The 2016-2017 Champions League draw wrapped up earlier this evening in Monaco, with the 32 competing teams learning who their opposition will be in Europe’s premier club competition. As always, the draw threw up plenty of attractive matchups, while providing some clubs an easier path than others to the Round of 16. Here are my two cents on the overall draw:
WHICH GROUP IS THE “GROUP OF DEATH”?
No draw is complete without an analysis of which unlucky quartet of teams have found themselves inside the dreaded “Group of Death”. However, the results of this year’s draw are a bit inconclusive in my opinion. A few groups are notably harder than others, sure, but there isn’t just one group that stands out as the most treacherous.
For the sake of the game, I’ll put forth two options for most deadly foursome. The first is Group C, which features Barcelona, Man City, Gladbach, and Celtic. Barca and City are the obvious favorites, but Gladbach are actually quite dangerous themselves. They boast a few promising young players and played great football in the Bundesliga last season. Celtic are definitely the odd ones out here, but they have a previous record for scalps in the competition, having famously beaten Barcelona once during the 2012-13 campaign.
My second pick for “Group of Death” is group E, where my Spurs have drawn CSKA, Leverkusen, and Monaco as their opponents. This group is tough for me not because the teams involved are powerhouses, but rather that they are all quite close to one another in terms of ability and prestige. Spurs and Leverkusen have to be the odds-on teams to progress, but CSKA are no slouches either, with Russia always a tough place to get results on the road. Though Spurs have a great head-to-head record against Monaco, the French outfit could pose problems for any team in the group at their own ground.
WHICH TEAM GOT THE EASIEST DRAW?
It’s hard to see past Group G’s Leicester City in this category, who have somehow managed to get a group including Porto, Club Brugge, and FC Copenhagen in their maiden Champions League voyage. Porto should push them all the way for top spot in the group, but I can’t see either of the remaining clubs giving the English side any trouble. Whoever out of Porto and Leicester can beat up harder on the group minnows will earn themselves the first place finish easily.
WHICH FEDERATION HAS THE BEST CHANCE TO PAD THEIR COEFFICIENT?
English fans will have been licking their chops as the draw progressed, so probable is it that all four of their club team representatives find their way into the knockout stages. Only Man City have a truly tricky assignment ahead of them, with last year’s Premier League top 3 of Leicester, Arsenal, and Spurs all being placed into quite manageable progression scenarios. Italy’s chances aren’t too bad either, with both Napoli and Juventus being dropped into groups they should have little difficulty getting through.
Spanish and German teams were not so lucky, however, which is a tad ironic considering their teams often perform the best in the knockout stages of the competition. A couple of Spain’s big boys have pretty tough groups, with Barca having to fend off Man City and Gladbach while Atletico will need to get past Bayern and PSV to go through. German sides Bayern and Dortmund should advance, but both Gladbach and Leverkusen could realistically come up short in their respective groups.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MARQUEE MATCHUPS?
I’ll close out this brief recap with a list of some of the more mouth-watering games the group stage draw has provided us. In particular, football fans should be quite excited to see the following 6 clashes between some of the competition’s biggest (and in Leicester’s case, newest) names:
Arsenal – PSG
Barcelona – Man City
Bayern – Atletico
Real Madrid – Dortmund
Leicester – Porto
Juventus – Sevilla