After an eventful evening in Monaco, the Champions League 2017/18 draws for the group stage gave us plenty of talking points. Plenty of strong teams will compete each other in the group stage. Bayern and PSG were drawn together in Group B, Chelsea face a tricky group with the likes of Atletico Madrid, Roma and Azerbaijani side Qarabag. Juventus and Barcelona will lock horns in Group D, whereas we have a potential ‘Group of Death’ candidate in Group H that sees Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham Hotspurs and Apoel face off.
Manchester United have had a relatively easy draw, as their group, Group A consists of Benfica, Basel and CSKA Moscow.
While this draw may seem easy on paper; Manchester United have had troubled times with their group-mates.
One must go way back to Manchester United’s campaign in the 2011/12 Champions League. They were drawn against Benfica, Basel and Otelul Galati. In what seemed to be a mere formality for a team that tasted defeat in the previous edition of the Champions League finals, it was far from it.
Draws both home and away to Benfica; and a draw and defeat to Basel meant Manchester United had to settle for a third placed finish in a group they were meant to dominate. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men had never before faced such a situation and were left stunned, eventually settling for a place in the Europa League.
CSKA Moscow were drawn with Manchester United in the second season of Louis van Gaal’s reign at the club. Having comprehensively beaten Club Brugge, they faced CSKA Moscow, Wolfsburg and PSV. That season too, saw them exit the group stage placed 3rd; leading to a Round of 32 tie in the Europa League.
Manchester United now face their nemeses once again, but this time with a renewed vigour and hope.
SL Benfica and Manchester United will be a special one, as Victor Lindelof will meet his former employers in his very first season away from them. Basel are a tricky proposition, and Manchester United will know that they are not to be taken for granted. As for CSKA Moscow, the travel to Russia will haunt Mourinho given his hate for travelling too far from Manchester. Playing in the extreme weather conditions and at a substandard pitch will mount a challenge for Mourinho’s men.
The group stage fixtures of the Champions League will start in the second week of September. Overall, Manchester United will look to emerge from the group as winners and that is what is expected of them. A point haul of 12 in such a group would ensure a first placed finish. To get there, Manchester United will have to aim at a maximum point haul at home. Rest assured, this seasons Champions League will be the most tightly contested one, given the quality of the teams competing and the high level of competition amongst the groups.
Could we be seeing any upsets? Let’s find out!