Talking Soccer: European giants come to blows in Champions League

Former player Thierry Henry shows the name of Arsenal FC, who will play in Group A, during the UEFA Champions League draw at the Grimaldi Forum, in Monaco, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. (Claude Paris/AP)

The wonderful European soccer season has just begun and you know what that means: Champions League football is beginning soon. On August 25 the group stages for the tournament were picked, with eight groups starting games September 13 and 14.

The groups look competitive this year with soccer giants coming to blows as well as teams from less impressive leagues meeting up for a few groups which look to be close calls as to who advances. Group B pits Benfica, Napoli, Dynamo Kyiv and Besiktas against one another, showing potential for an upset in the group depending on how Benfica and Napoli live up to potential.

Group E contains four competitive teams with Russian champion CSKA Moscow being joined by multiple mid-sized clubs from across the top leagues including Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham Hotspur, and Monaco. Those three teams proved to be very impressive last season in their respective leagues but also showed inconsistencies in their Champions’ League play, making it a possibility any of the clubs move on to the round of 32.

Notable matchups in the group stage between larger clubs include Paris-Saint German and Arsenal as favorites to move on from Group A, Pep Guardiola’s current Manchester City team facing off against his previously managed Barcelona, Atletico Madrid attempting to best the German giant Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund taking on defending champions, Real Madrid.

Premier League title winning Leicester City look to have a real opportunity to show their prowess against the best clubs in Europe, managing a relatively easy group stage against clubs Porto, Club Brugge and Copenhagen.  Porto didn’t advance past the group stage last year, and Club Brugge hasn’t made it to the group stage since the 2005-2006 tournament. If Leicester are able to play up to half the ability they did during their legendary title run, they should have no problem moving out of their group as first seed.

Juventus of Italy also look to have a reasonably clear shot to advance without worry, only having to deal with opponents Sevilla of Spain, Lyon of France and Dinamo Zagreb of Croatia in Group H. Sevilla showed their prowess internationally last season by winning the Europa League, but they have to be better than that if they hope to knock down the Italian powerhouse. Lyon also has shown exceptional quality at times in their domestic league but not enough consistency through the years when it comes to international competition against competitive teams. There will definitely be a close battle for the second spot to advance out of the group, and will most likely come down to which of the two are able to salvage a point from Juventus and easily move past Dinamo Zagreb.


Joe Burns is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via joseph.s.burns@uconn.edu