UEFA Champions League Group Stages Preview, Predictions of groups E – H. We have some interesting groupings on our hands here
AC Milan, Chelsea, FC Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb
Despite having a long history in this league, AC Milan and Chelsea are facing off against one another for the first time since 1999 in Europe’s top club competition. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is 40 years old and the current Serie A champion, may be playing in his final Champions League season for Milan, a team that has won the competition seven times and is now atop the league.
Last year, Real Madrid eliminated two-time champion Chelsea in agonizing fashion in the quarterfinals. Since then, Real Madrid has added defender Antonio Rudiger to their roster on a free transfer. FC Salzburg has an attacking line led by Benjamin Sesko and will begin their fourth consecutive group stage campaign.
Before joining RB Leipzig, the 19-year-old garnered interest from Chelsea, but that deal didn’t go through, he will have the opportunity to show the Blues what they missed out on.
Dinamo Zagreb reached the group stage after a three-year absence after overcoming a first-leg deficit against the Norwegian team Bodo/Glimt in the playoffs.
MUST WATCH: AC Milan vs Chelsea
This game, which is sure to be a key one in the group, will also mark the first time that Olivier Giroud, Fikayo Tomori, and Tiemoue Bakayoko, three former Chelsea players, will play at Stamford Bridge. Everyone will have a case to make. After having trouble getting regular playing time under Thomas Tuchel, Giroud moved on last summer.
Tomori was a product of the Chelsea academy under Frank Lampard, who succeeded Tuchel, but he spent time on loan at Milan before making a permanent move at the conclusion of the previous campaign. Despite being on loan from Chelsea, Bakayoko is permitted to play against Chelsea under UEFA regulations.
Predicted finish: AC Milan, Chelsea, FC Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb
With the group stage beginning in early September, Chelsea still has opportunity to add a few more players before the transfer window closes, but Tuchel won’t have much time to do so. Chelsea should still make it, but Milan has a potential to get out to an early lead and may be hard to catch. It will be difficult for Salzburg, who only just made it out of a weaker group last year after defeating Sevilla 1-0 on matchday six to earn second place, and were then thoroughly humiliated by Bayern Munich in the round of 16.
Real Madrid, RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic
There should be no doubt regarding Real Madrid’s chances given that they have advanced to five other semifinals since 2010–11 and have won the Champions League five times in the last nine years. They were unable to get Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland, and Casemiro joined Manchester United, but they are still a strong club that is capable of winning this matchup. They also have Karim Benzema, who is in incredible shape and is likely to be awarded the finest player in the world. Carlo Ancelotti is optimistic about his chances of winning another medal in June.
The fact that Shakhtar Donetsk is representing Ukraine in Group F and that the nation is at war with Russia necessitates that they play their home matches at the Stadion Wojska Polskiego in Warsaw. After losing to Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in their group last season, RB Leipzig will be hoping to advance to the round of 16, while Celtic, making their return to the group stages after a five-year absence, will be hoping to shock Real Madrid at Celtic Park after defeating Lionel Messi’s Barcelona 2-1 on a memorable night in 2012.
MUST WATCH: Shakhtar Donetsk vs Real Madrid
Due to the ongoing conflict with Russia, Shakhtar Donetsk must play their Champions League games in Poland, but it will nonetheless be a historic occasion to host Real Madrid, the current European champions. Given what is occurring in Ukraine, both games will be emotionally charged, but Shakhtar, who advanced to the round of 16, will give Ancelotti’s team a difficult test.
Predicted finish: Real Madrid, Celtic, RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk
Real Madrid doesn’t always breeze through the group stages, but if last season’s Champions League victory showed anything, it’s that you shouldn’t ever back them to win. Celtic, RB Leipzig, and Shakhtar Donetsk will all have a chance to advance from the remaining group.
Celtic hasn’t advanced past the group stage since 2017–18, and they haven’t reached the knockout stages since 2012–13, but the energy their supporters can create at Celtic Park on European nights with the lights on could offer them an advantage. In Glasgow, even Real Madrid might be defeated.
Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, FC Copenhagen
Manchester City has already established itself as one of the favorites for the competition after making it to the semifinals and final in each of the previous two seasons. However, Pep Guardiola is concerned because there is enough risk in the matches against Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund. Their group stage draw won’t change that. Last year, neither team advanced out of its group, but if you catch them on the wrong day, Dortmund or Sevilla can beat anyone; Guardiola is well aware of the danger they bring.
FC Copenhagen hasn’t competed in the group stage since 2016–17, and the reigning Danish champions will require a near-miracle to match their 2010–11 campaign, when they reached the round of 16 before being eliminated by Chelsea over two legs. The two matches between Sevilla and Dortmund could be thrilling due to the Bundesliga team’s 5-4 aggregate victory over them in their last-16 match in 2021. Haaland contributed to four of Dortmund’s five goals over the course of the two games, but this season he will be lining up for Manchester City, the opponents in Group G.
MUST WATCH: Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund
In his debut season at the Etihad Stadium, Haaland will face his old team in this match. The Norwegian striker claimed in the summer that he joined Man City in order to win tournaments like the Champions League; therefore, if he wants to advance, he must defeat Dortmund. During the 2012–13 group stage, Dortmund defeated Man City by four points, causing Roberto Mancini’s squad to finish last.
Predicted finish: Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, FC Copenhagen
Under Guardiola, Manchester City have become into group stage experts, and it would be shocking if they didn’t win Group G and go to the next round. Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla are expected to compete for second place. Despite the fact that Sevilla was eliminated in the group stage last season, they have the advantage over Dortmund, who are still getting used to playing without Haaland. Last year, the German team also had trouble, and they lost to Besiktas, Sporting Lisbon, and Ajax in their group.
Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Benfica, Maccabi Haifa
Mbappe and PSG are still seeking to win the Champions League for the first time in contemporary history. Can they use Group H as the launching pad to get there?
Will Paris Saint-Germain finally be able to hold the Champions League trophy this year? They have a team that can compete with any in the world with to Messi, Mbappe, and Neymar, but they have managed to earn the reputation as Champions League chokers, which won’t go away until they win the cup. Since they haven’t lost in the group stage since 2004, they shouldn’t have any trouble making it through Group H this year; it’s only later that they start to have issues.They were just about to beat Real Madrid in the round of 16 of the previous season when they threw it away.
The Italians are seeking their own atonement after losing in the second round in each of the last three seasons, so Juventus will present a tough early challenge. For a team of their stature and resources, 26 years since their last Champions League victory is simply too long. Benfica, who made it to the last eight last season, is the team that poses the biggest threat to PSG and Juventus, while Maccabi Haifa from Israel has only ever reached the group stage twice, in 2002-03 and 2009-10.
MUST WATCH: Paris Saint-Germain vs Juventus
A group stage matchup between two powerhouses is all you can ask for, and Paris Saint-Germain vs. Juventus delivers on that promise. Although they have never faced off against each other in a professional match, both of these clubs have hopes to advance farther in the competition and not just win Group H. PSG will be one of the favorites to win the championship, and Juventus is a good way to gauge their potential.
Predicted finish: Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Benfica, Maccabi Haifa
PSG will edge the two games with Juventus, allowing the French Ligue 1 side to claim the top spot in Group H. Juventus shouldn’t have any problem qualifying for the last 16, even against a Benfica side that will be buoyed by their run to the quarterfinals last season. Darwin Nunez was key to their success last season, and the striker has departed for Liverpool, so the two top seeds should be too strong.