As the group stage of the UEFA Champions League competition begins today, there’s plenty to discuss in almost Seussical fashion. There are dull groups, (relatively) tough groups, fun groups and rough groups.
But, oddly enough considering the fair amount of contrarians among us, the picks as to who emerges from the groups and into the knockout rounds are pretty chalky. Let’s see who’s been pegged to win their groups and move onward.
Five PST staffers voted: Joe Prince-Wright, Mike Prindiville, Kyle Bonn, Kyle Lynch and Nicholas Mendola.
Comments: Not much of a chance given to the best clubs in Greece and Sweden here, but it’s hard to debate Diego Simeone’s UCL success last season and Juventus’ work all-time (not to mention what Simeone did to strengthen a team that lost a lot after the season in Diego Costa and Toby Alderweireld). Nick Mendola’s the lone Juve group-winning vote.
Clubs: Real Madrid, Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets
Predicted group winner: Real Madrid (4), Liverpool (1)
Also advancing: Liverpool (4), Real Madrid (1)
Comments: While everyone has the same two teams emerging, Kyle Bonn has the Reds adapting quickly to the Champions League and snaring the group. Surprisingly, no one pegged Basel to move past their Spanish and English competition.
Clubs: Benfica, Zenit St. Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Monaco
Predicted group winner: Bayer Leverkusen (3), Benfica (2)
Also advancing: Benfica (2), Zenit (2), Bayer Leverkusen (1)
Comments: A pretty even if underwhelming group, Monaco’s sale of Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez makes this group far less fun than it could’ve been. The German receive the edge to claim the spoils, while Nick is the lone predictor to claim Benfica won’t advance, favoring the Russians to surprise the Portuguese power.
Clubs: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray, Anderlecht
Predicted group winner: Borussia Dortmund (3), Arsenal (2)
Also advancing: Arsenal (3), Borussia Dortmund (2)
Comments: While our group was torn as to how they’ll advance, no one’s giving much of a chance to the Turks and Belgians.
This means Arsenal would have played a part in the failure of the two biggest clubs in Turkey.
Clubs: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, Roma
Predicted group winner: Bayern Munich (4), Manchester City (1)
Also advancing: AS Roma (3), Manchester City (1), Bayern Munich (1)
Comments: No one thinks AS Roma will win the group, but the majority thinks they’ll make a big enough splash to advance. Mike Prindiville pegs Manchester City to win the group — meaning Pep Guardiola won’t be shaking his hand — while Kyle Bonn is the only other staffer to peg them to get out of the group.
Clubs: Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Ajax, APOEL Nicosia
Predicted group winner: Barcelona (3), PSG (2)
Also advancing: PSG (3), Barcelona (2)
Comments: Poor Ajax supporters, who watch as their club sells important assets like Daley Blind and Siem de Jong and now seethe as no one gives them a chance against the French and Spanish giants. There’s some debate as to who wins Group F, but not who comes out with dreams of Berlin in June.
Comments: Not a soul is picking against Jose Mourinho’s Blues, though JPW is betting that Sporting Lisbon can outlast Bundesliga competition and make it to the knockout rounds.
Clubs: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao, BATE Borisov
Predicted group winner: Porto (3), Athletic Bilbao (2)
Also advancing: Athletic Bilbao (3), Porto (2)
Comments: Perhaps its the horrible conditions in Ukraine right now, but no one was prepared to peg Shakhtar ahead of Iberian Peninsula competition. I’ll admit to being tempted, but the tumult is too much.