Cleat Geeks

UEFA Champions League Groups A & B Preview

Okay Lads, I think it is time to get down to business. It is my job to get you excited and prepared for the next few months of exciting soccer that will fill the Tuesday/Wednesday afternoon gaps of our lives. I am going to break down 2 groups over 4 articles up until the first match is ready to kick off Tuesday the 18th.  I’ll give a little background on each team, as well as my opinions.  Who should you keep an eye on? I’ll make sure to give you some names. Finally I’ll even have some of my predictions and futures…..I Cannot wait. Let’s get to it.

Group A – Atletico de Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, AS Monaco, Club Brugge

 

Look, I’ll start with the two teams who I do not believe stand a chance in this group. Club Brugge has a very talented and balanced squad who currently hold the lead in the First Division of Belgium. They’ve defeated rivals Anderlecht recently and have yet to suffer a loss. I don’t think the level of competition that they are used to will match compared to the three giants they paired up with. Rezaei and Groeneveld have seven goals of the seventeen scored by Club Brugge in the Belgium League, so keep an eye on those names. The best they can do is play conservatively and hope for their opponent to make a mistake. I can see most of their goals coming from counter-attacks. Their play will look like Sweden and Denmark in the World Cup.

AS Monaco is managed by Leonardo Jardim from my home country of Portugal. He has done such a fantastic job with the youth club and transfer market. I’m pretty sure you know who Kylian Mbappe is. Arsenal fans also know that the last time we (gooners) were in a round of 16, we got an easy draw to these guys…until they slapped the taste out of our mouths. Monaco is an under-the-radar team that has had success over the past few years. They finished in the Semi-finals of UCL 16/17, same year they won League 1 in France. History doesn’t win you tomorrow’s games, although it is important to remember that these guys like to shock. Even with Kylian’s departure, we still need to focus on Columbian star forward Falcao. Their midfield is pretty solid as well with one of my personal favorites midfielders Rony Lopes. They did lose some firepower in the 2018 transfer market, although they can still make it work with what they have. Jardim has had a rough start so far in France. He needs to make an impact here so I think he will go toe-to-toe with Dortmund to the very end for a photo finish. Speaking of Dortmund…

Americans should be excited about this group. We have a star hybrid player within the Borussia Dortmund ranks. That young man is Attacking midfielder/winger Christian Pulisic. Unfortunately, he has been nursing an injury that will keep him sidelined this Friday in Dortmund’s match versus Frankfurt and looks unlikely to dress for the upcoming opening UCL match in Bruges, Belgium.  The biggest fear I have is that Dortmund’s manager Lucien Favre is still tweaking his line up. New signing Pacos Alcacer from Barcelona will fill in the forward role in Pulisic’s absence which makes me a little nervous. Who knows, maybe Favre could set a formation to have the two of them play together. If they can make that duo work with the likes of Gotze, Reus, Witsel and company then we have ourselves a dangerous team.

Speaking of dangerous….Atleti. The 2017/18 Europa League Champions. They have one of my favorite managers Diego Simeone  I have them in the final four. There is just too much world-class and skill on this squad to ignore. From the Antoine Greizmann/Diego Costa duo to the man between the sticks Jan Oblak. Keep an eye on how the ball moves from the back to the front. It’s memorizing. Silky smooth. Watching Godin and Koke control every situation. They should come out on top or sweep the group completely. I mean this team has to compete with La Liga giants. This group won’t scare them.  They’re the truth America. Stay Woke.

Final Verdict – 1st Atleti, 2nd Dortmund, 3rd Monaco (relegated to Europa League), 4th Brugge (eliminated)

Maybe put a little something on Atleti to win it all outright, currently +1200, 12/1

 

Group B -Barcelona, Tottenham, PSV Eindhoven, Internazionale

As I said earlier, I am an Arsenal supporter. Therefore, I will not root for the Spurs to survive this group. I am also making the completely unbiased prediction that they will be battling Inter for the 3rd spot to qualify for the Europa league. Tottenham went the summer without making a single purchase. I know the pain. Arsenal finished their new Emirates Stadium in 2006 and couldn’t buy a pint at the local pub while they were paying off that loan. Sorry Tottenham fans, the trickle-down effect of having built a new stadium was painful for Arsenal and now you all will get to ride that too. At least Arsenal had finished the stadium on time…

Tottenham lack depth. They have a great squad, which is one that I envy. The problem is that they’re resident to arguably the hardest league to play in, along with the two domestic cups which will be played by a blend of experienced players and youngsters. Between the traveling and 8 day stretches of 3 games, I can easily fire off the take that they will not qualify into the next group.

The same could be said about Inter, who has been struggling within Serie A play thus far. It’s great to see them back in the UCL but they drew the short straw with this group. I would like to see Icardi step up and really come into the spotlight here so keep an eye on him. Inter could possibly generate some transfer interest by competing well this fall and having another top 4 finish this in Serie A by May to make it back into the UCL next year. I would say they are one more summer transfer market away for round of 16 play. I would still love to see them advance as an immediate underdog. Small bet on that one…

I am a little high on this team but I figured the Dutch resurgence into Soccer needs to start somewhere, and I believe this is it. I like  PSV Eindhoven’s chances to come out of the group into the next round. At the minimum I think they will do damage in the Europa league if they finish third in the group. The attacking front consisting of Mexico’s Hirving Lozano, and Dutch duo Luuk de Jong & Steven Bergwijn are threatening. I can argue that Tottenham, Inter, and even Barca will find themselves quickly turning and burning while chasing those 3 on a counter-attack. Not a bad play too for the ones out there looking to make a buck or two.

Now….for the man of the hour….

Snubbed from the last three finalists of the UEFA Player of the Year award is this bearded fellow Lionel Messi. I am one of the few humans to walk the earth to love both Messi and Ronaldo with the same heart and brain. I believe he should have been on that stand but it’s hard whether to replace Ronaldo or Salah with Messi when looking at his UCL Success last year. In La Liga, Messi was unstoppable with his 34 goals and 12 assists. Not his highest goal count but his presence on the field was massive. Unfortunately for him, he was tainted by Barcelona’s loss to Roma in the Stadio Olimpico. That 3-0 eliminated his club because of Roma’s important away goal scored at the Camp Nou. All that does not matter anymore. Messi is a bounce back king. He is out for blood. Barcelona host Eindhoven for Game one of the UCL and I will Parlay the Barca victory with Messi scoring at least one goal. He’s missing Iniesta but that won’t matter. Coutinho, Suarez, Dembele, Busquets, and the Croatian Rakitic will be supporting Messi towards his dominance. I think this team that is “Mes de um Club” is going to redeem itself this time around and dominate. My money is on “Los Blaugranes” to the Finals and winning it. Sorry Madristas…

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