By Kyle Block
The Champions League presents competition among the top clubs from all around the world. 79 clubs compete in the league, but only 32 clubs make it to the group stage competition, which is the current stage of the Champions League. The clubs are ranked into skill based pools and are drawn into their groups. Currently each team is half way through the group stage, having played three of their six matches. However, it has already been shown which teams look like they will advance and which will be sent home or to the Europa League.
Group A is one of the more competitive groups although Bayern Munich, the defending champion, has almost solidified first place in the group. Bayern Munich have won all three of their competition pretty handedly, but the rest of the teams are still fighting for the second place position which also advances to the next round of the Champions League. Atletico Madrid has a stronger side than Lokomotiv Moscow or Salzburg, but are only two and three points separated respectively from the other competition. Over the next three matches, we will see if Atletico can win the games versus the teams below them like they should. I predict that they will advance with wins over both of the inferior clubs, but would not be surprised if they get upset.
By far the most surprising group with Borussia Monchengladbach currently in first followed by Shakhtar Donetsk in second is Group B. These two smaller clubs are ahead of Real Madrid and Inter Milan: both historically great clubs. Even though Inter Milan has not won any matches in the group stage, they only sit three points behind first place. Also, Real Madrid and Shakhtar are both only one point behind first, each club with one win, loss, and draw. Overall, this entire group is up for grabs half way through the competition, but my assumptions are that Real Madrid will play much better with the return of their star player Sergio Ramos and will advance with Borussia Monchengladbach who are in great form.
Group C is one of the more predictable groups as the competitions have all been won by the favored sides. It is safe to say that Manchester City proves to be too strong of a club for the rest of the group and will finish in first place, already holding three victories. Porto already beat Olympiakos two to zero in their first match, but they could get upset in the next leg. Marseille, who does not have a win or a goal, does not look like they have any shot at advancing. I predict that Manchester City will win the group and Porto will come in second, following the standings now.
Led by Liverpool, Group D is very competitive. Liverpool currently has a commanding lead, but the middle of the group is very tight. Atalanta and Ajax are two very evenly matched sides as they drew in their first match. Both sides have one win, draw, and a loss, meaning they each sit at four points. Midtjylland sits at the bottom of the group with zero wins and will probably stay in the last position. I predict that Ajax will be able to advance along with Liverpool, but it would not be surprising for Atalanta to advance instead of Ajax.
Group E is one of the groups which already seems set in stone. Chelsea leads the group, tied in points with Sevilla but up in goal differential. Krasnodar and Rennes are tied for third in the group, but neither of them have won a match yet. It is safe to say that Chelsea and Sevilla will advance. However, the order of their placements is still up for grabs. I think Chelsea will take first place in the group due to their good performances recently and to the overall strength of their squad.
One of the more interesting groups is definitely Group F. Dortmund currently leads the pack but not by much. Lazio, which is in second place with five points, trails Dortmund by one point and defeated them in their last match (three to one). Club Brugge holds down third place with four points, but they have a weaker squad then the teams ahead of them. Zenit is in last place with no wins in the group stage, and I believe that they will stay in that position. Although the top three teams are neck and neck right now, I think Dortmund will pull away in first place and Lazio will follow them in second place.
With both Messi and Ronaldo in one group, what’s not to love about Group G? Barcelona leads the group as they have three victories. Juventus follows them with two wins, meaning six points. Dynamo Kyiv is tied for third with Ferencváros trailing them. It is clear to say that Juventus and Barcelona will advance from the group, but the positioning behind them is unclear. I think Barcelona will win the group followed by Juventus, Dynamo Kyiv, and Ferncváros in that order. Even though the group looks decided, everyone should be excited to see the next match between Messi and Ronaldo.
The Champions League might be saving best for last with Group H. The standings are currently Manchester United, Red Bull Leipzig, Paris Saint Germain, and Istanbul Basaksehir in last. PSG, which came in second last Champions League season, finds themself in third place with one win while Leipzig and Man United are tied at six points in first. The top three teams in this group all are at the level to advance to the next stage, but only two can. I think PSG will come back and win the rest of their matches and take first in the group. I think Man United are in great form and will be able to win their match versus Leipzig and take the second spot to advance, leaving Leipzig in third and Basaksehir in last.
Overall, there are a lot of fantastic matches to be played and watched by fans all around the world. I am excited to see how my predictions turn out and to see if there are any upsets I had not predicted.