Funny how UEFA won’t let me heal from last year’s Champions League final before starting a new season. Yes, it was three months and four days ago that Liverpool lost to Real Madrid in the Final in Kiev (not that anyone’s counting) and I’m still not over it. Even though I routinely obsess over random Liverpool highlights, even of losses. I cannot bring myself to watch that game. When I close my eyes I still see a bruising and evil spaniard brutally injure Mo Salah before throwing a violent elbow at Loris Karius.
With that out of the way, the UEFA Champions League draw took place in Monaco today, and the results were… interesting. There are some fantastic games to look forward to (Liverpool vs. PSG), as well as some absolute snoozefest (Man United vs anyone Juvenuts). With that, it’s time for a look into the best and worst of this year’s group stage.
The Best Group:
PSG, Napoli, Liverpool, Red Star Belgrade
UEFA doesn’t like to make it easy on me. Liverpool had to navigate a tricky group last year, and got it even worse this time round. PSG are renowned Champions League chokers, but still have three of the top 10 attackers in the world forming their front line.
The midfield, allegedly their “weak point,” consists of Marco Verratti, Adrien Rabiot, and probably Angel Di Maria. They have tournament-winning talent. Add to that a Napoli side who claimed 91 points in Serie A last year, and this group is scary. Also, anyone fancy going to Serbia on a Wednesday night to play in front of a hostile Red Star Belgrade crowd?
They may not be very good, but it’s like watching the Uruk-hai army advance as King Theodyn hopelessly attempts to defend Helm’s Deep. *self five for Lord of the Rings reference*
Last year was a miracle run until Sergio Ramos ruined my life. Despite a deeper squad, this year will be even more challenging. Still, up the reds!
The Worst Group:
Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto, Schalke, Galatasaray
Wait what? Hang on a minute. This group has only two European Cup wins between the four of them, and only one since 2004. It’s incredibly difficult to think of a worse group in recent memory. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about Lokomotiv Moscow (except that it’s actually not pronounced like the train, which is very disappointing.) Additionally, Liverpool did this to Porto:
Schalke were good for quite some time last year, but then lost Leon Goretzka to the Bundesliga vacuum cleaner that is Bayern Munich. Galatasaray are another not-very-good team with very scary fans. In short, Group D is a toss up and whoever does advance with likely be pegged for an immediate exit.
The best game:
Liverpool vs. PSG
It’s hard to pick one here. Manchester United versus Juventus will be entertaining just for Ronaldo’s return, but it’s important to remember that not a single player in United’s likely starting 11 shared the pitch with Cristiano. Also, Mourinho will do that thing where he benches Alexis Sanchez, parks the bus and then demands respect from the media. That is, if he’s still in the job.
There’s also potential for an exciting contest between Barcelona and Tottenham or Atletico and Dortmund. The smart money, however, says that PSG versus Liverpool will be a thriller. The best attack in France versus the best attack in England (yeah, I said it). It’s like the 100 years war all over again. Seriously though, the pace and creativity of these two teams in a thrilling 90 minute match not once, but twice? Christmas came early this year! Obviously, Liverpool will brutally thrash the French champions both times behind the god that is James Milner… but still, what a game this will be.
The real excitement of Europe’s the world’s sport’s most gripping competition won’t come around until next year. This is merely a taste of how juicy the competition will be, and a tantalizing one at that.
Up the reds.