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UCL: Ranking each 2017/18 group from easiest to most difficult

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It’s always to play the “which team has the hardest or easiest group?” game before UEFA Champions League play has even kicked off.

[ MORE: UCL draw — Group H features Real, Dortmund and Spurs ]

So, that’s exactly what we’re going to do here today.

Thursday’s draw featured many twists and turns, just as every other year does, but there’s little debating which groups will be the most challenging for the 2017/18 group stage.

[ MORE: Ibrahimovic move helps Man United’s aspirations in 17/18 ]

Below, we’ll rate and take a look at which groups present the biggest threat to the teams in them starting with the easiest and working our way down to the most difficult.

(Scale is 1-10 with 1 being the easiest and 10 presenting the biggest challenge)

Group A: Benfica, Manchester United, FC Basel, CSKA Moscow

(Rating: 2)

Other than the travel to Russia, Manchester United should have little problems with their group. Benfica is a side worth watching out for given their track record in the UCL, which includes reaching the knockout phase in the last two seasons.

Group B: Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Anderlecht, Celtic

(Rating: 4)

There’s no doubting who the two heavyweights are in this group, so it’s a massive uphill climb for Anderlecht and Celtic if they want to pull off any upsets. Chances are though, both clubs will be vying for a place in the Europa League.

Group D: Juventus, Barcelona, Olympiakos, Sporting Lisbon

(Rating: 4.5)

Barca and Juventus will be the two sides most people are looking at — and rightfully so. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where Sporting or Olympiakos advances, but both clubs present difficult fixtures when playing at home, so they could quietly make some noise.

Group E: Spartak Moscow, Sevilla, Liverpool, Maribor

(Rating: 5)

Liverpool got the group it wanted and needed as the Premier League side re-joins the UCL this season. Sevilla has had loads of success in the Europa League, winning three of the last four years, but the Champions League is a different animal.

Group C: Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, AS Roma, Qarabag

(Rating: 6)

On paper this should be a tricky group given the three big names, but Roma is a very different side than they were last year. They don’t boast the attacking threats that they once did, and Atletico and Chelsea should be able to handle themselves, despite having to make tough trips to Azerbaijan to face Qarabag in their inaugural UCL season.

Group F: Shakhtar Donetsk, Manchester City, Napoli, Feyenoord

(Rating: 7)

This group is a lot tougher than it looks. Feyenoord won’t have much expected of them, but the Dutch side proved last season in domestic play that they can be a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, Napoli and Man City present dangerous attacking fronts and will be the ones that are expected to reach the last 16.

Group G: Monaco, Porto, Besitkas, Red Bull Leipzig

(Rating: 7.5)

This could very well be the most underrated group given the names in it, but don’t sleep on any of these four clubs. Monaco should be the favorite to win Group G, but given all the losses they’ve suffered this summer in the transfer market it’s simply a different team from the 2016/17 season. Also, watch out for RB Leipzig in its first UCL appearance.

Group H: Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham Hotspur, APOEL

(Rating: 9.5)

As far as English sides go, Spurs really got the short end of the stick with this draw. While APOEL will likely be the club that has to receive the brutal beatings from all three contenders, Spurs will have the challenging task on its hands of trying to finish above Real and Dortmund, who have both found success in the competition as of late.

Manchester United to seek out those who continue offensive Lukaku chant

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Some Manchester United supporters persisting in singing a chant glorifying Romelu Lukaku which has been deemed racist by many for its depiction of the player’s penis size.

Lukaku was among those to ask that fans stop singing the song, as did the club, but it was heard from the away end at St. Mary’s during Manchester United’s 1-0 win on Saturday (where Lukaku scored the winner).

[ WATCH: Coutinho’s gorgeous free kick ]

United responded with vigor after the match, releasing a statement claiming it would request closed circuit footage of the fans in attempts to ban those singing the song based on The Stone Roses’ “Made of Stone.”

WATCH: Coutinho spins gorgeous free kick past Schmeichel

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Minutes after setting up Mohamed Salah for a back door header for a 1-0 lead at Leicestwer City, Liverpool wizard Philippe Coutinho tacked on a goal of his own.

WATCH LEICESTER-LIVERPOOL ONLINE, HERE

Coutinho scored a beauty in the 23rd minute, as the Brazilian lorded over a free kick before spinning a goal just off the top of the wall and past a flying Kasper Schmeichel.

It looked like it was headed for the upper 90 even had it not taking its tiny deviation. The kick was a masterful effort from Coutinho.

Everton’s comeback win puts Koeman “in a totally different world”

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A quiz for you. Oumar Niasse‘s two goals:

  • A) Saved Ronald Koeman‘s job
  • B) Led Everton’s come back win
  • C) All of the above

Koeman admitted “there were a lot of emotions” in Everton’s 2-1 home win over Bournemouth on Saturday, as the Toffees got off the mat to post their first Premier League win since Aug. 12.

[ RECAP: Everton 2-1 Bournemouth ]

After a summer of spending, the Toffees were expected to compete for another berth in a European competition. Instead, a murderer’s row of early fixtures had Everton very low on the PL table.

Was Koeman able to stay calm as his team struggled at home against Bottom Three side Bournemouth?

“Calm after the game, yes. There were a lot of emotions. It was a difficult game, we did not create many chances and we took the right decision after 1-0 down to try something different – play two strikers and go more direct.

“It is a totally different world after winning. You have key moments during the season and this was a big win that will give everyone a boost.”

Apollon Limassol is next for the Toffees, followed by matches against Burnley and Brighton.

Jose Mourinho responds to sending off, Man United win

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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho saw his side battle to a 1-0 win away at Southampton on Saturday as they kept their unbeaten start to the Premier League season going.

Romelu Lukaku scored the only goal of the game after 20 minutes and although Saints had the better of the play in the second half, United’s defense held firm.

Towards the end of the game Mourinho was sent to the stands by referee Craig Pawson for encroachment as he stepped onto the pitch during the action.

What happened?

“I don’t know, you have to ask the referee,” Mourinho said.

He then wasted more time by shaking the hands of every member of Southampton’s coaching staff before he briefly went into the stands before the final whistle was blown.

It remains to be seen if he will face a touchline ban or fine for his actions but speaking to Sky Sports, Mourinho focused on the performance of his team.

“It is not always possible to operate at high quality but fought hard. We did what many teams in the Premier League do for 90 minutes, which was play with five defenders at the back. Credit to Southampton, they tried to play. Pellegrino changed the team and sent on another striker to play more direct.

“It was a hard game but I am really happy. Romelu Lukaku’s work is so important for us. He scored his goal and worked hard like everybody else. Nobody feels the pressure to play always attacking football because so many teams play always defensively. I felt some of the boys were not sharp. I didn’t feel like we could score three or four goals like we sometimes do so the option was to make sure we got the points.”