Champions League 2018/19 – Groups E-H

Group E: Bayern Munich, Benfica, Ajax, AEK Athens.

Pretty simple for Bayern Munich, who have qualified for four of the last five semi-finals, and it would be a surprise if they had any hiccups along the way. Beating Europe’s best is a different matter for Niko Kovac, but he has a side that won’t the Bundesliga by a 19-point margin and is working with the same players that went out by a narrow margin to eventual winners Real last season. Robert Lewandowski will be leading the line with Corentin Tolisso, Arjen Robben and James Rodriguez amongst those who can support him, and they ought to have too much firepower.

 

Benfica were pointless at the end of last season’s group stage but do sit joint top of the Portuguese Liga and they should have a tight battle with Ajax, who has signed well to compete in Europe. AEK Athens might struggle once again.

 

Advice: 4 pts Bayern Munich to win Group E, Manchester City to win Group F, Real Madrid to win Group G (0.97/1 Bet Victor)  

Group F: Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon, Hoffenheim.

Manchester City will have all eyes on European glory this season and they can once again beat Shakhtar Donetsk to top the group. Their only group stage defeat last season came when they were already qualified at the end of the group and they have made a smooth start to their Premier League title defence. They should be comfortable acca fare.

 

Shakhtar Donetsk have lost out in the transfer market after Fred went to Manchester United, Bernard went to Everton Facundo Ferreyra went to Benfica, but they will still prove very strong opposition. Lyon’s games could be a lot of fun – they scored 87 goals last season and have kept their strikers – but it remains to be seen if they can find their feet after a bad start in Ligue 1.

 

Hoffenheim were only beaten by Liverpool in the playoffs last year and have progressed well under Julian Nagelsmann, who is so highly rated he’s already moving to RB Leipzig in 2019. Their Europa League campaign went poorly last season however and this group could be unforgiving.

 

Advice: 4 pts Bayern Munich to win Group E, Manchester City to win Group F, Real Madrid to win Group G (0.97/1 Bet Victor)  

 

Group G: Real Madrid, Roma, CSKA Moscow, Viktoria Plzen.

Real Madrid’s second place last year didn’t stop them winning the whole tournament, but they should be too good here. Julen Lopetegui has made a solid start with three wins from four games and Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema have already grabbed the chance to shine now Ronaldo’s gone with seven goals between them in La Liga.

 

Roma can still pack a punch but they had a fire sale after reaching the last four in 2017/18 and the are significantly poorer for the sale of Alisson to Liverpool along with Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan, and they are only ninth in Serie A so far. They could really struggle on the road although they will fancy their chances of being competitive against CSKA Moscow and Plzen.

 

CSKA Moscow has finished bottom in five of their six attempts in the Champions League and lost a whole host of players over the summer including World Cup star Aleksandr Golovin, whilst Plzen can’t stop winning their domestic league but are taking a giant step up in class.

 

Advice: 4 pts Bayern Munich to win Group E, Manchester City to win Group F, Real Madrid to win Group G (0.97/1 Bet Victor)  

 

Group H: Juventus, Manchester United, Valencia, Young Boys.

 

Juventus are strongly fancied for eh title and have made a fast start in their domestic defence, so it’s understandable that they’re favourites. It will be interesting to see how Christiano Ronaldo goes now he’s off the mark but there’s more than enough firepower and defensive solidity for them to go deep into the tournament and right now, they look more balanced than Manchester United or Valencia.

 

United’s last trip beyond the quarter-finals was under Sir Alex Ferguson in 2011 and going forward they could find top talent too strong, but they have at least put two wins together in the Premier League with tricky trips to Burnley and Watford bringing six points, and they should be in better form by the time things get serious.

 

Valencia have signed very well on paper, adding Denis Cheryshev and Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi on loan deals, but they’ve not started La Liga well. Young Boys secured a first title in 34 years last season but are having their first season in the Champions League.