Champions Group G Preview #324

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Champions League has returned this season. Italy have four Representatives in this year’s competition. Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli  returning to the competition, An Inter Milan team who hasn’t been in this competition in eight seasons,last year’s Underdog Champions League semi-finalist Roma and Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus who currently are the favorites to win the whole thing. It truly is progress in the league domestically and around the world and hopes of bringing Italy back into fruition in a European competition. The Champions League draw took place on Thursday evening that would determine what groups Italian clubs would be competing in. Inter Milan the weakest of the Italian teams got put into the most difficult group the group of death if you will. Inter Milan will be in group B that will also feature Lionel Messi and Barcelona Dutch Champions PSV and Harry Kane’s Tottenham Hotspur. Napoli  put together in group C which is also incredibly difficult. Joining them will be Neymar’s PSG Mohamed Salah’s Liverpool and Red Star Belgrade. After being in the group of death last season Roma are in a very easy group to advance from. In a group E Roma will be joined by Real Madrid Victoria Plzen and Cska Moscow. Then finally in Group H Juventus will be joined by Manchester United, Valencia and Young Boys. We’re going to take a look at Group C what are Romans chances are finishing on top.

 

1.Real Madrid (Group Winner Advances to Knockout stage)
Country: Spain
Last Season: Winners 
Best Finish: 1955–56, 1956–57, 1957–58, 1958–59, 1959–60, 1965–66, 1997–98, 1999–2000, 2001–02, 2013–14, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18 

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There’s no question in my mind of the two teams that will advance through the Champions League group stage. It will be either Roma or Real Madrid and on paper you might think that it’s an easy thing to determine but this is not the case. The writing is on the wall in terms of the arguments against it Zinedine Zidane left his post as manager Cristiano Ronaldo left and Real Madrid did not find an adequate replacement. However this is Real Madrid they have won the Champions League a record 13 times and a historic three years in a row. Roma do have a better manager an incredibly strong team that could potentially win the group. However with that being said I think Real Madrid have a slight advantage. Real Madrid have Gareth Bale, the best midfielder in the world Luka Modric world class midfielder Toni Kroos and a young Marco Asensio. The world-class players that Real Madrid have to their disposal it’s just a little too much to deal with at least on paper. It’s not a done deal though Roma is a very good team and if Real Madrid start slow drop some points early in the competition it could be concerning. I don’t think Real Madrid has any chance of not qualifying but they could unexpectedly struggle like they did last season and this was with Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid attack isn’t as fearful as it may have been in the past. Historically they have only gone against each other a fair few times most recently in the 2015 round of 16 of the Champions League. Roma wasted far too many chances in that game that prevented them from completing what would have been an amazing upset and come back. However Roma do have hope they have beaten Real Madrid in the group stage last time they were grouped together. The world-class players that Real Madrid have is always going to be a constant thing to look at. The majority of people will probably lean towards Real Madrid because of the incredible Midfield that they have. Despite Real Madrid’s very visible strengths everybody said this same thing about Chelsea and Atletico Madrid last season when they finished below Roma in the group of death. The key player for Real Madrid in this Gareth Bale since Ronaldo’s exit he has been on fire and if he continues to play the way there’s no question that Real Madrid should win the group qualify. As far as the other teams I don’t see a way in which Real Madrid will drop any points to Moscow or Plzen. They have incredibly hostile atmosphere but the quality is just not at the same standard. Moscow may be able to Nick a point but the winner of this group will come down to the two meetings against Roma. If Real Madrid are able to beat Roma and manage a point at the Stadio Olimpico they will narrowly win the group. There are concerning factors for Real Madrid  but with the quality they have throughout their squad despite no Cristiano Ronaldo should see them advance at the top of the group.

Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale

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2.A.S Roma (Runners Up Advances to Knockout stage)
Country: Italy
Last Season: Semi Finals
Best Finish: Runner’s up (1984)

