It’s coming! The 2016/17 Champions League is nearly upon us, and with excitement growing after the group-stage draw in Monaco last week , here is the low-down on what each group has in store, as well as the games not to be missed on Matchday 1 of Europe’s premier club competition.
Matchday 1 throws together the two group giants in what should be a tasty encounter at the Park des Princes between Paris Saint-Germain, winner of the last 4 Ligue 1 titles in France, and Arsenal, who despite having failed to claim a Premier League title since 2003, find themselves in the Champions League group stages for a staggering nineteenth consecutive occasion. Basel and Ludogorets complete would should be, on paper at least, a straightforward progression for the two group giants.
Game of the week: Paris Saint-Germain V Arsenal, Tues 13th
Paris Saint-Germain 1.72, Draw 3.60, Arsenal 4.75
Group B features Benfica, perennial Champions League participants and quarter-finalists last time out, Napoli, back after a three-year hiatus, Dynamo Kiev, who were knocked in the Round of 16 last season, and Besiktas, the Turkish champions and making their first appearance in the competition since 2009/10. With that kind of pedigree, Group B promises to be a competitive one, and offers up a couple of exciting encounters on matchday 1, including Napoli’s trip to Kiev.
Game of the week: Dynamo Kiev V Napoli, Tues 13th
Dynamo Kiev 3.25, Draw 3.30, Napoli 2.20
Group C has brought about the romance of Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola’s return to the Nou Camp to face a Barcelona side he did so much to mould. Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic offer glamour in name at least, but in reality it is Guardiola’s current and former clubs who should progress without fanfare. Gladbach’s visit to the Etihad on matchday 1 to play City will be crucial, with the German’s looking to avenge two defeats to the English side in last season’s group stage.
Game of the week: Manchester City V , B. Monchengladbach, Tues 13th
Manchester City 1.50, Draw 4.33, B. Monchengladbach 6.00
Another group with plenty to offer on paper, and Dutch champions PSV were mightily unfortunate to be knocked out on penalties by eventual finalists Atletico in last year’s Round of 16. With those two set to renew acquaintances, and German behemoths Bayern Munich in the same group, Russia’s Rostov face an uphill challenge to even qualify for the Europa League by finishing third. Atletico’s visit to Eindhoven on matchday 1 offers the Dutch a chance for early revenge.
Game of the week: PSV V Atletico Madrid, Tues 13th
PSV 4.00, Draw 3.40, Atletico 1.90
Russian champion’s CSKA have been grouped with three teams who finished third in their respective leagues last season: Bayer Leverkusen, who were eliminated in last season’s group stage, Tottenham, who return to the Champions League for the first time since reaching the quarter-finals in 2010/11, and 2003/04 runners-up Monaco. An open group on paper, CSKA’s visit to Germany on matchday 1 could reveal much about who will eventually progress.
Game of the week: Bayer Leverkusen V CSKA Moscow, Weds 14th
- Leverkusen 1.57, Draw 3.75, CSKA 6.00
Legia Warsaw may be ruing the fact that they have been drawn against defending champions Real Madrid, ’97 winners and 2013 runners-up Dortmund, and Portuguese Primeira Liga runners-up Sporting, but fans of the Polish side cannot complain that they won’t be able to see a little bit of stardust on show on Champions League nights at the Polish Army Stadium. Real and Dortmund are odds-on to qualify for the knockout, so Sporting will need a positive start at the Bernabeu on matchday 1.
Game of the week: Real Madrid V Sporting, Weds 14th
Real Madrid 1.22, Draw 6.50, Sporting 11.00
Europe’s surprise success-story Leicester City make their debut in the rarefied atmosphere of the Champions League away at Club Brugge on matchday 1 in what could be an encounter that shapes the destiny of a group also featuring Porto and FC Copenhagen. Perhaps not the strongest group on paper, but 2003/04 winners Porto lead the way in a group which could well be determined by home form – Copenhagen, for example, have only ever lost one game in the Champions league at their fortress Telia Parken, against Real Madrid.
Game of the week: Club Brugge V Leicester City, Weds 14th
Club Brugge 3.00, Draw 3.20, Leicester City 2.40
The final group is another interesting affair with Italian champions Juventus the clear favourites to progress, but Europa League winners from the past three seasons Sevilla will be looking to improve on last season’s disappointing group stage showing. Lyon and Dinamo Zagreb complete the line-up. All eyes on Turin for Sevilla’s visit to the Old Lady on matchday 1
Game of the week: Juventus V Sevilla, Weds 14th
Juventus 1.61, Draw 3.80, Sevilla 5.50
To Win Outright
Bayern Munich 5.00
Real Madrid 6.00
Man City 13.00
All odds courtesy of bet365 and correct as of 17:00 GMT on 02/09/16
By: Steve Paget