The Champions League is back, ladies and gentlemen. (*CUE SYNONYMOUS CHAMPIONS LEAGUE THEME TUNE TO SEND SHIVERS DOWN OUR SPINES*)
And this season is rather special for Premier League fans with a massive FIVE English sides partaking in Europe’s primary competition after Manchester United’s Europa League success last May.
Add Celtic’s unenviable challenges against PSG and Bayern Munich in their group of death and you’re set up for a mouthwatering UK-based narrative in every single round of fixtures.
But if you fancy some excitement elsewhere the group stage draw has produced just the proposition for you.
Every season footballing hipsters look for an escape from the traditional big hitters in the Champions League.
For example, in 2014/15 we saw Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao and BATE drawn together in Group H, with the former two qualifying for the knockout stages.
But this season we’ve been well and truly spoilt.
🏆Best bets: Champions League Tuesday🏆
- Man United v Basel, United to score after 75 minutes: 11/10
- United and Chelsea to win to nil: 3/2
- United, Chelsea, City, Liverpool and Spurs to win: 7/1
That’s because Group G boasts a remarkably well rounded quartet of Monaco, Porto, Besiktas and – the most intriguingly given their meteoric rise – RB Leipzig.
Not only is there no standout side but their respective club histories and players might make this the greatest Champions League hipster group of all time.
We analyse each side’s edgy ways, best players and chances of reaching the knockout stages…
The French champions don’t really need an introduction after a stunning season both domestically and in Europe last term which saw them eventually fall at the semi-final hurdle to Juventus.
Their exhilarating attacking football made them everybody’s second team in the competition as they swatted the likes of Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund aside.
But in 2017/18 they’re a very different prospect altogether after the departures of Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Benjamin Mendy to name but a few.
Any team in Europe would struggle to replace that quartet but Monaco have given it a good go, bringing in some of the most prodigal talents around in Youri Tielemans and Keita Balde.
KEY PLAYER: Thomas Lemar
Keeping Lemar this summer was absolutely paramount given the mass exodus to England and PSG, with even a £92m bid from Arsenal on deadline day deemed not tempting enough.
GROUP PREDICTION: 1ST
Champions League regulars, Porto have fallen behind Benfica in the Portuguese stakes in recent years but can still pose a real threat.
Another side who have haemorrhaged players for extortionate prices in past seasons, Porto have had to deal with the losses of Ruben Neves (to Wolves, which still sounds so wrong when you think about it) and Andre Silva.
They still have exciting players going forward and Iker Casillas is experiencing a pseudo Indian summer in Portugal after going over 500 minutes unbeaten in Liga NOS.
KEY PLAYER: Yacine Brahimi
One player they’ve just about managed to hold on to, Brahimi is capable of setting any game alight from the left wing and will be crucial to their hopes of making it out of the group.
GROUP PREDICTION: 4TH
‘Come to Besiktas’ was one of the recurring messages of the summer transfer window with a viral social media craze accompanying some very eye-catching signings.
Turkey continues to be one of the toughest away trips in European football given the hostile atmospheres and logistics of the distances travelled.
Besiktas might be the best Turkish side in recent years this season after bringing in the likes of Pepe, Gary Medel and Alvaro Negredo over the summer months.
Add to that the mercurial talents of Ricardo Quaresma and Talisca and you’ve got a hell of a side if they all click.
KEY PLAYER: Talisca
The playmaker was linked with Manchester United this summer and he is undoubtedly the creative heartbeat of the side.
GROUP PREDICTION: 3RD
For a team branded ‘Europe’s most hated club’ they’ve got a considerable amount of very likeable players.
Footballing traditionalists won’t agree with their meteoric rise to the top after significant financial intervention in recent years, but Leipzig really are a breath of fresh air.
They emerged as Bayern Munich’s main title rivals last season in their debut Bundesliga campaign and will look to build on that development this year on multiple fronts.
In Timo Werner they have one of the best young strikers in Europe and perhaps the answer to Germany’s long-term number nine issue, whilst Emil Forsberg is an assist machine.
KEY PLAYER: Naby Keita
Liverpool’s club-record signing (he’ll join in July 2018) is essentially N’Golo Kante on wheels and is rapidly emerging as one of the best all-round midfielders in European football.
GROUP PREDICTION: 2ND