The international break came at a very inopportune moment for the football fans but the prospect of the UEFA Champions League group stage on the horizon kept them going, especially the followers of the 4 Premier League clubs who are participating. The groups have been formed and the fixtures have been released.
While a few groups have classic matchups in store, others are not so exciting. But who are the English clubs going to play? Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool have all been drawn into interesting groups this season and we try to take a look at how tough it will be for the respective clubs:
Group F – Manchester City (Shakhtar Donetsk, AS Lyon, TSG Hoffenheim)
The English champions from last season have the easiest group among clubs in England. Ukrainian league champions from last season, Shakhtar will probably be their toughest test, as they have been in fine form this season as well, losing just one of their first six games. Playing at Donbass Arena will not be easy and could prove to be a tough test. Next come Ligue 1 side AS Lyon, who made some smart moves in the summer transfer window.
The French side have made a decent start to the current campaign, winning two of their first four games but Pep Guardiola’s side will believe that they can do the double on them and also Hoffenheim. The German club will not, however, be pushovers but on the basis of what we have seen over the course of the past year, Pep should find a way to beat them.
City also face Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester United, right after or just before these group stage games, which could make this campaign a bit tougher for Pep’s men.
Difficulty Level: 5/10
Group H – Manchester United (Juventus, Valencia, Young Boys)
The Red Devils have made a less than impressive start to their league campaign but have some glamour fixtures in their UCL campaign. Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba will return to their former sides when United take on Italian giants Juventus with this clash already hyped up by the fans and the media. La Liga side Valencia are yet to register a victory in the domestic league this season and Marcelino Garcia Toral’s side should not pose a huge challenge for Jose Mourinho’s men. However, like last season showed, United could well be knocked out by Spanish sides making this a tricky fixture.
Swiss side Young Boys have won each of their first five games at the start of the current league season but at Old Trafford, they stand very little chance. They do have it in them to stun United in their home fixture but the Red Devils are expected to get through this group, even if they struggle to beat Juventus.
Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool will play United after or before these Champions League games and Mourinho will have to use his entire squad depth to have a positive group stage in this prestigious competition.
Difficulty Level: 6/10
Group B – Tottenham Hotspur (Barcelona, Inter Milan, PSV Eindhoven)
Spurs have been pooled in probably the toughest group among English clubs in the competition. They did well travelling to Bernabeu last season and will have to make a similar trip, this time to Camp Nou, to face a Barcelona side, that is in fine form early this season. The Catalan giants will certainly be the biggest test for Spurs this season and if they can get through at least one of those games without a defeat, they stand a decent chance in this group. They will also have to play Inter Milan, who have made a shaky start to the current season. They have collected 4 points in their first three games but will have to be at their best to beat the consistent Spurs.
Dutch side PSV have made a cracking start to their league campaign, winning three games on the trot and Spurs should make sure they show no complacency if they are to qualify for the Round of 16 with their group easily one of the toughest in the competition.
Tottenham Hotspur play Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal on either side of two of those group games, which will only make their run that much difficult.
Difficulty Level: 8/10
Group C – Liverpool (PSG, SSC Napoli, Red Star Belgrade)
The runners-up from the last season of the competition, Liverpool, have been handed a glamorous trip to Paris, as they face Ligue 1 giants PSG, in one of the most exciting matches of the group stage. The Reds were undefeated at home in the last campaign and will pose a real threat to the French champions but they are not the only tough team in the group. Serie A giants Napoli, under Carlo Ancelotti have made a bright start to the league campaign and will be no pushovers. So Liverpool cannot afford to have an off day against either team, or they could end up getting knocked out in the group stage itself.
To make things more interesting, the Reds will also have to travel to Rajko Mitić Stadium in Serbia, one of the most hostile football stadiums in Europe. A trip down there will not be easy so Liverpool have realistically no games that they can rest key players for.
The fixture list in England does not favour Liverpool either as they play Spurs, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal Everton and Manchester United after or before these six group stage games so they arguably have the toughest run of fixtures among teams in the Premier League.
Difficulty Level: 8/10