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