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A preview of the 2016/17 Champions League group stage

Who will progress and who will crash and burn in this year’s competition

Barcelona’s deadly front three of Suarez, Neymar, and Messi will be looking for redemption this time around
Barcelona’s deadly front three of Suarez, Neymar, and Messi will be looking for redemption this time around

The Champions League is Europe’s premier club football competition. Italicized team names indicate the ones we think will progress to the knockout round.

Group A

Paris Saint Germain, Arsenal, FC Basel, Ludogorets Razgrad

PSG was riddled with injuries last time out in the Champions League, and even though the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic will leave a massive void in attack, the team still has plenty of star power in their ranks. For Arsenal, consistency is key to thwart Les Parisiens, especially since FC Basel has shown a tendency to punch above its weight over the last five years in the competition. Canadian international keeper Milan Borjan could get the chance to suit up for Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets, but it will be a difficult road ahead in Group A.

Group B

Benfica, Napoli, Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas

Chances are looking good for Portuguese giant Benfica, which has won three straight domestic titles and even shocked the likes of Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League. Napoli must survive without Gonzalo Higuain, who bagged a record-breaking 36 Serie A goals last season and set the bar very high for the incoming Polish hitman Arkadiusz Milik. Turkish Super Lig champion Besiktas may have some difficulty after losing many key figures in the summer transfer window, while Ukraine’s champion Dynamo Kyiv are more than capable of surprising its foes.

Group C

Barcelona, Manchester City, Borussia Monchengladbach, Celtic

Redemption is on the agenda for Barca, which ultimately fell short in defending its 2015 title after coming up against the defensive might of Atletico Madrid last term. Also, Pep Guardiola will reunite with his former club as he leads Manchester City from the dugout, and looks to finally establish his new club as a true competitor in Europe. Borussia Monchengladbach gained a respectable fourth place finish in Germany last season and could make life difficult for Celtic, which limped into group stage qualification after a two-year absence.

Group D

Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich,  PSV Eindhoven, FC Rostov

No task looks too difficult for Atletico Madrid, and this year is no different under the passionate leadership of Diego Simeone. Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern Munich will fight fire with fire as he fields arguably the best defensive lineup in world football after the recent addition of centre-back Mats Hummels. The points will be difficult to grab for PSV and Rostov, but far less so for the reigning Dutch champion.

Group E

Tottenham, Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen, CSKA Moscow

One of the most balanced groups by far, only Tottenham stands out for its stunning run of form en route to a third place Premier League finish last season. Although, Monaco is already off to a flying start in Ligue 1 this season, with 10 goals scored in four matches and a convincing victory over PSG in the process. Fellow group E competitor Leverkusen will be missing crucial squad members like Stefan Kiessling, Kevin Volland, and Karim Bellarabi due to untimely injuries. CSKA Moscow is also inevitably weakened by the transfer of star striker Ahmed Musa to Leicester City.

Group F

Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Sporting Lisbon, Legia

Madrid has its work cut out for them as defending champion of the big-eared trophy, and the first hurdle will be the goal to finish ahead of a revitalized Borussia Dortmund in group F. Sporting Lisbon is a club with a reputation of producing fantastic talents and will be no pushover. The only positive aspect for Legia is that they will celebrate their 100-year anniversary by welcoming some world-class talents to Warsaw.  

Group G

Porto, Leicester, Copenhagen, Brugge

The entire world fell in love with Leicester City after its Cinderella story unfolded into a tremendous Premier League title victory in 2016, but the Foxes are already getting a hard dose of reality as they begin a new campaign in England. Champions League participation is a trophy in itself, and FC Porto will surely provide the biggest challenge to finishing atop the group. Like Leicester, both FC Copenhagen and Club Brugge have a lot to prove and have the potential to make a surprise leap into the round of 16.

Group H

Juventus, Sevilla, Olympique Lyon, Dinamo Zagreb

Italian juggernaut Juventus is more superpowered than ever, as a busy summer transfer market has seen the team reel in the likes of Serie A poacher Gonzalo Higuain, gifted Roma playmaker Miralem Pjanic, and consistent Barcelona champion Dani Alves. Sevilla is more weakened than strengthened after the summer window, but still has a solid core of 2016 Europa League champions in the squad to call upon in a difficult group H. Lyon will likely be jostling for second place against the Spaniards after finishing as runner up in Ligue 1, but Dinamo Zagreb’s hopes of survival are slim to none.

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