The UEFA Champions League draw took place last night on the 30th of August, 2018 and it sprung quite a few exciting ties our way. While PSG will be a little worried, Inter Milan will be shocked to see their fortunes.
Meanwhile, Luka Modric trumped Cristiano Ronaldo to win the UEFA Player of the Year to add to his trophy cabinet alongside the World Cup Golden Ball. Ronaldo’s agent dismissed the snub as “shameful”, while Keylor Navas won the Goalkeeper of the year award to outline just what lies ahead of Thibaut Courtois if he wants to oust the Costa Rican into the first team.
Sergio Ramos once again swooped for the Defender of the Year, while Luka Modric of course won the midfielder of the year to cap off an all Madrid awards swoop. Ofcourse, Cristiano Ronaldo won the Forward of the year, while Mo Salah was ultimately left to smile awkwardly at the camera and forced to sit ahead of Sergio Ramos to Capp off a difficult evening for the Egyptian.
Let’s now turn our attention to the UEFA Champions League draw and look at some of the winners and losers from this draw:
WINNER - Bayern Munich
What is it about Bayern Munich and the group stage draw? They always seem to the get the most favourable ones. This time around as well, Bayern will be counting their stars, having been draw with Portuguese giants Benfica, an out-of-touch AFC Ajax and Greek side AEK Athens. Munich will be confident of progressing into the Round of 16 and should not face any issues in topping the group.
Niko Kovac can focus on the Bundesliga title defense till the winter break and ensure he sees a second season in the Allianz Arena dugout by putting the Champions League on the back burners. With the likes of Serge Gnabry, Sandro Wagner and Leon Goretzka desperate to get into the starting lineup, Bayern can use the Champions League to integrate the youngsters and the veteran striker into the team, helping them get used to the Bayern way of playing.
WINNER - FC Porto
The last three group stages of the Champions League have seen one group with no obvious heavyweights, no clear favourite and one team as a mainstay, FC Porto. The Portuguese giants, and the new home of San Iker (read: Iker Casillas), have played the following teams in the group stages in the last three years:
2016/17 -> Club Brugge, Leicester City, FC Copenhagen, FC Porto.
2017/18 -> Besiktas, RB Leipzig, AS Monaco, FC Porto
2018/19 -> Lokomotiv Moscow, Schalke 04, Galatasaray, FC Porto
FC Porto probably is the only team which has got a better luck than Bayern Munich when it comes to Champions League draws. Yet, they seem destined to top the group this season around. This is because the reigning Portuguese champions have a solid team which has been playing together for quite some time. More importantly, in Sergio Concecao, they have one of the greatest tactician in the Portuguese football. It will be an interesting year of FC Porto and anything short of a progression into the Round of 16 will be seen as a big disappointment.
LOSER - SSC Napoli
What a season it was for Napoli last year. They disregarded the Europa League and the Italian Cup, focused only on the Serie A and almost caught Juventus out. They achieved 91 points last season and yet, they did not lift the trophy. Napoli were a breath of fresh air in Serie A last season, with their fast-paced, passing game catching every team in Serie A by surprise. Of course, with no titles at the end of the season and with Chelsea looming for their head coach, Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis moved quickly to appoint the legendary Carlo Ancelotti as their new manager.
After a horrible preseason, Napoli signalled their intent for the new season by winning two back to back games, one against Torino and the other against Milan. In both the games, they started slowly, fell behind, but showed the courage and determination to fight back and secure maximum points. They cannot afford to start slow in the UEFA Champions League though, with bookies favourites PSG and last season finalists Liverpool drawn with them.
It will be a baptism of fire for Carlo Ancelotti in his first season at the Naples, but if there one thing that we know with certainty about Carlo, it is that he always delivers in the Champions League. The early signs aren’t promising, with both the clubs in scintillating form while Napoli are still finding their feet under Ancelotti. Let’s hope he can all of his European experience to the fore for this intense clash.
LOSERS - Tottenham Hotspurs
It might come as a surprise to see Tottenham as a loser, but for the second year running, Tottenham have been hard done by the UEFA Champions League draw. They have been paired with FC Barcelona, Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven in Group B, which is surely one of the Group of death. It will be foolish to write Tottenham off, given how they dismantled both Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, famously defeating the then back-to-back Champions League winners.
But one major factor going against Tottenham is the lack of reinforcements during the summer. Tottenham will be stretched thin, trying to sustain a Premier League title charge and compete against two heavyweights in Inter Milan and FC Barcelona in Europe just to get out of their group. They certainly have a starting XI which can defeat any team on their day, but do they have a squad of 18 which can sustain the rigours of both the competitions? Only time will tell.
WINNER - Juventus
Given how easily Sevilla defeated Manchester United, if there was ever a right time to play the Red Devils, it is now. Mourinho’s men are reeling with a disastrous start to the new season and their worst fears have come true. The man they reportedly passed on signing, Cristiano Ronaldo, will be coming back to the Old Trafford, but this time in the Black and Whites of Juventus as an embodiment of the United faithful’s worst nightmare.
Apart from United, Juventus have two teams which are making a long awaited comeback to the Champions league, meaning that they will not be used to the rigours of playing three times a week. Valencia and Young Boys will be thrilled to have been paired with a team like Juventus, but it is the Old Lady who will be salivating at the prospect of waltzing through the Group Stages and having a relatively comfortable group stages.
LOSER - Cristiano Ronaldo
Any conversation about the Champions league is incomplete without the mention of the one and only, Cristiano Ronaldo. The former Real Madrid ace had a wonderful campaign last year, scoring 15 times including famous goals against Juventus, PSG and Bayern Munich. If that wasn’t enough, he even scored a big hat-trick against Spain at the World Cup in a 3-3 draw. But he still couldn’t win the UEFA Player of the Year.
It was as if the whole narrative of Luka Modric and his Croatian team achieving something miraculous at the World Cup by reaching the finals has overshadowed his importance for club and country. While Portugal did not have a great World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo had an impressive season in the Champions League and clearly outperformed every player, including his teammates in the European competition. Thus it can be understood if he felt a little hard done by UEFA. Nonetheless, the award for the next year is there for the taking and if he can help Juventus achieve their dream, there is no way UEFA will be able to overlook him again.
So these are our picks. Diagree with us? Did we miss someone out? Write your own blog and publish it on our website. All you have to do is download the indifoot app.