Champions League group stage: Which English teams have a fighting chance?

The theme song itself is enough to give goosebumps to fans across the world and now, after months of waiting, the Champions League is back.

Not since Chelsea in 2012 has an English side got their hands on the famous trophy, but with a clean slate to start the 2017-18 season, everyone will be looking to stake their claim.

And with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid set to be at their ferocious best, a quick start could be needed if tough last-16 ties are to be avoided.

But with five English teams in contention, who will be anticipating a European odyssey, and who will be racing their way back to the airport?


Such is the strength around Europe’s top divisions, it was always likely that top-seeded Chelsea would draw out a big gun as the second team in the group, and that was exactly the case as Atletico Madrid came out of the hat.

Beaten semi-finalists last year, the Spanish giants made the final the season before and are set to be still smarting from their double defeats to city rivals Real.

There is therefore a point to prove for Diego Simeone’s side and come September 27, a cacophony of noise is set to await Antonio Conte’s side in the Spanish capital.

But that’s not all, with a trip home to Italy on the agenda for Conte and his charges with Roma also drawn in Group C.

A match for any side, I Giallorossi didn’t even make the group stage last year, though did get the better of the English side in their last meeting in 2008.

Chelsea’s first opponents, Qarabag FK, make up the group, this year becoming the first Azerbaijani team to reach this phase of the Champions League.

First game: Chelsea v Qarabag FK, 7.45pm, Tuesday 12th September

Manchester United

Welcome back, United! They may be one of the biggest clubs in the world but the Red Devils had to settle for the Europa League last season, while the year before saw them knocked out of the group.

If the scars weren’t deep enough, they’ll have to do battle with CSKA Moscow all over again, one of the sides to hold them to a draw away from home in 2015-16.

A stronger challenge is likely to come from Benfica –  55 years since they last won the trophy – winners of the Portuguese league for the past four years and a former rival of manager Jose Mourinho during his days in charge of Porto.

United have only lost one in nine against them, though the last two, in 2011, were drawn, while Benfica have also reached the knockout stages in the past two seasons.

Throw Basel into the mix and this is an intriguing Group A for Mourinho’s side, full of games they would expect to win but against teams they have tripped up against in the past.

First game: Manchester United v Basel, 7.45pm, Tuesday 12th September

Tottenham Hotspur

Seeded third in Group H with two European powerhouses for company, Spurs certainly have their work cut out if they want to avoid a repeat of last season’s Europa League berth.

First to Wembley are Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, 1997 champions and 2013 runners-up when losing to German rivals Bayern Munich at the home of English football.

But they do bring form to Wembley, top of the nascent Bundesliga table ahead of the repeat of 2016’s last-16 encounter.

It doesn’t get any easier for Spurs, with Real Madrid the top Group H seed, with just the small matter of their standing as the competition’s most successful team with 12 titles.

That includes winning the last two editions, beating Juventus and Atletico, with Cristiano Ronaldo the top-scorer in the last five seasons.

Apoel Nicosia are the last team in the group, a Cypriot side that reached the quarter-finals as recently as 2011-12.

First game: Tottenham Hotspur v Borussia Dortmund, 7.45pm, Wednesday 13th September


Whether this is their year or not, few atmospheres quite rival a Champions League night in the Kop.

Sevilla will be the first team to experience the noise this year, reaching last year’s knockout stages before succumbing to then-Premier League champions Leicester City.

But more significantly, this will be a repeat of the 2016 Europa League final – which the Spanish side won 3-1 – with the Reds desperate to avenge their one and only previous meeting.

Meanwhile Spartak Moscow return to the main stage for the first time since 2012-13 to take their place in Group E, with this their first meeting with Liverpool since 2002.

Never before have Jurgen Klopp’s side faced NK Maribor, though the Slovenians did take on Chelsea a few years ago.

First game: Liverpool v Sevilla, 7.45pm, Wednesday 13th September

Manchester City

Given the big dogs lurking in the top seeding pot, a sense of relief was felt around the blue half of the north west when Shakhtar Donetsk came out to face Manchester City.

While they are not to be taken lightly, they present Pep Guardiola the best of what could have been a scary bunch in Group F.

But the Ukrainians are not the only challenge, with Italian side Napoli set to come to the Etihad – a team City have not beaten in two previous meetings.

The squad at their disposal should make the Citizens confident, with Feyenoord the first task at hand in Rotterdam.

First game: Feyenoord v Manchester City, 7.45pm, Wednesday 13th September


Recommended Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *