After Thursday evening’s group stage draw for this season’s Champions League, we only have a little over two weeks to wait before Europe’s elite begin to battle it out.
But who will make it through the group stages and into the last-16 come mid-December? Hannah Blackmore takes us through group-by-group.
Group A: Paris St-Germain, Real Madrid, Club Bruges, Galatasaray
Perhaps the easiest to call, it will almost certainly be Real Madrid and PSG progressing to the next round from Group A.
Real Madrid have arguably strengthened by bringing in Hazard, as well as holding on to Bale, and whilst the PSG and Neymar situation remains unresolved, I don’t think Club Bruges or Galatasaray will be able to stand in their way.
Group B: Bayern Munich, Tottenham, Olympiacos, Red Star Belgrade
Tottenham had a brilliant Champions League campaign last season, reaching the final for the first time and causing a few upsets along the way.
I think they will make it through the group stages again this year, but perhaps coming second to German giants, Bayern Munich.
However, it’s worth remembering that Red Star beat Liverpool in last season’s group stages – both they and Olympiacos can prove tough to play away.
Group C: Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb, Atalanta
City arguably have the easiest group of all four English sides this season, and, short of any major disasters, will breeze through to the last-16 in the hope of finally getting past the semi-finals.
Shakhtar Donetsk have not lost a league game for over a year in their native Ukraine, so I fancy them to also progress.
Italian side Atalanta will be interesting to watch, having qualified for the Champions League for the first time in their history following an impressive third-placed finish in Serie A last season.
Group D: Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Moscow
Group D is going to treat us to a re-run of last year’s clashes between Juventus and Atletico Madrid, and I think these two will fight it out for the top two spots, as Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow won’t be strong enough to say otherwise.
What will be odd is seeing Kieran Trippier and Aaron Ramsey play against each other in something other than the North London derby.
Group E: Liverpool, Napoli, Salzburg, Genk
Current holders Liverpool have been given a relatively straightforward group to begin their title-defending campaign.
They lost away to Napoli in the group stages last season, and I think the Italian side will be their nearest competitors in Group E.
Away days to Salzburg and Genk shouldn’t cause them too many problems.
Group F: Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Slavia Prague
If there has to be a ‘Group of Death’ each year – this is it.
Having last reached the final in 2015, Barcelona will be keen to find themselves back there ASAP.
Inter Milan will be invigorated by new manager Antonio Conte, as well as new additions, Lukaku, Godín and Sánchez, and Borussia Dortmund are always a force to be reckoned with in Europe.
For me, it will be Barcelona and Inter that make it through, but it will be tight.
Group G: Zenit St Petersburg, Benfica, Lyon, RB Leipzig
Possibly the toughest group to call as all four teams are so similarly matched. For this one I’m plucking out two names to progress – Benfica and Lyon.
Group H: Chelsea, Ajax, Valencia, Lille
Chelsea have probably found themselves in the toughest group of all the English sides, but I fancy the Europa League winners to make it through to the knock-out stages if they can quickly overcome their current defensive woes.
All four teams in Group H have relatively young sides, which could prove for some great, fast-paced, ballsy battles.
Ajax’s strong campaign last season will give them the edge over Valencia and Lille, so I think the Dutch side will join Frank Lampard’s Blues in the last-16.