UEFA Champions League Preview: Group A

Photo: Getty Images

Continuing our pre-coverage for this year’s UEFA Champions League, let’s take a look at the teams in Group A:

Manchester United

After a few disappointing campaigns in the Champions League, the Red Devils are back in the tournament after winning the UEFA Europa League last season. After majorly improving their squad with the signings of Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof, Man United are the favorites to win the group. Judging by how good they’ve been over their first 3 games in the Premier League, it is most likely they will make the knockout stage with ease.

Player To Watch: Romelu Lukaku

It is no surprise the player to watch on Man U’s squad is Lukaku. As Man United’s marquee signing this summer, the big Belgian needs to make his mark in the tournament in order to make his £75M price tag worth it. He has said in interviews he wants to have Champions League football while he was at Everton and now it is his chance to shine. Do not disappoint Romelu.

Benfica

The 4-time reigning Liga NOS champs had mixed results in the Summer Transfer Window. Sure they signed young talent in Gabriel Barbosa, Mile Svilar and Filip Krovinovic but look at the crucial players they let go: Ederson Morales, Nelson Semedo, Lindelof and Konstantinos Mitroglou. Ouch, that’s bad. Even though they have lost some of their best player in their squad, they still have enough talent to get out of the group stage. After finishing in the quarterfinals last season manager Rui Victoria is bound to have another great run in the Champions League.

Player To Watch: Jonas

Ever since coming to Benfica, Jonas has been arguably Benfica’s best player and will look to be a main apart of their success heading into the tournament. Even though he is up there in age(he will turn 34 next year) the Brazilian is still class on the wing and will continue his great form this season having already scored 6 goals in 5 games.

Basel

Knowing Basel have won the Swiss Pro League an astonishing 8 straight seasons, it is not certain they will carry that same success over to the Champions League where there is much greater competition. Sure Basel have done well over the past few years in both the Champions League and Europa League but it will be a dogfight for them to get a 3rd place spot let alone advance to the knockout round due to their squad being not as good as the other top teams.

Player To Watch: Mohamed Elyounoussi

Elyounoussi balled out in the Swiss Pro League last season racking up 10 goals and 13 assists so it will be interesting to mantain his form in the tournament. As one of the best midfielders in Switzerland at the moment, Basel will look to the Norwegian to give them the opportunity to win games.

CSKA Moscow

The last team we will talk about in Group A is CSKA Moscow. Here’s Moscow’s recent success in the Champions League ever since they made it to the quarterfinals in the 2011/12 season:

2012/13: Group Stage

2013/14: Group Stage

2014/15: Group Stage

2015/16: Group Stage

2016/17: Group Stage

It time for Moscow to transfer their success from their home country into the tournament. To me, they will not and will have another finish in the group stage because they can not compete with much better clubs.

Player To Watch: Igor Akinfeev

I know this stat has been said many times surrounding Akinfeev and the Champions League but it still has to be said: He has yet to earn a clean sheet in his Champions League career. Akinfeev’s been a very solid goalkeeper for the club and as the captain of the squad, he needs to take control of games if Moscow have any chance of them advancing to the knockout round.

Conclusion

Man United will obviosly win the group. This is an easy group for them and looking at their recent form, they do not look like they will capitulate. Following Man U will be Benfica at 2nd, Basel at 3rd transferring to the Europa League and Moscow finishing dead last.

 

 

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