan), Miralem Pjanić (Beşiktaş, loan)

~

Benfica (3-4-2-1)

Odisseas Vlachodimos - Lucas Veríssimo, Nicolás Otamendi, Felipe Rodrigues da Silva - Diogo Gonçalves, Julian Weigl, João Mário, Álex Grimaldo – Pizzi, Rafa Silva - Roman Yaremchuk.

In: Rodrigo Pinho (Marítimo), Gil Dias (Monaco), João Mário (Inter), Soualiho Meïté (Torino), Roman Yaremchuk (Gent), Nemanja Radonjić (Marseille, loan), Valentino Lázaro (Inter, loan)

Out: Jardel (released), Pedrinho (Shakhtar Donetsk), Franco Cervi (Celta Vigo), Caio Lucas (Sharjah), Tiago Dantas (Tondela, loan), Nuno Tavares (Arsenal), Nuno Santos (Paços Ferreira, loan), Filip Krovinović (Hajduk Split), Alfa Semedo (Vitória SC), Luca Waldschmidt (Wolfsburg), Florentino (Getafe, loan), Tomás Tavares (Basel, loan), Carlos Vinícius (PSV, loan), Andreas Samaris (released), Chiquinho (Braga, loan)

SL Benfica v PSV Eindhoven - UEFA Champions League: Play-Offs Leg One
Euro 2020 performer Roman Yaremchuk signs for Benfica
Photo by Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

~

Dynamo Kyiv (4-2-3-1)

Denys Boyko - Tomasz Kędziora, Illya Zabarnyi, Artem Shabanov, Vitaliy Mykolenko - Serhiy Sydorchuk, Mykola Shaparenko - Viktor Tsyhankov, Vitaliy Buyalskyi, Carlos de Pena - Ilya Shkurin,

In: Denys Antyukh (Kolos), Ilya Shkurin (CSKA Moskva, loan), Eric Ramírez (Dunajská Streda), Vladyslav Kulach (Vorskla), Vitinho (Athletico Paranaense)

Out: Mikkel Duelund (NEC Nijmegen, loan), Clayton (released), Fran Sol (Eibar, loan), Serhiy Buletsa (Zorya, loan), Akhmed Alibekov (Zorya, loan), Nazariy Rusin (SK Dnipro-1, loan), Mykyta Kravchenko (SK Dnipro-1, loan), Heorhii Tsitaishvili (Chornomorets Odesa, loan), Vladyslav Dubinchak (SK Dnipro-1, loan), Mohammed Kadiri (Chornomorets Odesa, loan), Sidcley (PAOK, loan), Benito (Gorica, loan), Gerson Rodrigues (Troyes, loan)


Fixtures and Analyses

The side on the left plays at home, and bold date indicates the day (first or second) the matches are happening. Pay attention to these while planning for your matchday squad.

Matchday 1 (14/15 September):

  • Dynamo Kyiv - Benfica
  • Barcelona - Bayern

~

Matchday 2 (28/29 September):

Bayern - Dynamo Kyiv

Benfica - Barcelona

~

Matchday 3 (19/20 October):

  • Barcelona - Dynamo Kyiv (early kickoff)
  • Benfica - Bayern

~

Matchday 4 (2/3 November):

  • Dynamo Kyiv - Barcelona
  • Bayern - Benfica

~

Matchday 5 (23/24 November):

  • Dynamo Kyiv - Bayern (early kickoff)
  • Barcelona - Benfica

~

Matchday 6 (7/8 December):

  • Benfica - Dynamo Kyiv
  • Bayern - Barcelona

~

Analysis

  • MD-1 and MD-6 will be the most crucial for all the teams in Group E because they will most likely separate 1st from 2nd (could be Bayern or Barcelona) and 3rd from 4th (could be Benfica or Kiev).
  • If the winner in the Bayern vs Barcelona match goes on to win MD-2, MD-3 and MD-4, rest and rotation is likely in MD-5 and MD-6 because 1st place would be virtually fixed (depending on H2H and GD).
  • None of the defenses here are known for keeping clean sheets, so prioritize defenders who range forward enough to yield attacking returns.

Fantasy Prospects

Now, for what really matters — who should we consider buying to pip rival fantasy managers?

FWD

Must haves: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern, €11.5m), Memphis Depay (Barcelona, €8.5m)

Differentials: Roman Yaremchuk (Benfica, €7m), Ousmane Dembélé (Barcelona, €8m)

~

MID

Must haves: Rafa Silva (Benfica, €7m), Serge Gnabry (Bayern, €10m)

Differentials: Viktor Tsygankov (Kiev, €7.5m), Vitaliy Buyalskyi (Kiev, €7m), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona, €8.5m), Jamal Musiala (Bayern, €6.5m)

~

DEF

Must haves: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern, €6.5m), Jordi Alba (Barcelona, €6m)

Differentials: Dayot Upamecano (Bayern, €5.5m), Gilberto (Benfica, €4.5m), Alejandro Grimaldo (Benfica, €4.5m), Andre Almeida (Benfica, €4m)

~

GK

I don’t expect too many clean sheets in this group (rotation may be favored in later stages). Dinamo’s #1 choice Georgiy Bushchan is out injured, so if you had to take someone from this group, you could consider Benfica’s Odisseas Vlachodimos (€4.5m).

~

Player Stats and Transfer Stats courtesy of: uefa.com, transfermarkt.com, and fantasytipsters.com


NMA Group Stage Article Stream

For group-by-group analysis of each this season’s UCL teams, please see NMA’s Group Stage article stream. New articles are added to the stream daily.


NMA UCL Fantasy Mini-League

If you played our UCL mini-league last season, or if you played our Euros mini-league over the summer, you should automatically be entered into NMA’s 2021-22 mini-league as soon as you create a team. Head to gaming.uefa.com and get to work!

If you are new to us, then once you create a team you can join our mini-league manually with the following info. Come join us, we’d love to have you!

  • League: Never Manage Alone
  • Code: 71MQALVG07

~

Who will finish in the top 2? Who will continue the European journey in the Europa League? Could the group be tighter than it looks? Did I get the formations and predicted lineups right? Please voice your opinions in the comments!

~

Poll

Who will finish third in Group E?

  • 18%
    Bayern Munich
    (4 votes)
  • 22%
    Barcelona
    (5 votes)
  • 59%
    Benfica
    (13 votes)
  • 0%
    Dinamo Kiev
    (0 votes)
22 votes total Vote Now

~