UEFA Champions League 2018/19: Analysing Group A
The Champions League is considered as one of the most prestigious, if not the most prestigious tournament in club football. 32 of the best clubs from across Europe face off in a season-long tournament. The Champions League is essentially a five-stage competition - Starting with the group stage, then the Round of 16, proceeded by the quarterfinals, the semifinals and finally the final. The 32 teams are divided into eight groups. The top two teams from each group go on to the Round of 16.
The group stage draw is organised systematically. The teams are divided into four pots based on the rules below:-
- Pot 1 consists of all the champion teams from the top 6 associations in Europe(based on UEFA coefficient), The UEFA Champions League winner and The UEFA Europa League winner
- Pots 2, 3 and four are decided according to the UEFA coefficient(determined by the results of clubs in the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League over the previous five seasons) of the remaining clubs.
The group stage draw is an exciting event as the supporters anxiously wait to see which group their club is placed in and their consequent chances of qualifying for the next stage. Various awards such as 'The UEFA Player of the Year' are also given out during the interim stages of the draw.
This year, the draw had many exciting prospects with teams like Liverpool and Valencia in pot 3. As the teams were placed into the different groups one by one, many exhilarating ties were also revealed. Mouth-watering ties like Paris Saint Germain vs Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspurs vs Barcelona FC are set to take place in the Champions League this year.
Group A consists of Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Club Brugge and AS Monaco. All of the four teams have received great success over the past few years. Atletico Madrid were Europa League champions last season while AS Monaco and Dortmund have reached the semifinals and finals respectively. Overall, the group can prove to be highly competitive. Let's take a look at the four teams in Group A.
1. Atletico Madrid
Position in Domestic League previous season:- 2nd in La Liga
Key Player:- Antoine Griezmann
Atletico Madrid is no stranger to European success. Three-time Europa League winners and Champions League runners-up in 2014 and 2016, Los Rojiblancos, will look to achieve the feat their local rivals Real Madrid achieved last season
Diego Simeone is a passionate and resolute manager who has been at the club for years. He is a tactically astute manager and knows which formation brings the best out of his players. For the same, Simeone arranges his team in a 4-4-2. The strikeforce of Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa has been rampant in all competitions, destroying defenders and shooting the ball in the back of the net consistently. This fierce attack is complemented by a sturdy and reliable defence. Experienced veterans, Stefan Savić and Diego Godin, are no-nonsense defenders and provide an aerial advantage, both offensively as well as defensively. The addition of wingers Thomas Lemar from AS Monaco and Gelson Martins from Sporting Clube de Portugal during the summer transfer window allows Atletico to attack from wide while maintaining defensive shape.
Atletico Madrid is a team that can play beautiful football when in a dominant stage during the game but can also grind out 1-0 victories by playing a rough and highly physical contest. Despite being in a relatively competitive group with Borussia Dortmund, AS Monaco and Club Brugge, Atletico Madrid should easily surpass all the challenges and finish as group toppers.
Prediction - 1st
Position in Domestic League last season:- 4th in Bundesliga
Key player:- Marco Reus
Borussia Dortmund is considered as one of the most entertaining and exciting teams by neutral fans and for a good reason. They are a quick paced team which can counter in seconds and give any outfit a good fight. Die Schwarzgelben were champions in 1996-97 and were runner-ups in 2012-13 under then manager, Jurgen Klopp. However, since the departure of Klopp, the team has been in a state of instability. Thomas Tuchel was unable to lead the black and yellows to any success which led to a fallout with the club. Subsequent replacements Peter Stöger and Peter Bosz were also unsuccessful. However, new manager Lucien Favre has immediately made an impact.
Borussia Dortmund lost two crucial players in Sokratis Papastathopoulus and Yarmolenko, who have moved to England to play in the Premier League. Favre was quick to replace them with Abdou Diallo and Marius Wolf. Joining these two signings is Alex Witsel. The Belgium international has proved to be a leader in the heart of midfield and led the team to an opening day 4-1 victory against RB Leipzig.
The acquisition of Paco Alcacer from Barcelona will fill the void left by Michy Batshuayi, who returned to Chelsea after a very successful loan period at Dortmund. With the firepower of Reus, Alcacer and Pulisic as well as the experience of Alex Witsel and Thomas Delaney, Dortmund has all the tools to advance to the next round.
Prediction - 2nd
Position in Domestic League last season:- 1st in Jupiler Pro League
Key player:- Ruud Vormer
Club Brugge has been one of the most dominant teams in the Belgium League along with local rivals, Gent and Anderlecht. Despite their dominance in the domestic level, Club Brugge has never achieved much on the European stage. They will be hoping to change that this year as a fresh team of young individuals will be exposed to top quality football in the Champions League
Under manager Ivan Leko, the club has brought in the likes of Matej Mitrovic and Mat Rits. The Croatian manager believes in dominating the midfield and a sturdy defence. However, getting past group A could prove to be a step too far and Club Brugge is more than likely to exit the competition in the group stages itself.
Prediction - 4th
Monaco have started on the wrong foot as they lost 2-1 to Bordeaux
Position in Domestic League last season:- 2nd in Ligue 2
Key player:- Radamel Falcao
AS Monaco has been one of the greatest underdogs in the previous few Champions League campaigns. Producing an abundance of youth talent under Leonardo Jardim, Monaco has been successful both domestically as well as in Europe. They were semi-finalists in 2016-17, quarter-finalists in 2014-15 and runners-up in 2003-04. They were also runners-up in the Europa League (then known as the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup) in 1993-94 under then manager, Arsene Wenger.
However, Monaco has undergone a huge change from their team two seasons back. They have lost most of their players such as Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar, Tiémoué Bakayoko, Fabinho and Bernardo Silva. They came 4th in their group(with Porto, RB Leipzig and Besiktas in their group) last year after failing to pick up a single victory. Furthermore, a 2-1 loss on opening day against Gus Poyet's Bordeaux has further diminished the confidence of Les Monégasques.
They have enough quality in the likes of Tielemans and Adama Traore as well as a wealth of goals from Radamel Falcao to avoid finishing 4th. However, topping Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid will be next to impossible. Europa League will be a good concession and a golden opportunity to win European silverware for Jardim's men.