Every Champions League team rated and slated ahead of group stage draw

The Champions League really kicks into gear on Thursday when the draw for the group stages take place.

There will be four English teams in the hat for the draw in Monaco as the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Tottenham learn their fate.

Liverpool of course got to the final last season before losing 3-1 to Real Madrid in Kiev.

That was a third triumph on the spin for the Spanish giants and the task for the other 31 sides will be ending their dominance.

Ahead of the group stage draw, the Liverpool Echo has taken a look at the sides the four English teams could be coming up against – remembering they cannot face each other.

POT 1

(Manchester City will be in Pot 1)

Real Madrid

How did they get there?

They might have finished third behind Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in last season’s La Liga, but Real Madrid arrive as Champions League royalty. They are the holders of the trophy and are aiming for an unbelievable fourth successive victory this term.

Star man

Where do we start? Well, they have lost Cristiano Ronaldo, who ended his nine-year and 451-goal career with the Spaniards earlier this summer by joining Juventus. The holders are still blessed with quality throughout however, despite so failing to sign a direct replacement for Ronaldo. Gareth Bale is a standout performer, while retaining midfield schemer Luka Modric was huge.

Notable summer transfers

The loss of Ronaldo will be keenly felt by the Spaniards. They have so far failed to sign a direct replacement and have until August 31 to splash the cash on a new ‘Galactico’. They have however boosted their goalkeeping ranks with the signing of Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois.

Alvaro Odriozola has arrived for around €30M from Real Sociedad, while Andriy Lunin was a relatively modest €8.5m from Zorya Luhansk. Brazilian youngster Vinicius Junior has also been snared from Flamengo for a reported €45m.

Atletico Madrid

How did they get there?

A runners-up spot in La Liga would have seen them in Pot 2, but the Spanish side sealed their place as top seeds with Europa League success over Marseille in Lyon.

Star man

Antoine Griezmann. One of France’s World Cup heroes will be aiming to fire Atleti to their first ever European Cup after a summer which saw him commit his future to the club. Very much in the mould of a modern forward, the 27-year-old is both chief creator and main goalscorer for Diego Simeone’s side.

Notable summer transfers

Thomas Lemar arrived from Monaco in a club-record deal, a year after Liverpool tried to take him to Anfield. They have also strengthened their strike force with the arrival of Nikola Kalinic and Gelson Martins – the latter on a free transfer after the Portuguese winger cancelled his Sporting contract.

Barcelona

How did they get there?

Champions of Spain – winning the title by 14 points – Barca are set for their 15th consecutive campaign in Europe. They will be looking to go beyond the quarter-final stage for just the second time in six seasons.

Star man

Some little fella called Lionel Messi. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.

The Argentine also has an incredible support cast which includes former Liverpool duo Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez.

Notable summer transfers

There was a distinct South American feel to the Camp Nou arrivals this summer, with Arturo Vidal the standout after arriving from Bayern Munich. Brazilian youngsters Malcolm and Arthur also joined, with Sevilla defender Clement Lenglet another addition.

Bayern Munich

How did they get there?

Another Bundesliga title win, this time by 19 points. Dortmund were the last side to deny them lifting the trophy back in 2012.

Star man

Robert Lewandowksi remains the man who provides the goals for the German giants, although Klopp is a big fan of Thiago Alcantara. The Spanish international is very much the purists’ player with his metronomic style in midfield.

Notable summer transfers

Not many, in truth, with Leon Goretzka the only arrival on a free transfer from Schalke. Far more significant is the appointment of Croatian boss Niko Kovac, who arrives from winning the German Cup with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Juventus

How did they get there?

The Serie A champions once more, although the Turin giants found themselves working harder for it than in recent years, fighting off Napoli to lift the Scudetto with 95 points.

Star man

Cristiano Ronaldo is the new show in town after his big-money move to Italy. Still considered in the world’s top two best players, even at 33 he will prove a significant signing – and bring some real star power – to a club desperate to lift the Champions League for the first time since 1996.

Paulo Dybala is solid side dish, while Emre Can is hoping to establish himself there after leaving Liverpool.

Notable summer transfers

Can and Ronaldo are the main two, but they have also spent big on right back Joao Cancelo and centre-back Leonardo Bonucci, who returns after a year at AC Milan. Gonzalo Higuain has moved in the opposite direction.

Paris Saint-Germain

How did they get there?

Regaining the Ligue 1 title after Monaco lifted it the previous campaign. There were no slip ups this time, finishing 13 points ahead of second-placed Monaco.

