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UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP BREAKDOWN part 2

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Messi, PSG, Champions League

Group E: AC Milan, Chelsea, Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb

This is Chelsea’s group to lose with only one team posing a threat, reigning Serie A champions AC Milan. Chelsea and Milan both are teams with a rich Champions League history, combining for a total of nine titles in the tournament.  A highly anticipated match in the group is when Milan visit Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, reuniting former Chelsea players Fikayo Tomori and Olivier Giroud with their old cluub and fans.  With Zagreb failing to qualify the last three years and Salzburg only advancing to the round of 16 last year due to being in a weaker group, Milan and Chelsea will dominate the group, It is just a matter of who finishes first and second.

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Group F: Real Madrid, Leipzig, Celtic, Shakhtar Donetsk

Once again Real Madrid are the reigning champions of the Champions League and in 2022 are expected to go deep in this tournament again despite missing out on Kylian Mbappe this summer and selling defensive midfielder Casemiro to Manchester United.  This Madrid team are still primed for a deep run with top striker Karim Benzema and one of the most experienced coaches in the world, Carlo Ancelotti, who has won this particular tournament four times as manager for AC Milan and Real Madrid.  The fight for second place however is very close between the other three teams who are desperate to play in the knockout stages.  Leipzig look to repeat their 2019-20 performance getting all the way to the semi-final before losing to PSG.  Celtic qualified for Champions League play for the first time since 2017-18 and are looking to advance to the knockout stage for the first time since 2012-13, and Shakhtar, despite the ongoing war in the Ukraine, will be proud to represent their country in the tournament but will have to play their home games in Warsaw, Poland.

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Group G: Manchester City, Sevilla, Dortmund, Copenhagen

Group G has also ended in a very well-rounded group, similar to Group A, with multiple teams that can qualify for the knockout stages.  Even though both Sevilla and Dortmund failed to qualify for the knockout stages in last year’s tournament, these teams have the ability and European competition experience to catch Man City on an off day and take some points away from Pep Guardiola’s side.  With Man City expected to finish first in the group, Sevilla or Dortmund will most likely be taking the second spot in the group, but whoever does not qualify for the second spot, don’t expect the third place team’s European competition dreams to be over, this team (Sevilla or Dortmund) could make some real noise in the Europa League as well.  Another storyline in this group to be aware of is new Man City striker, Haaland, making his return to his former club’s stomping grounds in Dortmund, Germany.  The Norwegian striker left Dortmund this summer after Man City triggered his 51 million pound release clause.  Haaland has had a flying start to his career in Manchester so far with four goals in three premier league appearances.

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Group H: PSG, Juventus, Benfica, Maccabi Haifa 

The final group of the Champions League draw is another group of death.  This group contains the team with the second highest odds to win the Champions League in PSG at +500 and also Juventus who are also among the top clubs to win it all at +4000.  This group also contains a club that went surprisingly deep last year, despite being in a group with both Bayern and Barcelona, the Portuguese club of Benfica.  Benfica not only beat out Barcelona for the second qualifying spot, but then proceeded to win a knockout game against Ajax in the round of 16 with an aggregate score of 3-2.  Benfica will need another strong performance this year to qualify for the knockout stages again as they are pooled against two top tier clubs.  It will be more difficult this year around however due to the departure of Benfica’s top striker, Darwin Nunez, who has joined Liverpool this summer.  PSG have a lot to prove in this year’s tournament as they were able to keep Mbappe for another year in Paris, keeping him on the same squad with Lionel Messi and Neymar.  If those three can remain healthy and produce like they are expected to, there are a limited number of clubs that will be able to contain PSG’s formidable front three.

Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

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