UEFA Champions League 2018/19 : Group C Analysis
Group C is the second of the two groups that neutral fans consider as the 'group of death'. The group consists of Ligue 1 champions, Paris Saint-Germain, Serie A runner-ups Napoli, Premier League giants Liverpool and Serbian league champions, Red Star Belgrade. Paris Saint-Germain has all the star power in the likes of Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe while Liverpool have been a heavy spender this transfer window and will hope that these new signings can lead them to long-awaited success.
Napoli's change in management might be a gush of fresh air as Carlos Ancelotti takes the reins at the Italian club. Red Star Belgrade will hope to impose their authority as Serbian champions and cause a huge upset on the big stage. Group C has some exciting fixtures, renewal of old rivalries and huge upsets on the cards all of which points towards an exhilarating and entertaining couple of months for viewers around the World.
#1 Red Star Belgrade
Position in Domestic League previous season: 1st in Serbian Superliga
Key Player: El Fardou Ben Mohamed
Red Star Belgrade have not featured in The Champions League since the first edition back in 1992. However, they won the European cup in 1991 i.e one year before the tournament was reformatted. However, after a 26-year absence, The Red-Whites are ready to make a return to the competition as Serbian champions.
Despite playing very less European football, Red Star Belgrade did manage to qualify for the UEFA Europa league last year. They were placed in Group H along with FC Köln, BATE Borisov and Arsenal. They picked up two wins and three draws from the group stage to qualify for the Round of 32, where they lost to CSKA Moscow
El Fardou Ben Mohamed will hope to propel the team to a good performance in the UEFA Champions League this year. The Comorosian striker has already scored three goals in three games this season and hopes to beat his impressive tally of 8 goals from last season. He is joined by 1.5 million acquisition, Richmond Boakye. Together, the duo will hope to provide ample firepower to further progress in the tournament
However, the standard of football in Group C is at a very high level. With the likes of Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli, progression from the group stage looks highly unlikely for Red Star Belgrade.
Position in Domestic League previous season: 4th in Premier League
Key Player: Mohamed Salah
Liverpool FC is one of the greatest clubs in European tournaments. They have won five Champions leagues and dominated the European scene between 1976 and 1984. Their most recent victory of The UEFA Champions League was in 2005 as they came back from a 0-3 deficit to win the finals on penalties. Club legend, Steve Gerrard said in an interview “I just remember the noise from the Liverpool fans, they were still with us - it’s very rare that you go in at half-time 3-0 down and the fans are still with you, but the Liverpool fans are unique and they stayed with us. They were singing and we could hear it from the dressing room." It was probably this passion from the fans and Rafa Benitez's composure that were key ingredients in pulling off an unimaginable comeback against one of the strongest sides the world has ever seen.
The Reds have had a mix of success since then, failing to qualify for The Champions League five times since their 2005 success. However, under manager Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool have slowly rebuilt the club and have put together a team that could contend for both, The Premier League as well as The Champions League. They reached the finals of The Champions League where goalkeeper Loris Karius was highly criticised for conceding two goals against Real Madrid in sloppy fashion. The Reds have replaced the German keeper with Brazil's #1, Alisson Becker. Along with Alison Becker, Fabinho, Naby Keita and Shaqiri have all made their way to Anfield from Monaco, RB Leipzig and Stoke City respectively. This has been one of the most expensive transfer windows for Liverpool and they will hope that the tree they planted bears good fruit.
After spending a total of €182.20 million in the transfer window, Liverpool will definitely be considered as serious contenders for The Premier League and The UEFA Champions League. Along with making Anfield a fortress, the reds look comfortable on the road. With a sturdy defence and a fearsome attack headed by the trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, Liverpool could possibly get 18 points out of the possible 18 points up for grabs.
Position in Domestic League previous season: 2nd in Serie A
Key Player: Lorenzo Insigne
Napoli was off to a successful start to the campaign as they won their opening two games against Lazio and AC Milan. However, a 3-0 loss to Sampdoria last week has put some doubts in the fans of the people over whether Carlos Ancelotti is truly a long-term solution to the departure of Maurizio Sarri.
Under the likes of Rafa Benitez and Carlos Ancelotti, Napoli has played some of most beautiful football over the past year. 'Gli Azzurri' has finished in the top 3 for the majority of the past ten seasons. However, they still haven't brought home a Serie A title since the glorious days of Diego Maradona in the late 80's. They also have received little to no success in the European competitions since then, barring the exception of reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League in 2015.
However, with exciting talents like Insigne, Milik, Hamsik and Zielinski, Napoli could pull off an upset in the competition. However, with giants such as Liverpool and PSG in their group, Napoli might not progress to the further stages of the competition. A 3rd place finish in the group would see them play in the Europa League for the remainder of the season where they could expect to win the whole tournament.
#4 Paris Saint-Germain
Position in Domestic League previous season: 1st in Ligue 1
Key Player: Neymar
Paris Saint-Germain has been one of the most powerful and influential clubs in Europe since the takeover of Nasser Al-Khelaifi. The Qatari businessman has given the club all the resources to dominate in the domestic league as well as the European league. From being in a state of instability to becoming the 11th most valuable club in the world, PSG's journey has been mixed with great success and disappointing losses. However, the Paris club hopes to win their maiden Champions League trophy this year with the likes of Neymar, Mbappe, Cavani and Buffon.
Paris Saint-Germain has had a chaotic Summer. New manager Thomas Tuchel made some interesting signings, some he didn't even know about! PSG started their summer business by giving Kylian Mbappe his long-term contract. The 19-year-old was on loan last season from Monaco and has signed a long-term contract with PSG after a scintillating World Cup performance. Young centre-back Thilo Kehrer joined from Schalke for a fee of about € 35 million. Shocking signings in the form of experienced goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon from Juventus and Erim Maxim Choupo Moting from Stoke City for free. PSG has also answered their left-back problems with the signing of Juan Bernat from Bayern Munich.
PSG have not only got some experienced campaigners but also have young talents such as Yacine Adli and Timothy Weah(son of legendary striker George Weah) who will all hope to shine on the grand stage. While PSG has a talented group of players who can win against any team on any given day, a lot of these players have a more individualistic mindset. The reliance on individual moments of brilliance rather than a cohesive team performance puts them one notch behind Liverpool. However, they will hope to work as a team as they progress to further stages of the tournament