Star man

Before the World Cup, it would have been Neymar. But now, everybody is talking about Kylian Mbappe. In a side littered with global stars, the Frenchman is being primed to take over the mantle of Messi and Ronaldo and become the world’s best player. Edinson Cavani makes up a pretty impressive front three.

Notable summer transfers

PSG have done little work this summer, with Schalke defender Thilo Kehrer arriving for around £30million. Gianluigi Buffon also arrived on a free, while Thomas Tuchel is now in the dugout.

Lokomotiv Moscow

How did they get there?

A five-team title race was eventually won by Lokomotiv, with city rivals CSKA and Spartak their main challengers.

Star man

Fyodor Smolov is perhaps the most dangerous name, while Eder scored the winner in the Euro 2016 final for Portugal.

Notable summer transfers

Smolov was the big signing for £8million from Krasnodar, while Howedes was also an astute capture. Vitally for manager Yuri Semin – 71 years old – he’s retained the players who led them to the title.

POT 2

(Manchester United and Tottenham will be in Pot 2)

Borussia Dortmund

How did they get there?

A dramatic final-day Bundesliga battle in which only two of four teams would confirm their places in the competition. Dortmund triumphed, alongside Hoffenheim.

Star man

Marco Reus remains the constant in a seemingly ever-changing team at Westfalenstadion. The forward was one of the few from the German World Cup squad to return home with their head held high and, now fully fit, he is Dortmund’s biggest threat. Don’t forget Christian Pulisic as well, of course.

Notable summer transfers

Axel Witsel marked his competitive debut since his £18million move from the Chinese Super League with an overhead kick at the weekend. Mainz centre-back Abdou Diallo provided an even bigger outlay, while Thomas Delaney and Paco Alcacer are astute signings. Sokratis, Andriy Yarmolenko and Andre Schurrle have all departed for the Premier League.

Porto

How did they get there?

A fairly straightforward title victory, finishing seven points ahead of Benfica. It brought the Portuguese giants their first title since 2013.

Star man

Left back Alex Telles is forever linked with a move to one of Europe’s true superpowers, while Vincent Aboubakar is a handful up front. The striker notched 26 goals in 43 games last season.

Notable summer transfers

Chancel Mbemba was the club’s biggest purchase, arriving from Newcastle. Much more significant was duo Diogo Dalot and Ricardo Pereira departing for Manchester United and Leicester respectively.

Shakhtar Donetsk

How did they get there?

Another table-topping campaign in Ukraine. Just two points separated Shakhtar and Dynamo Kiev but the former confirmed their seventh title in nine seasons.

Star man

A strong Brazilian identity runs through the club and with Bernard now with Everton and Fred at Manchester United, vice-captain Taison now takes up the mantle. The midfielder, now in his fifth year with the club, has been capped eight times by Selecao.

Notable summer transfers

Four Brazilians arrived in the summer, with Maycon tasked with replacing Fred. As well as he and the aforementioned Bernard, striker Facundo Ferreyra – once of Newcastle – has departed for Benfica.

Benfica

How did they get there?

By a second-placed finish in Portugal, before a remarkable 5-2 aggregate victory over PAOK in the fourth round qualifier. The Greek side had been favourites after a 1-1 draw in Lisbon, but Benfica roared back to win the second leg 4-1 and qualify for their ninth successive group stage.

Star man

Eduardo Salvio is considered one of the club’s main attacking threats, but keep an eye on teenage midfielder Gedson Fernandes. The 19-year-old is expected to be the next big superstar out of Estadio de Luz.

Notable summer transfers

Facundo Ferreyra arrived on a free from Shakhtar, while much is expected of Gabriel, a signing from La Liga side Leganes. Benfica have kept the majority of their first-team squad together, with peripheral players such as Joao Carvalho and Raul Jimienez departing for Nottingham Forest and Wolves respectively.

Napoli

How did they get there?

Bloodying the noses of Juventus in a close-run Serie A title race. They managed 91 points in a 38-game season but still saw the Turin giants finish with 95.

Star man

Their front three is renowned for being deadly on the counter but Slovakian all-action midfielder Marek Hamsik is the conductor of the side.

Notable summer transfers

Fabian Ruiz became one of La Liga’s best midfielders at Betis and was a big-money arrival, with Simeone Verdi also moving from Bologna for £22.5million. Their two moves were funded by the sale of Jorginho, with the metronomic midfielder prised from San Paolo by Chelsea and former manager Mauricio Sarri.

