Group-F represents the exact opposite of Group-E. Here everyone is a contender with a chance to go deep — If they can survive this group. French Ligue-1 champion PSG, Serie-A top-4 AC Milan, EPL top-4 Newcastle and Bundesliga runner-up Dortmund have been caged together to fight for a mere two spots in the knockout stages (plus one possible Europa League consolation).
UEFA ranking: 4th
Manager: Luis Enrique
The only European championship for the French giant was in 1995-96 when PSG defeated Rapid Wein 1-0 in the final. For the last 10 years, Qatar Sports Investments (owner of PSG) has tried several head coaches and bought several key players (e.g. Messi and Neymar) to reach European success at the highest level. The club dominates domestically, but PSG has yet to take another UCL trophy.
Summer 2023 witnessed major names moving out of PSG, most notable Lionel Messi to Miami, Neymar to Al Hilal, Abdou Diallo to Al Arabi (Qatar), Mauro Icardi to Galatasaray, Georginio Wijnaldum to Al Ettifaq (Saudi Arabia), Leandro Parades and Renato Sanches to Roma and Sergio Ramos to Sevilla.
Yes, it sounds like a complete rebuild, but the highlight of the summer was Kilyan Mbappe’s almost-transfer saga as he enters the last year of his contract without renewal. Long story short, Mbappe remains at PSG after the closure of the transfer window.
Arriving to fill the voids: PSG secured a last minute transfer deal of €95.00m for Frankfurt’s forward Randal Kolo Muani. They also brought in Sporting’s young defensive midfielder Manuel Ugrate for €60.00m, Ousmane Dembele from Barcelona for €50.00m, Bayern’s left-back Lucas Hernandez for €45.00m and domestic right-winger Bradley Barcola from Lyon for the same price. PSG also secured a few free transfers, most notably Inter defender Milan Skriniar, Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio and Benfica’s Goncalo Ramos.
So it has been a busy transfer window for the Parisians, but their most important hiring must be 2014-15 UCL winner Luis Enrique from Barcelona. Hopefully there will be patience for success over a few years, emulating Man City as an example. PSG is currently in second place in Ligue-1 behind Monaco after winning two and drawing two of the four matches played.
Predicted starting 11
Goalkeeper: G. Donnarumma
Defenders: A. Hakimi, Marquinhos, M. Skriniar, L. Hernandez
Midfielders: M. Ugarte, Vitinha, Zaire-Emery
Forwards: K. Mbappe, M. Asensio, O. Dembele
Caveats: Ramos may take over at some point despite his failure to perform in the opening two matches of Ligue-1, and new signing Muani is yet to be seen on the pitch.
UEFA ranking: 13th
Manager: Edin Terzic
After several years running far behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, Dortmund basically gifted the title to Bayern in 2022-23 in a disappointing manner. The UCL one-time winners (1996-97) had a fairly quiet summer transfer window with only Jude Bellingham’s departure to Real Madrid making first page headlines.
A few other first team players made their exit this summer, such as Thorgan Hazard to Anderlecht, Raphael Guerreiro to Bayern Munich and Mahmoud Dahoud to Brighton.
Dortmund’s biggest spend this summer was €30.00m to bring in Wolfsburg midfielder Felix Nmecha. They also secured the services of Marcel Sabitzer for €19.00m from Bayern Munich and signed Monchengladbach’s left-back Ramy Bensbaini on a free transfer.
Bundesliga is three matches in, and Dortmund has dropped four points in draws against Bochum and Heidenheim to land in 9th place behind leaders Leverkusen and Bayern Munich.
Predicted starting 11
Goalkeeper: Gregor Kobel
Defenders: R. Bensbaini, M. Hummels, Marius Wolf, N. Schlotterbeck
Midfielders: Emre Can, M. Sabitzer, Julian Brandt (Marco Reus may be opted to start in UCL over Sabitzer)
Forward: Donyell Malen, S. Haller, K. Adeyemi
UEFA ranking: 31st
Manager: Stefano Pioli
Milan made the semifinals in last season’s UCL after knocking out Napoli in the quarterfinals. Milan lost a spectacular two-legged match against city-rival Inter Milan. AC Milan also settled for 4th place in Serie-A. Both Milano clubs are currently at the top of Serie-A with a full nine points from three matches.
The 7-time Champions League winner surprisingly let go of one of the main reasons for Serie-A 2021-22 success: Sandro Tonali. He is said to have been cashed out to pay for reinforcements. Other key players left the club also, such as Brahim Diaz returning to Real Madrid and Sergino Dest returning to Barcelona from loan spells. Energetic midfielder Charles De Ketelaere and right-winger Junior Messias were loaned out to Atalanta and Genoa respectively.
For those reinforcements, Milan spent €60.00m divided evenly to bring in Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, Villarreal right-winger Samuel Chukwueze, and Valencia’s young midfielder Yunus Musah. Former Real Madrid forward Luke Jovic was signed on a free transfer after he did not renew with Fiorentina. Milan also secured the services of Ruben Loftus-Cheek from Chelsea and Noah Okafor from Salzburg for €16.00m and €14.00m respectively.
Predicted starting 11
Goalkeeper: M. Maignan
Defenders: F. Tomori, M. Thiaw, D. Calabria, Theo Hernandez
Midfielders: R. Krunic, T. Reijnders, Loftus-Cheek
Forwards: R. Leao, O. Giroud, C. Pulisic
UEFA ranking: 79th
Manager: Eddie Howe
The Newcastle project has been successful so far, breaking through the top of in EPL in 2022-23 to win a spot in this season’s UCL. The early domestic fixtures have not been merciful to the Magpies. After defeating Aston Villa 5-1 in their opening match, they have faced Man City, Liverpool and Brighton, losing all three to sink into 14th place in the EPL so far.
The major story in Newcastle’s first UCL match is Tonali revisiting Milan to play against his former club. Newcastle paid €64.00m to secure the 23 year old midfielder. Newcastle also brought in Harvey Barnes from relegated Leicester for €44.00m and 20 year old right-back Tino Livramento for €37.50m from Southampton. The departures were Allan Saint-Maximin to Al Ahli (Saudi Arabia) and Chris Wood to Nottingham Forest.
Predicted starting 11
Goalkeeper: N. Pope
Defenders: Sven Botman, F. Schar, Dan Burn, K. Trippier
Midfielders: B. Guimaraes, Joelinton, S,. Tonali
Forwards: A. Gordon, A. Isak, M. Almiron
Who’s on your watch list from Group-F? Which club do you think has the best chance to win this group of death? Please log in to answer the poll and tell us about your initial impressions in the comments.
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