Champions League Group A preview: PSG favourites to finish top, Real Madrid will be second

Sooraj Kamath - Writer 22:30 17/09/2019
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The top 32 teams from all of Europe are set to begin their quest for Champions League glory.

Given the competition is stacked with quality teams that are looking to make an early impact, there’s reason to be thrilled about the start of this season’s tournament.

We take a look at all the groups and make a prediction on the final standings. Here is Group A …

Paris Saint-Germain (France)

VerrattiMbappeNimes (1)

Manager: Thomas Tuchel

Although the Parisians have failed to qualify for the quarter-finals since Zlatan Ibrahimovic left the club in the 2015/16 season, they have never had problems making it to the knockouts of the competition.

Should PSG make it out of the group, they will do so for the eighth time in a row. Thomas Tuchel has one of the best attacks in Europe with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Edinson Cavani at his disposal.

However, only Icardi will be available for what could be a decisive encounter against Madrid on match-day one. Mbappe and Cavani have been sidelined due to injury and Neymar will be serving a suspension for his comments on social media during the last edition.

The French side will find Madrid to be their biggest obstacle. A win over the 13-time European champions, their first against the opposition since 1994 should headline them as potential contenders at the end of the group stage games.

Key player: Neymar

Real Madrid (Spain)

EdenHazardRealMadrid (1)

Zinedine Zidane

Madrid have experienced a fall from grace ever since they won the in the 2017/18 season.

The Zinedine Zidane oversaw a historic ‘threepeat’ of Champions League titles before he announced his decision to leave the club. Madrid reappointed him as manager earlier this year after Santiago Solari’s side were knocked out by a young Ajax side in the last-16 stage.

Not much has changed on the field since then despite Madrid’s heavy investment in the transfer market.

Los Blancos boast a fiery attack with Eden Hazard, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale leading the line and Vinicius Junior, Luka Jovic and Lucas Vasquez providing further options. This depth in quality in attack should carry them through the group comfortably.

However, failure to land any of Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Christian Eriksen or Donny van de Beek could leave them short in an ageing midfield.

A 3-0 defeat to CSKA Moscow at the Santiago Bernabeu last season should work as a reminder for Madrid that no team can be taken lightly in this competition. Should they give Galatasaray as much as an inch, the Turkish side could take a mile and cause an unlikely upset.

Key player: Eden Hazard

Galatasaray (Turkey)

Galatasaray

Manager: Fatih Terim

Arguably the best side of Turkey for some time now, Galatasaray have shown no signs of replicating their domestic success in Europe. The 22-time Super Lig winners haven’t qualified for the knockout stages of the tournament since the 2012/13 season.

Last season, Galatasaray finished below Porto and Schalke in the group stage and qualified for the last-32 of the Europa League. But a 1-2 home defeat to Benfica sent them out of Europe much earlier than they would have expected.

The Turkish side made some key additions to their team in Jean Michael Seri, Emre Mor, Ryan Babel and Radamel Falcao as they attempt to make a statement in Europe. That the finals will be held in their home stadium in Istanbul should serve as added motivation for The Lions.

Given Real Madrid’s poor start to the season, Galatasaray will lurk behind to capitalise on any slip-up from the Spanish giants. A third-place finish and qualification to the Europa League knockout stage should be the minimum expectation, though.

Key player: Radamel Falcao.

Club Brugge (Belgium)

Hans Vanaken

Manager: Philippe Clement

Club Brugge are the underdogs of the group. They qualified by defeating Dynamo Kyiv 4-3 on aggregate in the third round and LASK Linz 3-1 on aggregate in the play-offs after finishing second in the Belgian first division.

Brugge have never been European champions but came tantalisingly close in 1978. Among recent European achievements, the Belgian side reached the quarter-final of the 2014/15 Europa League before going down against Ukranian club Dnipro.

Philippe Clement’s men are undoubtedly the minnows and a berth in the Europa League that accompanies a third place finish will be a good result.

Key player: Hans Vanaken

Prediction

1. PSG

2. Real Madrid

3. Galatasaray

4. Club Brugge

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