Carlo Ancelotti is now in charge in Naples.

Roma

How did they get there?

A third placed finish in Serie A, with Roma watching on from afar as Juventus and Napoli battled it out at the summit.

Star man

Edin Dzeko is getting better with age and is becoming one of Serie A’s great goalscorers. Liverpool know all about this side after the Champions League semi-finals, of course.

Notable summer transfers

How long have you got? An entire team of first-team players arrived this summer, balanced out by several high-profile departures, including Alisson Becker. Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman also left Stadio Olimpico. New signings include Steven Nzonzi, Javier Pastore, Justin Kluivert and Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen.

POT 3

(Liverpool will be in Pot 3)

Schalke

How did they get there?

An impressive second-placed finish secured Schalke’s return to the Champions League.

Star man

Guido Burgstaller had a decent campaign last time out and will hope to repeat that kind of form in Europe.

Notable summer transfers

Sebastian Rudy was a fine acquisition from Bayern Munich while Hamza Mendyl, who was linked with Arsenal came in from Lille. Plenty of departures though with Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer leaving on frees while Thilo Kehrer joined PSG for big money.

Lyon

How did they get there?

By finishing third in last season’s Ligue 1. Tussled with Monaco for second spot as PSG won the title.

Star man

Liverpool thought they had him but Nabil Fekir remains Lyon’s skipper. He is their leading man but Memphis Depay and Bertrand Traore are real threats.

Notable summer transfers

A couple of big-name departures with Mouctar Diakhaby joining Valencia and Mariano returning to Real Madrid. Keeping hold of Fekir was key though.

Monaco

How did they get there?

Pipped Lyon to finish second in France last season.

Star man

Skipper Radamel Falcao is one of few players left from the run to the semi-finals in 2017. Youri Tielemans is another one to watch.

Notable summer transfers

Aleksandr Golovin should be an excellent signing while Benjamin Henrichs has also arrived. Plenty of big-money exits once again though with Fabinho and Thomas Lemar joining Liverpool and Atletico Madrid.

Ajax

How did they get there?

Finishing second in Eredivisie last season. Ajax have had to come through three qualifying ties against Sturm Graz, Standard Liege and Dinamo Kiev.

Star man

Frenkie De Jong is definitely one to watch having attracted interest from Barcelona while Matthijs de Ligt is a real prospect.

Notable summer transfers

Daley Blind is back in Amsterdam after his spell with Manchester United while Dusan Tadic arrived from Southampton. Justin Kluivert left for Roma, though.

CSKA Moscow

How did they get there?

Just missed out on the Russian Premier League title to rivals Lokomotiv.

Star man

Alan Dzagoev is still leading the way while Mario Fernandes had an excellent World Cup.

Notable summer transfers

Aleksandr Golovin’s departure is sure to be felt. Nikola Vlasic has arrived on loan from Everton while Ahmed Musa is back from Leicester.

Valencia

How did they get there?

A fourth-placed finish secured an overdue return to the group stages.

Star man

Rodrigo has been linked with Barca and Real Madrid and is a real danger up top. Skipper Daniel Parejo is another to watch.

Notable summer transfers

Valencia have spent big ahead of their Champions League return. Goncalo Guedes was a big-money arrival while Geoffrey Kondogbia, Mouctar Diakhaby, Daniel Wass and Kevin Gameiro also came in. Michy Batshuayi was signed on loan but Joao Cancelo left for Juventus in a £40m deal.

PSV Eindhoven

How did they get there?

Pipped Ajax to win the Eredivisie title before seeing off BATE Borisov in qualifying.

Star man

Hirving Lozano was linked with a host of big-name clubs but opted to stay in Eindhoven. His performances in Russia were superb and the Mexican has started the season in similar form.

Notable summer transfers

Angelino has come in from Manchester City while PSV swooped for Nick Viergever from Ajax. Santiago Arias left for Atletico Madrid.

POT 4

Viktoria Plzen

How did they get there?

They finished as champions of the Czech First League winning the first 14 games in a row and only losing four times across the campaign – beating teams such as Sparta Prague to the title.

Star man

Michal Kremcik scored 18 goals across all competitions and at 25 years old the Czech international will be the man up front to look out for.

Notable summer transfers

No major players left or came into the Plzen side over the summer with only a couple of free transfers around the midfield to report on.

Club Brugge

How did they get there?

Won the Belgian First Division by a 12-point margin from Anderlecht, having only lost three times all season.

