2021/22 UEFA Champions League group composition:
We are waiting for a sensation – one of the favorites should fly to the Europa League
Over the past few years, two Middle East projects – Manchester City and PSG – have been aiming to win the Champions League. Pep Guardiola’s side made it to the final of the tournament last season but lost to Chelsea. The Parisians lost the decisive match to Bayern in August 2020, and this spring they stalled at the semi-final stage.
The draw not only brought them together in one group, but also threw in a very dangerous third opponent – Leipzig. Don’t look that the Germans lost their head coach Julian Nagelsmann and the field leaders Diot Upamecano, Ibraim Konate and Marcel Zabitzer in one transfer window. The Red Bull conveyor works without interruption, and worthy replacements were found for all those who left for a total of 107 million euros.
The most important thing is that Leipzig, with any combination of personnel, will not surrender under corporate pressure. It is very interesting to see how the same PSG with Messi, Neymar and Mbappé in the squad will overcome it. Yes, and “Brugge”, with all its playing limitations, can resist at home. Third place for City or PSG will be a shock.
Forecast: Manchester City, Leipzig – in the Champions League playoffs, PSG – in the Europa League.
Every match is fire! The intrigue will last until the last round
Champion of Spain, vice-champion of Italy, vice-champion of Portugal and Liverpool, who finished third in the Premier League due to an abnormal epidemic of injuries in defense. Sometimes “upstarts” who jump into the group stage of the Champions League are bought up during the offseason (like “Lille”, for example), but this is not the case – all the members of Group B retained their fighting strength, or even strengthened it.
At the same time, all four of them have problems – Atletico plays poorly in the first half and cannot find a stable game in attack, Liverpool is only restoring the game connections lost last year, Milan did not find the optimal top ten in the starting lineup, and Porto seem a little lightweight to face classy opponents.
Name the final order of the teams in the group in random order – and none of the options will surprise.
Forecast: Atlético, Liverpool in the playoffs, Milan in the Europa League.
Opened Ajax v Borussia vs. closed Sporting and Besiktas
“Besiktas” became the champion of the country for the first time in four years, Lisbon “Sporting” – for the first time in 19 years. Both were helped by a closed and practical style of play. Even now, Besiktas tops the Turkish league table with a goal-to-missed 7-0 difference after four rounds. Sporting, after a major victory in the first round of the Portuguese championship, gravitates towards grassroots matches: 2: 1, 2: 0, 1: 1, 1: 1.
Ajax and Borussia Dortmund are completely different in terms of philosophy – bright, open and preferring a spectacular 4: 3 to a boring 1: 0 score. The group, in which any final alignment is also possible, is interesting precisely because of the collision of two opposing football concepts. It is symbolic that the “play-off” matches within the groups will be played between teams of the same style.
Forecast: Ajax and Sporting in the Champions League playoffs, Borussia in the Europa League.
Repetition of last year’s result, only without such drama
When the three members of Group D became known, the Borussia Mönchengladbach account joked sadly: “We were not invited to the alumni meeting evening.” Real, Inter and Shakhtar have already met in the same group last year, and the result was unexpected – the future champions of Italy took the last place, and Real Madrid jumped into the playoffs in the last round, having lost twice before Shakhtar.
It is quite possible that now the result will be the same – Inter has lost its head coach and several leaders, while Real, on the contrary, is gaining stability after a couple of turbulent seasons. In the absence of Mönchengladbach, Shakhtar must compete for a second place in the playoffs, especially since last year the Pitmen did not get there only by additional indicators.
For Tiraspol, the very fact of its debut in the Champions League is already a holiday.
Forecast: Real, Shakhtar – in the Champions League playoffs, Inter – in the Europa League.
Barcelona fans will have bad memories of Bayern
In the days leading up to the first big UEFA Champions League group stage, The Athletic recalled the previous game between Bayern and Barcelona, which ended 8-2. Not so long ago there were other sad figures for Catalan fans – 4: 0 and 3: 0 in two semifinals.
Group E is generally similar to Barcelona’s skeleton wardrobe. Moreover, her own. Dynamo Kiev with the same Bavarian score smashed Barça in 1997 – 3: 0 and 4: 0. Benfica have loudly defeated the Catalans only once, but in the European Cup final 60 years ago.
Real Madrid collapsed after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, and now everyone expects Barcelona to collapse without Leo Messi. The group in the Champions League is quite suitable for this. If you do not throw Kuman’s team into the Europa League, then at least seriously scare.
Forecast: Bayern Munich, Barcelona in the Champions League playoffs, Benfica in the Europa League.
Here it is better to just watch the results of the games the next morning.
Do you remember last year’s Europa League final between Manchester United and Villarreal? Liked? Movement began only in the penalty shootout, where the Spaniards were stronger. And now we will have two fights between these teams.
Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer generally likes to mirror opponents, which makes the actions of his players effective, but not very spectacular. Villarreal plays in a similar down-to-earth manner. And the Young Boys will clearly not be on the rampage.
One could say that “Atalanta” stands out from this series, but how long can one live with inertial stereotypes? Last year, after a bright start with Midtjylland, the Bergamaski scored four goals in the remaining four group matches and one in two playoffs against Real Madrid. Now Atalanta is in 10th place in Serie A with three goals scored after three rounds. It doesn’t look like a scoring extravaganza.
Forecast: Manchester United, Atalanta in the playoffs, Villarreal in the Europa League.
How did the Europa League group end up in the Champions League?
Seriously, tell me, why is the selection of Lille, Sevilla, Salzburg and Wolfsburg better than Lazio, Marseille, Lokomotiv and Galatasaray? Or the variants of Napoli, Leicester, Spartak and Legia? Moreover, Sevilla is much better associated with the Europa League than with the Champions League.
Okay, let’s be glad for the increased average level of groups in the second European Cup, but we have another “life group”. Sevilla looks like a favorite, although they play very straightforward football. Maybe even more straightforward than Wolfsburg. Lille and Salzburg have lost many over the offseason. In general, the intrigue should live to the end, but the prospects of the two playoff participants are unenviable.
Forecast: Sevilla, Salzburg – in the Champions League playoffs, Wolfsburg – in the Europa League.
Chelsea dominance, Zenit-Malmo fight
There is such a bearded joke:
– Who are you going to root for?
After such a draw, you can immediately choose who to root for, without postponing the matter until the end of the group stage. Alas, Russian clubs, including Zenit, have taught us to this over the past couple of seasons. Chelsea and Juventus are too serious. But Malmo looks like a simpler team than the same Brugge or Lyon with Leipzig in previous years. Finally, the champion of Russia has good chances for the Euro spring.
Juventus is somehow hard to roll into the season, so right now Chelsea looks like a clear favorite. It is very fortunate that Zenit play against the Londoners at home in the last round. A year ago Krasnodar took advantage of Chelsea’s lack of motivation to draw at Stamford Bridge. The same scenario may work this time too, especially since December will be played at home.
Forecast: Chelsea, Juventus – in the Champions League playoffs, Zenit – in the Europa League.