Mauricio Pochettino has to wonder how in the world he angered the soccer gods. His Tottenham side was drawn into the so-called "Group of Death" last year in the Champions League, finishing third to AS Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen (a group that also included CSKA Moscow). This time around, the Spurs have been drawn into Group H. Tottenham, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund have all been drawn together. Poor APOEL is virtually certain to finish without a single point, and there's a good chance that Cyprus team is going to struggle just to put the ball in the back of the net in six matches against these big boys.
The fact that one of these three teams is going to drop into Europa League is virtually a sin. Fortunately for most of the rest of the big boys, the path into the last 16 of the Champions League is going to be a little bit easier.
Especially with the way Manchester United is playing at the outset of the season, there shouldn't be any issues ultimately getting through Group A, a group that consists of FC Basel, Benfica and CSKA Moscow. All three of these teams are dangerous, but the Red Devils are clearly the cream of the crop in this bunch.
Group B should be the easiest of the eight to handicap. Paris Saint-German went out and had a massive spending spree this year, and its only true test in Group B should be against Bayern Munich. Anderlecht and Celtic are both respectable teams in their own right, but they aren't going to be competing with two of the best teams in the world in this group.
The same could be said for AS Roma in Group C. It's entirely possible that the Italian giants rise up and at least threaten Atletico Madrid and Chelsea in this group, but it's hard to see anything but an Atleti/Blues 1/2 finish in some sort. Qarabag will become the first team from Azerbaijan to ever play in the group stage of the Champions League, though it's clearly an overmatched side and probably won't end up with any points.
Barcelona and Juventus know all about each other from past encounters in the UCL, and they've been drawn together in Group D alongside Olympiacos and Sporting Lisbon. Once again, we have a case where there are two teams who should easily qualify and two who will be fighting for nothing more than the dropout spot into the Europa League.
Group E might be the most interesting in that, there isn't really a clearly defined leader of the pack. You'd like to think that both Liverpool and Sevilla are good enough teams to get through a group with Spartak Moscow and Slovenian team, Maribor. But traveling to Moscow as we get deeper into the year becomes more and more of a hassle, and both Sevilla and Liverpool might find that out.
Manchester City should have an easy run into the last 16 as well. Pep Guardiola's team will face Italian big boy, Napoli, alongside Feyenoord and Shakhtar Donetsk. Both of the minnows in Group F are better than some of the really little guys in the other groups, but there still shouldn't be any issues here whatsoever.
RB Leipzig is playing in the Champions League for the very first time and has been drawn into Group G alongside Monaco, Beskitas and Porto. All four of these teams could easily end up getting through this group, though clearly, Leipzig and Monaco are going to be the favorites to advance.
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