Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.
The Champions League draw is set and the group stage begins this week. This season’s competition runs across just nine weeks thanks to the winter World Cup, so this is a European campaign like none other.
We’ve already taken a look at the contenders to win the competition, but we’ve also gone through each group. In 2020 we landed a huge 57/1 group stage winner accumulator and we’re out to do the same again.
You can see this year’s 151/1 group stage accumulator below, while read on for our group-by-group breakdown.
Champions League group stage acca
Ajax, Liverpool, Napoli, Rangers
This is far from a straightforward group for last season’s runners-up Liverpool, but they’re still heavy favourites to make it through. The Reds face familiar foes Napoli, having met the Italian side at the group stage in 18/19 and 19/20.
The Partenopei have seen key departures this summer so it’s hard to see them preventing Liverpool winning this group. The Reds won 1-0 home and away when they faced Ajax in 2020, while Rangers are capable of shocks but anything beyond third looks beyond them.
Porto, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge
Porto and Atletico were left battling it out for second behind Liverpool last term, now the pair are set to face off over first place. The pair meet a Bayer Leverkusen side with no real European pedigree behind them, while they’ve lost three from three in the Bundesliga this term.
Atletico last won their Champions League group in 2016, so they haven’t got the best record in this competition of late. That was the last season in which they were serious contenders, having failed to make it past the last eight since.
Porto have a solid side who almost dumped Atletico out last term. The Spanish side haven’t made the most convincing start and they’ve not improved much this summer, so I can see an upset here with the Portuguese champions coming out on top.
Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Viktoria Plzen
Depending on your disposition, this is either a dream or a nightmare for fans of Viktoria Plzen. They’ve landed themselves in the clear group of death, with three European heavyweights going for two last 16 spots.
The headline from Group C is Robert Lewandowski heading back to his former club, with Barcelona out for revenge. The Polish forward was part of Barca’s summer recruitment drive, spurred in part due to how poor they looked in two defeats to Bayern at this stage last season.
Both Barca and Inter have strengthened this summer, but neither are close to Bayern’s level. Back the German champions to cruise through the first round.
Winner: Bayern Munich
Eintracht Frankfurt, Tottenham, Sporting Lisbon, Marseille
Tottenham’s odds to win the tournament were slashed after landing this draw, but it contains the Europa League winners, a last 16 side from last term and the side who were second in Ligue 1 last term. This is no walkover group, especially for Antonio Conte.
Conte has won just 12 of his 34 games in Europe’s elite competition. In his four most recent seasons in the Champions League his side have won only seven times, recording three group stage exits and one last 16 defeat.
The latter came during his sole season with Chelsea in the Champions League. The Italian saw Roma leapfrog his Blues into first place in that campaign. His two seasons with Inter Milan saw the Italian giants lose out on second to Borussia Monchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund.
Frankfurt have just won the Europa League, so they’re going to be a real threat in this group. Given Conte’s record, the Bundesliga side are great value for first place.
Winner: Eintracht Frankfurt
AC Milan, Chelsea, Red Bull Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb
AC Milan won Serie A last season, but their return to the Champions League saw them finish bottom of their group. Winning the title has guaranteed them an easier pool this season, but they’ll face competition from Salzburg, who made the last 16 last term.
Chelsea should make light work of this group, with the 2021 winners likely to make this competition a priority early on with their title hopes already looking slim. Thomas Tuchel’s side were good for top spot until an injury pile-up cost them last December, so expect them to do better in a significantly weaker group.
Real Madrid, RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic
Celtic have a fighting chance in this group, which looks like three sides who will compete for second behind Real Madrid. RB Leipzig have been hit and miss when it comes to progressing past the group stage, failing in two of four attempts.
Shakhtar Donetsk have to play their home games on neutral ground, while they’ve also seen many of their top players leave, pushing them out to 50/1 for first place. That leaves Celtic as the main challengers to Leipzig, while Real look set for top spot as they aim to defend their title.
Winner: Real Madrid
Man City, Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, FC Copenhagen
Man City are the favourites with the bookies thanks to the arrival of Erling Haaland and that move has worked out well for them in this group. The striker will return to former club Borussia Dortmund in the group stage, with the Bundesliga side still City’s biggest threat even after losing Haaland.
Sevilla could make a push for second, but it’s hard to see either finishing above City. Pep Guardiola’s side don’t tend to slip up in the group stage at least, so expect them to comfortably take Group G.
Winner: Man City
PSG, Juventus, Benfica, Maccabi Haifa
PSG against Juventus would have been a big draw a few years ago, but given how the Italian giants are struggling they should be more worried about Benfica than the Parisiens. Last season Benfica benefitted from chaos at Barca to make it through and they’ll have an eye on Juve this time around.
Max Allegri’s return hasn’t pushed Juve back to the top in Italy and they’ve faded as a continental force. Paul Pogba’s injury could cost them in this group, but even with him they’ll struggle to match a PSG side who are my pick to walk away with the trophy this season.
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