UEFA Champions League 2018-19: Analysis of the clubs by domestic leagues
The group stage of the most valued and prestigious club football tournament is about to start from 18 September 2018. Well, technically the UEFA Champions League qualifiers did take place over the summer involving 3 rounds of domestic league champions battling it out for 6 places out of the total 32 spots available. But, it is only with the start of the group stage that the tournament will start to offer mouth-watering clashes between the top clubs in Europe.
In the earlier editions of the tournament, the teams that would make it to the knockout stages would be more or less clear. But with a few rule changes in 2018-19, the top 4 teams from the top 4 domestic leagues gain direct entry to the group stage.
The top 4 domestic leagues are decided on the basis of their UEFA Coefficient - English Premier League, Spanish LaLiga, Italian Seria A and German Bundesliga. Apart from this, we do have 3 teams from the 5th top domestic league - the French Ligue 1 as well as two teams each from the Russian Premier League, Portugal Liga NOS, and the Dutch Eredivisie.
So, let's take a deeper dive into the teams by domestic leagues.
Teams: Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur
Performance in 2017-18:
All of the top 4 teams from the Premier League participated in the 2017-18 edition of the tournament as well. While Tottenham Hotspur did make a splash in the group stages itself defeating the likes of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, Spurs, unfortunately, had to succumb to the might of Juventus in the round of 16 in spite of putting up a good performance. In hindsight, it was a momentary lack of concentration in the home leg where in a span of 5 minutes they conceded 2 goals gifting Juventus a quarter-final spot.
Manchester United did easily top their group seeing out the likes of Benfica and Basel. But Jose Mourinho's luck as the chosen one could not go farther than the round of 16. A disappointing loss to Sevilla at Old Trafford which was followed by a Mourinho rant about United's heritage did not go down well either.
Manchester City, the favorites to go all the way and win the trophy eased past the group stages and the round of 16 Swiss opponents Basel. Liverpool, too after making past the qualifiers came out on top of their group and breezed past Porto to set up an all English quarterfinals tie. It was here that Manchester City could not keep pace with Liverpool's fearsome trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino and lost both legs and the Premier League champions were humbled by a team in their own league.
Liverpool, however, did make it through the semis against 2 tough legs against AS Roma, but ultimately a Salah injury and Karius double mistake meant the Reds' wait for silverware continued.
The predictions for 2018-19:
Manchester City being the champions were drawn in Pot 1 and as luck would have it, they have got what it looks like an easy group. Their opponents are Olympique Lyon, Hoffenheim and Shakhtar Donetsk. City should top this group but their test lies ahead and I believe with the experience of last year, should make it through to the last four at least.
Manchester United have already endured a rough start to the season and will be severely tested to the limits by Juventus and Valencia. If United manage to get convincing victories over Young Boys and are able to hold their own at home against Juve and Valencia, they should at least make it to the round of 16.
Liverpool, by far have been handed a tough draw in what some are also calling a group of death with Napoli, PSG and Red Star Belgrade. Can Salah continue the same form he had last year? By the looks of it in the Premier League, he can and with the additions of Naby Keita, Fabinho and Shaqiri they have enough depth to make it out of this group and target the quarterfinals.
Tottenham, like Liverpool, have been handed a very tough group as well with trips to Barcelona, Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven on the cards. While Spurs have shown they can keep up with the big boys, it will be between them and a strengthened Inter side as to who would make it to the next round. Tottenham, barring a surprise from Inter, should qualify here.