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Who Will Qualify from the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League Group Stage?
The draw for the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League group stage was made on Thursday, and it’s fair to say the draw has dished up plenty of intriguing matchups.
PSG and RB Leipzig clash in Group H following the Parisians’ semi-final victory over the Germans last season, while Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will resume their rivalry after Juventus and Barcelona were drawn together in Group G.
Defending champion Bayern Munich faces a tricky test against Atletico Madrid in Group A, with 2018/19 winner Liverpool up against Ajax, Atalanta, and Midtjylland in Group D.
I’ve already provided my pick for the winner of this year’s Champions League. But who will reach the knockout stages? In this post, I look at each group and discuss who will qualify from the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League group stage.
- Bayern Munich
- Atletico Madrid
- Red Bull Salzburg
- Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayern should win this group, but looking at their opponents, I don’t think the Germans’ title defense will begin in a straightforward fashion.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid is notoriously tough to beat, and the addition of Luis Suarez to their squad makes the Spanish side even stronger.
Red Bull Salzburg stunned everyone last season with big wins over Genk in the UCL group stage, while the Austrian outfit pushed Liverpool and Napoli all the way.
Lokomotiv Moscow lost five of their six group games last term, including two defeats to Atletico, so I can’t see the Russians making an impact this year.
Salzburg will no doubt spring a few surprises, but Bayern and Atletico should qualify from Group A. I’m backing the Bavarians to beat Atletico to first place.
- Group winner: Bayern Munich
- Runner-up: Atletico Madrid
- Real Madrid
- Shakhtar Donetsk
- Inter Milan
- Borussia Monchengladbach
Real Madrid secured three straight Champions League triumphs between 2016 and 2018 but has fallen in the Round of 16 in each of the past two seasons.
However, after clinching their first La Liga title in three years, it feels like Los Blancos is ready to challenge on the European stage again.
Inter last lifted the trophy all the way back in 2010, but under the guidance of Antonio Conte, the fallen giant appears to be rising.
Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez have forged a formidable attacking partnership, while the arrival of highly-rated wing-back Achraf Hakimi gives the team a different dimension.
Shakhtar always seems to qualify for the group stage but rarely gets any further. Gladbach will pose the top two a few problems, although I don’t think the German side will advance to the knockout stages.
- Group winner: Real Madrid
- Runner-up: Inter Milan
- Manchester City
Man City has continuously cruised through the group stage in recent years, so I’m confident that Pep Guardiola’s side will win Group C. But despite City’s power, the English club is yet to reach a Champions League final.
In my opinion, the other three teams in this group are fairly evenly matched.
Having finished second in Ligue 1 last term, Marseille is competing in the UCL for the first time since 2013/14. Andre Villas-Boas has taken the French club to another level, but the team is likely to struggle to compete in Europe.
Porto and Olympiacos are both Champions League regulars, with both sides dominating their domestic leagues year after year.
The Greek side finished third in a seriously tough group last season before knocking out Arsenal in the Europa League. I’m backing Olympiacos to snatch the runner-up spot in this group, behind Man City.
- Group winner: Manchester City
- Runner-up: Olympiacos
Following the disappointment of last season’s Round of 16 exit, Liverpool will be eager to make an impact in Europe this year and reclaim the trophy they won in 2018/19.
But Jurgen Klopp’s men won’t have it all their own way in Group D. Ajax’s European pedigree needs no introduction, Atalanta reached the quarter-finals last term, while Midtjylland is somewhat of an unknown quantity.
Ajax has sold countless key players since reaching the UCL semi-finals two seasons ago, making it very difficult for the Dutch side to compete with Europe’s elite.
Danish club Midtjylland has already come through three qualifying rounds just to make it to this stage, so I can’t see the newcomer progressing any further in their maiden Champions League campaign.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think Liverpool will win this group. But I can see Gian Piero Gasperini’s free-scoring Atalanta pushing the Reds for the top spot.
