Halfway Through Group Play, Some Champions League Groups Are Much More Interesting Than Others

Tyler Everett October 25, 2019 434 Reads

Halfway through 2019-20 UEFA Champions League group play, the standings largely look how we expected them to.

Manchester City is not exactly fighting for its life in Group C. Three teams are still very much alive in Group F. Ajax and Chelsea are in great shape in Group H. And Group G is as “meh” as expected.

So which groups are the most worth your attention over the final three matchdays? (Matchday 4 is on November 5-6, Matchday 5 on November 26-27 and Matchday 6 on December 10-11). I don’t know whether the word for the groups at the top of this list is unpredictable or compelling, but I do know that some of these groups offer way more intrigue than others.

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1. Group F

Barcelona – 7 points, Borussia Dortmund – 4 points, Inter Milan – 4 points, Slavia Prague – 1 point

There aren’t many groups where it’s truly unclear who will finish top-two. Barcelona will likely almost certainly win this group. But the battle between Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan for the second spot could be undecided going into matchday 6.

No team took a bigger step toward staying alive this week than Inter with their 2-0 home win over BVB on Wednesday. If they can get another win at Dortmund on Matchday 4, they’d go from seriously on the ropes to in great shape in just 180 minutes.

We were high on Dortmund coming into the Champions League, but they’re currently in fourth in the Bundesliga and are far from a lock to make it to the knockout rounds. They’re also a home win over Inter away from being in great shape in their group – the takeaway here is you should be sure to watch BVB-Inter on November 5.

2. Group G

RB Leipzig – 6 points, Zenit St. Petersburg – 4 points, Lyon – 4 points, Benfica – 3 points

This is the only group where everyone has at least 3 points. Benfica is also the only fourth-place team with a realistic chance to finish top-two – and the Portuguese club actually still has a chance to win this group. If any of these teams had a little more brand recognition, this would be the group everyone was talking about. At the moment, Leipzig appears to be the likely winner, but I doubt we’ll know who joins them until the final matchday.

3. Group C

Manchester City – 9 points, Shakhtar Donetsk – 4 points, Dinamo Zagreb – 4 points, Atalanta – 0 points

No, this group as a collective is not exactly pushing City to the limit. City’s goal differential of +9 is ridiculous, but not much of a surprise. The question is whether it’s Shakhtar Donetsk or Dinamo Zagreb who make it out. Also, what on earth is up with Atalanta? So much for that dark horse. Atalanta and Bayer Leverkusen are the only teams with 0 points through three games.

This week’s 2-2 draw between Shakhtar and Dinamo did little to differentiate these two. Dinamo has a 4-0 blowout of Atalanta and was decently competitive vs. City (they lost 2-0, and it was 0-0 until the 66th). Both those results are more impressive than what Shakhtar did against their common opponents, as Shakhtar fell 3-0 to City and only beat Atalanta 2-1. So unless one of them gets all three points when they meet again on November 6, flip a coin for second place here.

4. Group A

Paris St. Germain – 9 points, Real Madrid – 4 points, Club Brugge – 2 points, Galatasaray – 1 point

Group G was probably the last one without two clear favorites/locks to advance. You just about have to flip a coin to pick between Group A and Group B for fourth and fifth in this ranking. Both have a runaway leader (PSG here, Bayern for Group B) and a second-place team that is set to go through despite looking decidedly vulnerable. It’s hard to overstate how bad Real Madrid looked against both PSG in their UCL opener and in the draw to Club Brugge. But do I think Los Blancos are going to be overtaken by Brugge or Galatasaray? Not quite.

5. Group B

Bayern Munich – 9 points, Tottenham – 4 points, Red Star Belgrade – 3 points, Olympiacos – 1 point

Spurs have to be thrilled there’s not a team like Red Bull Salzburg or Inter Milan in their group. Despite how bad Mauricio Pochettino’s team looked losing 7-2 to Bayern, they’re probably going to scrap their way to the knockout rounds. But unless things change dramatically by January, Tottenham will be one of the weakest teams in the round of 16.

6. Group H

Chelsea – 6 points, Ajax – 6 points, Valencia – 4 points, Lille – 1 point

Valencia fans will hate me for bringing this up, but we were seconds away from having three teams with 6 points apiece here.

The last-minute goal that made Wednesday’s clash with Lille end in a draw will not soon be forgotten by fans of the La Liga club. Valencia’s win over Chelsea on matchday 1 seems hard to fathom now, but is evidence that the reigning Copa del Rey champs are no pushover. That being said, from what I’ve seen, there’s a massive gap in quality between Chelsea/Ajax and Valencia/Lille, regardless of what the standings say at the moment.

7. Group E

Napoli – 7 points, Liverpool – 6 points, Red Bull Salzburg – 3 points, Genk – 1 point

Unfortunately, RBS is now a massive long shot to advance. The Austrian side had its chances to get a win or draw vs. Napoli this week, but was not good enough defensively. They now probably need to win out and get help in the form of a surprise result by Genk against Napoli and or Liverpool. In other words – and I’d love to be wrong on this – the end is probably near for Erling Braut Haaland and Co.

8. Group D

Juventus – 7 points, Atlético Madrid – 7 points, Lokomotiv Moscow – 3 points, Bayer Leverkusen – 0 points

Atleti, based on their offensive struggles domestically, is yet another team that better be glad it was drawn in a group whose third-best team is not terribly formidable good. While it seems obvious who will finish top-two in several groups, there’s no bigger lock than the Juve-Atleti combo in Group D. It will, however, be interesting to see how the second Juve-Atleti match-up plays out, and which of these teams wins this group.

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