Champions League Draw 2020

UEFA Champions League Logo.

Each year, the best soccer teams from across Europe take part in the UEFA Champions League. This tournament-style league takes place across the regular season of the soccer teams, and the later stages of the tournament extend into the summer months. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic pause that occurred this past summer, the tournament schedule had to be adjusted. The final of the Champions League will occur on the May 29 in Turkey. This tournament is widely watched around the world as the best soccer players in the world face off. 

According to Bleacher Report, the UEFA Champions League is the fifteenth most-watched sports event in the world at  178.7 million viewers. For reference, the Champions League is one spot behind March Madness at fourteenth place. The Champions League ranks higher than the Stanley Cup, with the hockey tournament coming in at twenty-third place. (1)

Each season, teams qualify for the tournament based on where they finish in their league. For example, the top four teams in the British Premier League qualify for the tournament. Those below either qualify for Europa League or must play in a mini-tournament to qualify for the Champions League. Before the tournament can begin, teams are randomly selected, based on the pot they’re in. These pots are based on ranking by UEFA. This assures that each group is balanced, with the best teams spread out among different groups. The top two of each group then go on to qualify for the tournament, the fourth-place team is eliminated, and the best third-place teams find themselves in the “lower” tournament, UEFA’s Europa League. Each group is unique and making predictions is difficult; however, within each group, there are key teams to watch out for. For each group, I will point out the key teams and predict how each group will finish. 

Group A:

Bayern, Atlético Madrid, Salzburg, Lokomotiv Moskva

I would argue this is probably the easiest group to predict. Bayern Munich (Germany) are the current champions of this tournament after beating Paris St. Germain this summer. Athletico Madrid (Spain) knocked out Liverpool (the previous champions) in the round of 16. The other two teams will be fighting for third place. 

Prediction:

Bayern, Atlético Madrid, Salzburg, Lokomotiv Moskva

 

Group B: 

Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Internazionale, Mönchengladbach

Unfortunately for everyone else in this group, the obvious first place finisher is Real Madrid (Spain). Even those unfamiliar with soccer can identify the badges of Real Madrid and their fierce rival, FC Barcelona. Real Madrid has won this competition a record 13 times. Now, in regards to who finishes second, I am tempted to say Internazionale (Italy), better known as Inter Milan. Inter finished as runners up in the Europa League and are hoping to return to European dominance. 

Prediction:

Real Madrid, Internazionale, Shakhtar Donetsk, Mönchengladbach

 

Group C:

Porto, Manchester City, Olympiacos, Marseille

Once again, we have another group where the first-place finisher is quite apparent; however, given Manchester City’s (England) rocky start to the beginning of the Premier League season, a team like FC Porto (Portugal) could make a surprise push for first place. However, I don’t see that happening. FC Porto last won the competition in 2005, although their presence in the European soccer scene has been weak ever since. Marseille (France) is a prevalent player in the Champions League: however, they always seem to never meet expectations. 

Prediction:

Manchester City, Porto, Marseille, Olympiacos

 

Group C:

Liverpool, Ajax, Atalanta, Midtjylland

This is probably the most competitive group so far. Liverpool (England) have been a strong force in the Champions League, making the final in 2018 and losing, then winning it in 2019. Liverpool will most likely finish first place: however, I would expect a strong push from Ajax (Netherlands), who historically are very strong in the tournament and last made it into the Semi-Finals in 2019. They’ll be pushing for that second place. Atalanta (Italy) was a newcomer to the tournament last year and made it surprisingly far, only losing in the Quarter-final to the eventual finalists, PSG. Unfortunately, they’ve been placed in a tough group; however, I could see either Atalanta or Ajax finishing in second, but I’ll go with the safe pick. 

Prediction:

Liverpool, Ajax, Atalanta, Midtjylland

 

Group D: 

Sevilla, Chelsea, Krasnodar, Rennes

Another uncompetitive group, as first and second place, seems quite clear. Sevilla (Spain) are the champions of the Europa League which gives them automatic qualification, regardless of where they finished in their league. According to TalkSport, Chelsea (England) spent £222m on players this summer which sees them bring in some of the hottest and most sought-after prospects in all of Europe. Additionally, they bought a new goalkeeper, a position where they were extremely weak. They will easily finish in first unless some freak injuries happen to their main personnel. 

Prediction: 

Chelsea, Sevilla, Rennes, Krasnodar

 

Group E:

Zenit, Dortmund, Lazio, Club Brugge

Before I get into my predictions, I can safely assume that Club Brugge (Belgium) will finish dead last, as it isn’t up to par with the other teams. I think the other three teams are pretty close in terms of quality, they’re all pretty mediocre generally. Dortmund (Germany) are lucky they kept their star player, 19-year-old Jadon Sancho, amid heavy interest from Manchester United (England). Lazio (Italy) boasts the services of Crio Immobile. Immobile won the European Golden Boot for the 2019-2020 competition, after scoring an impressive 36 goals. He won this award by scoring the most goals in Europe. (3) He scored more goals than both Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo, both having mediocre seasons. Lazio should finish second, but Zenit (Russia) could pull an upset. However, I predict Lazio to finish second. 

Prediction:

Dortmund, Lazio, Zenit, Club Brugge

 

Group G:

Juventus, Barcelona, Dynamo Kyiv, Ferencváros

Following two weak performances from Barcelona (Spain) and Juventus (Italy), they will be both pushing to make it into the later rounds of the Champions League. Either one could finish in first place, but given Juventus’s strong showing in the summer transfer window and the Messi saga that will put a strain on the entire Barcelona squad, I predict Juventus to finish first. 

Prediction:

Juventus, Barcelona, Dynamo Kyiv, Ferencváros

 

Group H:

Paris, Manchester United, Leipzig, İstanbul Başakşehir

Another group with three particularly strong teams, Manchester United (England) and Paris, better known as PSG, will be looking to make a splash in the competition. PSG will be disappointed to lose in the final last season, and they should have another strong showing this season. RB Leipzig (Germany) are also new to the competition after making it deep into the competition last season. Manchester United, although a huge club, have had a poor showing the first few weeks of the season; however, Leipzig lost their star player, Timo Werner to Chelsea over the summer, so they may struggle to match the showing they did last season. However, given Manchester United’s abysmal start to the season, I think they’ll go down into the competition that better fits their quality, the Europa League. 

Prediction:

Paris, Leipzig, Manchester United, İstanbul Başakşehir

All groups can be found on UEFA’s official website. (4)

 

As teams prepare to face off in the most competitive soccer tournament in the world, several teams will be looking to progress into the later stages of the tournament. Although not everyone enjoys watching soccer, its popularity continues to rise in the United States. The sheer size of the Champions League makes it enjoyable to watch. Not only is there club pride involved, there is national pride involved. The Champions League is a wonderful tournament, with teams from across Europe taking part. I would encourage anyone, even if you don’t regularly watch soccer, to watch the highlights of some of the group stage games, they are highly entertaining. All highlights can be found for free on Youtube. Once the Round of 16 is announced and the Group Stage is complete, I will have another tournament preview at that point. 

  1. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1247928-ranking-the-biggest-events-in-sports

  2. https://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/news/0262-1081d9c1805c-fff671c9455e-1000--group-stage-draw-made-in-geneva/

  3. https://www.marca.com/en/football/international-football/2020/08/01/5f257819ca4741f62a8b4588.html

  4. https://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/news/0262-1081d9c1805c-fff671c9455e-1000--group-stage-draw-made-in-geneva/

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