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Group D analysis and prediction | UEFA Champions League 2019/2020

Elvis Ume O
ANALYST
Preview
617   //    09 Sep 2019, 21:18 IST

Juventus and Atletico Madrid would clash once again in the UEFA Champions League Round this season
Juventus and Atletico Madrid would clash once again in the UEFA Champions League Round this season

The 28th edition of the biggest club footballing competition is here, and for the next nine months, the best 32 sides in Europe would battle it out for glory.

A total of 26 from the 32 slots for this season's tournament were decided by league positions last season, with leagues having differing number of automatic qualifications spots based on the strength of their nation's coefficients, while the remaining six slots were decided after a series of gruelling qualifiers that started since July.

The competition proper would kick off on the 17th and 18th of September, with the group stages lasting through December where the top two would qualify for the knockout rounds.

Upon confirmation of the 32 participants in this season's edition, a qualification draw was made at the end of August in Monaco to sort out the participants into eight groups of four.

Prior to the draws, all 32 clubs were placed into four different pots, with the national champions of the top six leagues, as well as the defending champions of the Champions League and Europa League placed in Pot A while the remaining 24 were ranked based on their individual coefficients.

The draws served up a lot of interesting matchups and fixtures, with Group D being the subject of this piece.

It pitted two-time winner Juventus against Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow, with the Turin giants placed from Pot A due to their status as Serie A champions, while the rest were placed from Pots B to D respectively.

Team Profiles

Juventus (Italian Serie A)

Best Champions League/European Cup finish - 2X winners (1985, 1996), Runners up - 7x

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Player to watch - Cristiano Ronaldo

Atletico Madrid (Spanish LaLiga)

Atletico de Madrid are one of the contenders
Atletico de Madrid are one of the contenders

Best Champions League/European Cup finish - 3X Runners up (1974, 2014,2016)

Player to watch - Joao Felix

Bayer Leverkusen (German Bundesliga)

Best Champions League/European Cup finish - Runners Up (2001)

Player to watch - Kai Havertz

Lokomotiv Moscow

Best Champions League/European Cup finish - Round-of-16 (2004)

Player to watch - Joao Mario

Group Analysis

As stated earlier, Juventus automatically booked their spot in this season's Champions League by virtue of their top-four finish in Serie A last season, while they also confirmed their spot in Pot A by winning the league.

The Bianconerri are no strangers to performing in the Champions League, and are one of the more traditional teams in history, having won almost every trophy winnable on the continent and beyond.

However, for all of their domestic supremacy, Juventus have been unable to adequately flex their muscle in Europe, and are on an agonizing drought in the Champions League, failing to add to their two trophies won since 1997, and losing four finals in the process.

They broke their club-record fee to bring the ageless Ronaldo last season, but still fell short at the quarterfinal stage, but have augmented impressively this summer, bringing in Mattijs de Ligt, Aaron Ramsey and Adrian Rabiot to help their charge.

For their part, Atletico have risen from the doldrums of the first decade of this millennium and transformed into one of the genuine heavyweights of European football.

Under Diego Simeone's tactical and rigorous watch, Los Colchoneros have risen to the very top of the game and narrowly lost two Champions League finals to city rivals Real Madrid, while also triumphing in the 2018 Europa League and got their pound of flesh in the ensuing Super Cup clash against Real Madrid.

The 2014 LaLiga champions saw the departures of a number of key players but strengthened significantly in the transfer market.

Bayer Leverkusen have constantly been one of 'best of the rest' in Germany as Bayern Munich have turned the Bundesliga title into their personal accolade, and Leverkusen are regulars in the Champions League.

They have however come a long way from the highs of 2001 when they narrowly lost out on three trophies in the space of weeks, but in Kai Havertz, they have one of the fastest rising stars in the world of football.

Lokomotiv Moscow are relative minnows on the continental stage, evidenced by the fact that this would be just their fourth appearance in the group stage of the Champions League.

However, the 'Steam Locomotives' finished second in the Russian Premier League last season and have more than enough to cause some upsets if underrated.

Group prediction

Kai Havertz of Bayer Leverkusen is highly rated
Kai Havertz of Bayer Leverkusen is highly rated

Despite the fact that Juventus are heavily understaffed in the striking department, they are still significantly stronger than both Lokomotiv Moscow and Bayer Leverkusen, while their sternest test will come from Atletico Madrid, as the pair have every right to be considered among the favourites for this season's trophy.

Diego Simeone's men let a two-goal first-leg advantage slip to get eliminated by Juventus in the round-of-16 last season and quash their dreams of playing the final on their home ground, and would seek revenge against the Turin giants in what would likely be the determining factor in who tops the group.

Bayer Leverkusen are very capable of progressing to the knockout rounds, but are some way beneath the levels of both Atletico Madrid and Juventus and would most likely have to settle for a round-of-32 place bye in the Europa League with a third-place finish, while Lokomotiv Moscow would finish bottom of the group barring upsets of epic proportions.

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