- Group winner: Liverpool
- Runner-up: Atalanta
In my eyes, this has to be the most open Champions League group this season. Sevilla and Chelsea are obviously a cut above Krasnodar and Rennes, but I feel like anything could happen in Group E.
Having won the Europa League last term, Sevilla entered the draw as a seeded team this time around. This helped the Spanish side avoid any of the big guns early on, although Chelsea will probably have something to say about that.
This group features two UCL debutants, with Krasnodar and Rennes both getting their first taste of Europe’s premier competition. Needless to say, the newcomers won’t find it easy to reach the knockout stages.
Chelsea has made a number of high-profile signings recently, bringing in Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, and Hakim Ziyech. Interestingly, goalkeeper Edouard Mendy will be making a swift return to his former club after joining the Blues from Rennes last month.
Chelsea has the firepower, but Sevilla has the know-how. The Spaniards’ tournament experience should see them finish above the English side.
- Group winner: Sevilla
- Runner-up: Chelsea
- Zenit St. Petersburg
- Borussia Dortmund
- Club Brugge
I think we can discount Club Brugge straight off the bat here. The Belgians failed to win any of their group games last season, so I can’t see them doing much better this year.
Zenit also finished bottom of their group last term. However, the Russian club did manage to pick up two wins and only missed out on qualification for the Round of 16 by one point.
Lazio pushed Juventus right to the wire in Serie A last season, with Ciro Immobile netting an astonishing 36 goals in 37 league games.
The Italians are back in the Champions League following a 13-year absence from the competition, and I think they have more than enough quality to get out of this group.
But I’m confident that Borussia Dortmund will finish top of Group F. Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho make Lucien Favre’s young side one of the most exciting attacking teams in Europe.
- Group winner: Borussia Dortmund
- Runner-up: Lazio
- Dynamo Kiev
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will meet again this season, as Juventus and Barcelona join Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros in Group G.
This is arguably the least competitive group of 2020/21, with two of the continent’s powerhouses going up against two relative minnows of the European game.
I can’t help but fear the worst for Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros. Indeed, it would be a huge shock if either of the lightweights qualified for the knockout stages.
But who will come out on top?
Barcelona will be desperate to make amends following their 8-2 humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich last season, so I’m expecting the Catalans to hit the ground running in the UCL this year.
The Juventus hierarchy took a risk by appointing the hugely inexperienced Andrea Pirlo as head coach. With Pirlo finding his feet in the managerial world, Barcelona could well top Group G.
- Group winner: Barcelona
- Runner-up: Juventus
- Manchester United
- RB Leipzig
- Istanbul Basaksehir
PSG and Man Utd are reunited in Group H following the Red Devils’ famous Round of 16 triumph over the Parisians back in 2018.
I’m sure that Thomas Tuchel’s men will be hoping they can get their revenge over United this year, but after losing in the final to Bayern last season, PSG must concentrate solely on getting out of Group H without any trouble.
Istanbul Basaksehir is an interesting addition to the UCL. The Turkish champion’s squad includes former Man Utd defender Rafael and Belgium star Nacer Chadli, although the newcomer will surely struggle to advance.
Without Timo Werner, Leipzig isn’t as strong as last season. But having reached the semi-finals in 2019/20, Julian Nagelsmann’s forward-thinking team looks set to enjoy another successful Champions League campaign.
PSG and Leipzig met less than two months ago, with the French side progressing at the expense of the Germans. But with Man Utd continuing to look disjointed, I can see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men falling at the first hurdle.
- Group winner: PSG
- Runner-up: RB Leipzig
That’s my take on who will qualify from the Champions League group stage this season. Do you agree with my selections? Or have you got your own opinions on the matter? Make sure you share your predictions in the comments section below.
The UCL campaigns kick off on Tuesday, October 20. To keep up to date with all the action, check out our soccer picks section.