Group F of the Champions league has everything. The group includes the defending reigning champions, a strong dark horse contestant, an underrated team that could cause some problems for the favorites and a team who is just happy to participate in the competition.
1) Real Madrid
Coming off another successful season by gaining “La Undecima”, Real Madrid will be looking to become the first team to win this competition in back-to-back seasons since the tournament was re-named to the Champions League. in fact, they look heavy favorites not only to win the group but to win the competition once again. Rightfully so, as arguably they are the best team in the world with plenty of strength and a few weaknesses. Unfortunately,with news coming out that they are banned from signing any player for the next two transfer windows, it really is going to hurt the team, especially, if one of their key players gets injured. French manager Zinedine Zidane was great in his debut season but will look to win more trophies and his team shouldn’t have any problems getting out of this group.
Player to watch: Gareth Bale
With Cristiano Ronaldo not getting much older, Real Madrid is going to have to turn their attention to Gareth Bale, who is going to have to take over Ronaldo’s role as their best player on the team. We have already seen Bale put the team on his back when Ronaldo has been out due to fitness or injury. Ever since his arrival to the club he has made an immediate impact with 58 goals and 33 assists as well as providing key goals for his side in big games. The one’s that come to mind are the 2014 Champions League header to give his side the lead in extra-time, and the Copa del Rey Final goal where he destroyed Marc Bartra. The Welshman can lead this team to trophies but all he needs is confidence and support by him.
2) Borussia Dortmund
The German club is back in the competition after their 2012-2013 participation . This is a completely different team since the last time we saw them in the Champions League. They have a new manager and exciting new players. Arguably, a better team thank Klopp’s Champions League runners-up. Under Thomas Tuchel this team has been rejuvenated and have brought in great, young players who fit the system. Despite losing their star players, they have brought in the likes of Ousmane Dembele, March Bartra, Andre Schurrle, Raphael Guerreiro, Sebastian Rode and the return of Mario Gotze. This team is hungry and considered to be a dark-horse in the tournament.
Player to watch: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
The front-man for this side has been the reason for Dortmund’s success in the past few years since his arrival; from Saint Etienne. The Gabonese speedster is a nightmare for defenses with lightning quick pace, decision making, and lethal finishing. Not too long ago, he was the most sought after forward in the world after tearing up the Bundesliga by scoring 53 goals in 96 games with rumors linking him to Spanish giants Real Madrid. He came out by saying Madrid was his dream move and luckily for him, he gets to play them twice this year. Aubameyang needs to show the world why he used to be the hottest prospect in the world.
3) Sporting CP
The Portuguese side directly qualified after finishing 2nd in their domestic league. They have mostly been playing on Thursdays as they have qualified for the Europa League 7 times out in the past 10 years. Their last participation in the Champions League was in 2008/2009 where they reached the round-of-16 where they lost to Bayern Munich with an aggregate score of 12-1 . This upcoming campaign is different because it is going to be very difficult for them to finish in the top 2. Especially, with a relatively weak side after the sale of star players Islam Slimani and Joao Mario but luckily held on to Adrien Silva. They do have some players who make the difference such as William Carvalho, Rui Patricio, Elias, Lazar Markovic, Joel Campbell and Brayan Ruiz. Sporting has the potential to annoy the big clubs and give them a run for their money.
Player to watch: Bas Dost
Again with the sale of Islam Slimani, Sporting were left without a pure striker who can fill the big hole in their team. Luckily,they signed Dutch striker Bas Dost from Wolfsburg to fill the gap. Although, they do have other players Dost has to be in top form if he wants to help his team out and shock a few teams.
4) Legia Warsaw
It has been two decades since a Polish side had reached the Champions League group stage. Warsaw had the longest road to the tournament even though they won their respective league and qualified for the Championship round. In the second round of qualification, they managed to defeat Bosnian side Zrinjski Mortar on an aggregate score of 3-1. Next, barely scraped a 1-0 aggregate score against AS Trencin from Slovakia. Finally, reached the play-off where they met Irish side Dundalk FC and punched their ticket after a 3-1 final score. Manager Besnik Hasi will be looking to implement his style to his new players after former manager Stanislav Cherchesov became new manager of the Russian National Team by succeeding Leonid Slutsky. A completely new experience for Warsaw, who are just happy to be in the competition, and realistically won’t be expecting much.
Player to watch: Nemanja Nikolic
This team is going to have to score some how but lack quality in every aspect. Nikolic has a big job to do trying to ruin defenses and put the ball in the back of the net. He’s already showed it during the qualification phase with 5 goals in 6 games played. But this was against weak defenses, in comparisons to the defenses he has to go up against in this group.
What did you think? Who will advance out of the group? Feel free to comment down below your predictions or tweet them @RobertL50.
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