Could Leicester City and Spurs shock Europe in the Champions League?
The draw for the Champions League took place last week, with the new system meaning that there are plenty of exciting ties to be seen right from the off-set. Atlético take on Bayern, Arsenal face PSG, and of course, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City will be battling with Barcelona. With all of these teams facing each other, and the potential for so called bigger teams to miss out as early as the groups or even in the last-16, is there an opportunity for an underdog to quietly emerge from a less-than-exciting group and go far this year? Or could an underdog blatantly take on one of the bigger teams straight away and shock the whole of Europe?
Here are five underdogs who could potentially go far in this year’s Champions League…
Hardly an unknown team around Europe, as many of the leagues around the continent witnessed Leicester’s incredible journey to the Premier League title, but it would still be a massive shock if Leicester were to get beyond the latter stages of the Champions League. That said, being in Pot 1, Leicester have been given a favourable group that could see them emerge as the winner and get a favourable last-16 tie, and if they get to the knockout stages
– who knows what could happen then?
Leicester travel to Club Brugge on the 14th September, to play a team currently seventh after only four games in the Jupiler Pro League. If The Foxes can get off to a good start in their first Champions League game, it puts them in a good place going into their match against FC Porto on the 27th September and then another home match against FC
Copenhagen, on October 18th. Their following two fixtures, away at Copenhagen and then at home against Club Brugge will be vital as their last fixture in the group stage is away at Porto. If Leicester can go into the last game with a shot at top spot, then momentum could begin to once again sway in their favour.
The Portuguese champions were also in Pot 1, and just like Leicester City, emerged in a group that has seen them become a clear candidate to progress. Benfica start their campaign against Turkish Champions Besiktas, and will be expected to claim a minimum of four points from the two games against them. Dynamo Kyiv and Napoli make up the group, with the latter probably providing the biggest contest for top spot.
Benfica lost one of their best players; Nicolas Gaitan, to Atlético Madrid in the summer, and will more than likely struggle to better last season’s quarter-final appearance in this competition. However, winning the group could put them in with a good shout of a favourable last-16 tie, meaning the latter stages of the Champions League could be in sight once again.
Spurs are another English side who aren’t very familiar with the Champions League, but do have some good memories from their last visit to the competition, especially at the San Siro. Tottenham have a favourable group, especially considering they were in Pot 3 for the draw.
CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco make up the group, with Spurs looking favourable to beat all three at home and get good results away. This is a group that Spurs could win comfortably. Added into the fact that their home games will be played at Wembley Stadium means that there will be a bumper crowd supporting them for home games, and this could do wonders leading into the knock-out stages.
It seems highly likely that Spurs will make the knockout stage, and even if they are drawn to some of Europe’s biggest teams, there will be plenty of optimism around them. A bumper crowd, a strong team, previous experience and an ability to challenge as they did in the league last season, means Spurs are looking strong heading into this year’s Champions League.
The Europa League winners surely have something to prove in this year’s competition. They have dominated the Europa League competition for what feels like forever, beating Liverpool in last year’s final, but have struggled to advance in the Champions League. They went out in the group stage last year, albeit in a group with Manchester City and Juventus, and surely now need to prove something amongst Europe’ elite.
The Spanish side are tipped to do well in La Liga this year, with Jorge Sampaoli now in charge, and generally do well in cup competitions. In a group with Lyon, Dynamo Zagreb and Juventus, Sevilla will be looking to challenge Juventus and certainly get through as group runners-up. After that, with a good draw, Sevilla could find themselves advancing through the knock-out stages, something they find so comfortable in the Europe league.
The once Champions League finalists are back in the competition after a brief spell in the Europa League. Still exciting, the German side features players that can win any game, such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Andre Schurrle and Marco Reus. Under Thomas Tuchel, they will be looking to get back amongst Europe’s elite and prove that they can compete in the same way regularly as perhaps, Atlético Madrid have. They might be a big club by name, but they will still need to play like an underdog to get themselves to their second Champions League final.
Dortmund find themselves in a group with Legia Warsaw, Sporting CP and holders, Real Madrid. Out of all the underdogs, Dortmund surely have the players and the biggest chance of simply going out and competing with the giants, and so they will challenge Real for top spot. Even a second place finish and a bad last-16 draw might not finish Dortmund, with the capabilities they have of beating any team on their day.
Written by Kiyle Tesh
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Alex Hannam
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