In my opinion, this is the most even group in the whole competition but it doesn’t mean it is the toughest group. All these teams are evenly matched as every single team has a chance to advance on to the knockout stages. Of course, this group won’t provide the must-see fixtures but they do have the potential to be the most entertaining as the Roma-Leverkusen matches blew us away last year. The Tottenham-Leverkusen fixtures look the most promising but all in all a tasty little group to watch.
Tottenham automatically qualified after finishing 3rd in their respective league and are finally back in the competition since the 2010-2011 campaign. They must have been happy with the Champions League draw as they escaped Real Madrid in their group and received a good group. But that doesn’t mean that they’re going to walk to the knockout phase as they have to travel to Russia to place CSKA, a difficult place for anyone, go up against a great Bundesliga team in Bayer Leverkusen and an intriguing Monaco side. They’re going to have a new home during the competition as they’ll be playing their home games at Wembley stadium due to White Hart Lane receiving a renovation, but the pressure of playing at Wembley can become a big factor for this team. But they have added depth in signing Vincent Janssen, who will immensely help out Harry Kane, the deadline day signing Moussa Sissoko and youngster Georges-Kevin N’Koudou to an already decent premier league side. Let’s just hope Lloris won’t miss too much of the competition due to injury.
Key Player: Christian Eriksen
The Danish international has to be the most important player for Pocchettino in the league but he’ll need him to perform on a new level if they have a chance in this competition. We all know he is great dead-ball specialist as he can bend in a free-kick from possibly anywhere on the pitch but it is going to be his creativity that is going to have to do all the talking. Possibly playing behind Kane or out on either flank, Eriksen will need to find a way to get past players and pick out the right passes. In my opinion, he must be central if we want to see his greatness come out, just look at what he did for Country this past weekend during World Cup qualifiers as he lovely finessed the ball into the bottom right-hand corner to give them the 3 points. Watch out for the Danish throughout the tournament.
2) Bayer Leverkusen
Leverkusen is back again after a disappointing group stage exit last year but the difference is that this will be the year they get out of the group stage with a very favorable group for them. This year they don’t have to deal with the likes of Barcelona and Roma but it could be a stressful group with Tottenham and Moskva. The team has improved with adding Kevin Volland to help “Chicharito” score goals and Julian Baumgartlinger to break down play and help the centre-backs. Youngster Julian Brandt will have a good impact after a great Olympic tournament, Johnathan Tah should get more appearances who has the potential to become a world-class defender and Karim Bellarabi with exceptional dribbling and finishing. Leverkusen could be a dark-horse and surprised a few people.
Key Player: Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez
The Mexican man is crucial for Roger Schmidt’s team if they want to advance on with his deadly finishing and playmaking ability. After a great opening season with German club Bayer Leverkusen that saw him score 17 goals in 28 appearances in the Bundesliga and 5 in 6 in the Champions League, we can expect him to put on another show for us. Chicharito is the lone striker in Schmidt’s scheme so he can’t do it all by himself. The “Little Pea” is a pure goal scorer and he has shown it everywhere he has been. Look out for Hernandez to put Leverkusen on is his back and see them through to the next round.
Monaco managed to qualify for the Champions League third qualifying round after their 3rd place finish in Ligue 1. The French team managed to escape Turkish side Fenerbahce with a 4-3 aggregate after losing the first leg 2-1. Then they had to play Spanish team Villareal in the Qualify playoff that saw them hold on and advance with a 3-1 aggregate. The journey up to this point has been long for Monaco and will be hoping for at least a knockout stage appearance but they don’t have the squad depth as the other group favorites to seem them advance. They do have some decent players such as EURO 2016 Winner Joao Moutinho, Portuguese youngster Bernardo Silva, Brazilian wingback Fabinho and Croatian shot-stopper Danijel Subasic, but who else will step up?
Key Player: Radamel Falcao
Ever since coming off his injury Falcao has never been the same. He went from one of the world’s greatest to a forgotten footballer. Despite failed loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea, Falcao will try to get back to his Atletico form as he hopes to tear Ligue 1 into shreds. Falcao also needs to prove to other European teams that he still is world-class and this is the perfect place to do it. They don’t have the toughest group and could possibly see him lead Monaco out of the group. He is gonna have to because their other striking options are either unproven or ineffective. I know I’m not the only one who wants to see the old Radamel Falcao back so let’s hope we see “El Tigre”.
4) CSKA Moskva
CSKA saw direct qualification to the Champions League after winning the Russian Premier League. The Russian side got eliminated in the group stage last year and will be hoping for a better performance this time around. They won’t be relying on the Nigerian winger Ahmed Musa, the summer transfer window saw him move to Leicester City, who will be a vital blow to Slutsky’s side. The ex-Russian manager will be facing the same problem he had in the EUROS with having too many old players on his side, especially the defense and lack quality players. Also, history isn’t on their side as the last time they made it out of the group stages was in the 2011-2012 campaign.
Key Player: Alan Dzagoev
Many of you might have never heard the name due to CSKA Moskva’s quality or don’t watch much of the Russian league but let me tell you Alan Dzagoev is quality for this side. Unfortunately, he missed the EURO’s due to a broken bone in his foot and without a doubt would have helped Russia massively in the tournament. The central-attacking midfielder is arguably the best player on the team and would be looking to have a great campaign. The #10 is a fantastic dribbler on the ball, decent passing and an eye for goal with his finishing ability. Now that Musa is gone, CSKA will have to rely on Dzagoev more than ever to create chances for himself and his teammates. He is going to have to score more than 2 goals and an assist if he wants to see his side advance.
That wraps up Group E of the UEFA Champions League but what are your predictions? Who will be the group winner? What players are you looking forward to seeing in this group?
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