Star man

Hans Vanaken is a tidy attacking midfielder and scored 10 goals last term.

Notable summer transfers

They bought in Sofyan Amrabat in central midfield who is the younger brother of Nordin Amrabat – a Watford player in the 2016 season. Kaveh Rezaei was the most expensive player brought into the club at £4.5m to play at centre-forward.

A few outgoings too – notably Anthony Limbombe to Nantes at the tune of £7.2m and Abdoulay Diaby, the club’s top scorer, away for £4.5m to Sporting CP.

Galatasaray

How did they get there?

Champions of the Turkish Super Lig – winning the title by just three points over Fenerbahce. Victorious in 24 of the 34 games they played last time.

Star man

Fernando Muslera – the Uruguayan goalkeeper who is considered one of the finest shot-stoppers of this generation.

Notable summer transfers

One Bafetimbi Gomis – who scored 29 goals for the Turkish outfit last season and was comfortably top scorer – was sold for €6m to a Saudi Arabian side.

Henry Onyekuru was brought in on-loan from Everton and has made a bright start to the campaign this year scoring two goals in three games, Emre Akbaba was the most expensive incoming at €4m in attacking midfield.

Young Boys

How did they get there?

By winning the Swiss Super League for the first time since 1986 – and stopping Basel winning for the ninth consecutive time. There was a 15-point gap between the top two teams.

Star man

Former French international Guillaume Hoarau netted 15 times for the Young Boys last season and he’s joined up front by Jean-Pierre Nsame from Cameroon who is also a handful and scored 13 goals in the previous term too.

Notable summer transfers

No real incomings at all apart from two little-known defenders in Mohamed Camara for €1.5m from an Israeli side and Ulisses Garcia for €800,000 from Werder Bremen. Both players a young at 20 and 22 respectively so may have been well scouted. They offloaded a very good young centre-back in the form of Kasim Adams for €8 million to Hoffenheim however.

Inter Milan

How did they get there?

It is more than a half-decade since Inter Milan qualified for the UEFA Champions League but in the last game of their season they scored twice in the final 13 minutes to beat fifth-placed Lazio and advance via the top four in Serie A via head-to-head record.

Star man

Ivan Perisic had a stunning World Cup with Croatia, scoring in the semi-final and final, and has been repeatedly linked away this summer to some of Europe’s biggest clubs including Bayern Munich.

Goalkeeper Handanovic is a solid first-team player between the sticks and Asamoah on the wing is also lively.

Notable summer transfers

Sime Vrsaljko – a strong Croatian full-back who never stops and has great crossing ability. Stefan De Vrij – a solid centre-back who joined Inter on a free transfer. Radja Nainggolan – a highly-rated Belgian midfielder never short of a tackle.

Hoffenheim

How did they get there?

By securing their highest ever third-place finish in the Bundesliga.

Star man

Croatian international striker Andrej Kramaric was their second top scorer last season with 13 goals in 34 Bundesliga matches.

Notable summer transfers

Not many incomings, in truth, but Mark Uth – their top scorer from last season returned back to Schalke 04. Serge Gnabry, also on-loan from Bayern Munich went back to his parent club having netted 10 goals and posing himself as a big threat from the wing. Their biggest summer signing was centre-back Kasim Adams for €8 million.

AEK Athens

How did they get there?

By finishing as champions of the Greek Super League and qualifying for the play-off rounds where they took on – and defeated – Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic before coming through MOL Vidi from Hungary.

Star man

A Belgian winger named Viktor Klonaridi is perhaps the one to most look out fow.

Notable summer transfers

AEK’s top goalscorer from last year left this summer – Lazaros went to Olympiacos via a free transfer. Sergio Araujo was second top goalscorer and also went back to Las Palmas after his loan deal ended but the Croatian was signed for €1.8m.

Red Star Belgrade

How did they get there?

In the most dramatic fashion. The Serbian champions, who have never qualified for the Champions League group stages, confirmed their place with an unlikely 2-2 draw against Red Bull Salzburg to send their 10,000-strong travelling support wild.

Star man

Undoubtedly the most unknown entity of the group stages, Comoros international striker El Fardou Ben Nabouhane scored in Austria to kickstart the improbable comeback from 2-0 down. He scored eight in 16 for the club last season.

Notable summer transfers

Red Star welcomed a lot of new arrivals this summer, but none worth more than £1million. Centre-back Srdjan Babic was their biggest signing, but they waved Aleksandar Pesic off to Saudi Arabia for £3.8million.

Source: Read Full Article