The draw for the Champions League group stages took place on Thursday. Here, Sam Wallace assesses each group and gives his verdict on who will progress through to the next round.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar problem means they seem further away from winning this competition than they have in previous years. Likewise, Real Madrid have emerged from the summer with issues unresolved. Outsiders Club Brugge came through two rounds to qualify, including a 3-3 draw away at Dynamo Kiev. Galatasaray are back after an early Europa League exit last season.
1. Real Madrid
Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur have both had mixed results in the summer transfer window with Philippe Coutinho’s late loan arrival in Munich suggesting that priorities had changed midway. Spurs are now seen as an established force having reached the final for the first time. Red Star Belgrade are back after four rounds of qualifying. They beat Liverpool last season. Olympiakos have made it out the group stage only twice since 2010.
1. Bayern Munich
Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk meet for the third year in a row in the group stages. Last season it was 9-0 to City over the two games. It feels like this could be Pep Guardiola’s year - if the big decisions go his way. Atalanta finished third last season ahead of both AC Milan and Inter and will play their home games at the Milan clubs’ San Siro. Zagreb came through three rounds of qualifying and are unbeaten in 11 games this season.
1. Manchester City
Juventus have gone out at the quarter-final stage in the last two years following those two losing-finalist finishes in the preceding three years. They beat Atletico Madrid 3-2 on aggregate in the round of 16 last season, overturning a 2-0 defeat away in the first leg. Leverkusen came fourth in the Bundesliga to return to the competition. Lokomotiv were runners up in Russia last season but struggled in the Champions League.
2. Atletico Madrid
Defending champions Liverpool have scored more goals, 65, and won more games, 15, than any other Champions League side in the last two years. Napoli finished third in Liverpool’s group last year but the club has never made it past the round of 16 in the Champions League. In their previous incarnation as a club, Salzburg, now in the Red Bull network, played in the 1994-1995 group stages. This is their first time back. The Belgian champions Genk have never won a Champions League game in the two previous seasons in which they qualified.
Denied in the semi-finals in astonishing circumstances by Liverpool last season, Barcelona have been to the final only once in the last eight seasons. As ever, they start as one of the favourites. Borussia Dortmund were eliminated by Spurs last season in the round of 16. They have won their first two games of the league season. With Inter Milan also in the group this is one of the tougher draws. Slavia Prague, the Czech champions, were beaten in the Europa League quarter-finals last season by Chelsea.
2. Borussia Dortmund
The most open of the groups. Russian champions Zenit are the top seeds, back in the competition for the first time in four years. RB Leipzig are now managed by Julian Nagelsmann formerly of Hoffenheim and, at 32, the youngest coach in the group stages. Benfica have a poor recent record in the Champions League, winning just two of their last 13 games. Lyon are managed by former Arsenal full-back Sylvinho. Last season the team beat Manchester City in the group stages.
1. RB Leipzig
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard goes up against Erik ten Hag, one of the success stories in European coaching last season. His entertaining young Ajax team pulled off some famous victories, but Matthijs De Ligt and Frenkie de Jong are now gone. Chelsea have avoided the bigger names. Lille have a poor record, winning none of their last eight home games in the competition. They have never made it past the round of 16. Valencia beat Manchester United at home last season, and drew at Old Trafford.