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Roma last year in the Champions League was the feel-good Underdog story in the champions league. They went against all the odds making the semi-final in a historic way. They won the group of death that featured Chelsea and Atletico Madrid then came from behind to beat Shakhtar on away goals. That was followed up by the historic Barcelona comeback as Roma saw themselves erase a 4-1 deficit to historically turnover Barcelona to win on away goals with that famous Kostas Manolas winner that saw them get into the semi-final. They eventually lost to Liverpool by just a goal after falling behind 5-0 during the first leg at anfield. During the first season of the Di Francesco era Roma made historical benchmarks pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in history and making the semi-final the first time in over 30 years. There has been some shake up with this Champions League Squad where we have seen over 10 signings after the departure of Radja Nainggolan Allison Kevin Strootman. A lack of experience and the amount of the young Talent they have could be viewed as a criticism of this Roman seen in this group to finish above Real Madrid. That could be their downfall but that also could be a benefit. This is a team never backs down if Real Madrid do slip up early Roma will be there to take advantage of the opportunity. The most dangerous thing you can do is underestimate a Di Francesco team we saw it just this week erase a 3-1 deficit vs Atalanta with almost in a completely different team then there Barcelona comeback. This proves that this team has the quality to top this group. I would still say Real Madrid but don’t count these guys out. You could make the argument that Roma have taken one step back to take 3 steps forward however The mix of young Talent and Veteran experience meshes perfectly for a Champions League Squad.  Squad depth they have Off the Bench will certainly help them in the long run during this competition. With youngsters such as Lorenzo Pellegrini  Cengiz Under,Justin kluivert and Ante Coric. They Have the experience of a Steven Nzonzi Edin Dzeko and Daniele de Rossi. Just like it is for Real Madrid for Roma it’s going to come down to the same match a pair of matches between Roma and Real Madrid. There can be points stolen against Plzen and Moscow but I think Roma has too much for both of them especially with the options Roma has off the bench in the different sets they can go to. It will be a little different than last year but much like last year Roma will be underestimated again even more so after losing a few pieces. The important thing is Robin Olson Roma’s new goalkeeper he has a chance to prove himself on this stage and that will be something very interesting to see. The key player for Roma in this group has to be Edin Dzeko by the time that the Champions League matches kickoff he will be the tenth highest scorer in Roma’s history. Last year in the Champions League he scored in every single elimination game even a run where he scored in five consecutive games. He is a big-time player and a big impact perform in this competition his volley he scored against Chelsea was one of the best goals of the season. Di Franseco will also be an important part he is the best manager in this group especially situationally he will be able to effectively react when things aren’t working and if Roma end up winning the group it will have a large part to do with what he does from a tatical perspective. Between Roma and Real Madrid it is really hard to determine who will finish this group Real Madrid will have a slight Edge having more experience for realistically this was a very easy group to be drawn into Moscow and Plzen will give it their all and they cannot be underestimated but the quality that Roma and Real Madrid have should see them both advance. If they protect the Stadio Olimpico like they did last season I think Roma will have a great chance of winning the group for Roma it’s important for them to stay focused throughout Italy campaign that will be heating up when it’s competition takes off Roma has a great chance to finish top of the group but Real Madrid are the champions and its hard to bet against them even with out Cristiano Ronaldo.

 

Roma’s Edin Dzeko

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3. Cska Moscow (Europa League)
Country: Russia
Last Year: Group A: 3rd
Best Finish: Quarterfinals (2010)

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Picking the top two teams to advance out of this group it’s not that difficult. Maybe deciding the order of who finishes first and second has some what of a challenge but that’s it. It gets really difficult here because Cska Moscow and Victoria Plzen don’t appear to have that much between them. Getting third actually could be someone important you want to have a successful European campaign and the team that finishes third has still the opportunity to do that as they will be put into the Europa League knockout stage. Both teams Cska Moscow and Victoria Plzen will be interested in trying to further their European season. Cska Moscow finished third in their group during last year’s Champions League eventually getting to the round of 16 of the Europa League where they lost to Arsenal. However that was still a pretty successful European season. Roma and Real Madrid are going to be incredibly difficult to take points off of. It is possible that neither of the bottom two teams will win a game. So it will come down to which team is more likely to steal points in this group. To me it is Cska Moscow despite the fact that they lost Alexander Golvin in a deal to Monaco I still see Cska Moscow as the more superior team. The crowd and atmosphere at their Stadium can be hostile and enthusiastic that’s why trying to protect their house and get some points from some home games will be incredibly important. Moscow if they want the Europa League spot must beat Victoria. If they can beat then once and steal a point in the second meeting it will mutually make it impossible for them not to finish third. Make no mistake Victoria may not have the players that but it also is a terrible place to play because how the stadium is. It could throw off teams that go there. Despite that being said Moscow have the better players and in fact they have a borderline Superstar. Dzagoev  is a player who’s been linked with a move away from Moscow for years but he still remains in Russia’s capital. He will be the engine and the Jewel of this team during the Champions League. If he is ineffective it levels the playing field just a little bit at least fighting for that spot. If Dzagoev is at his very best in the competition they still won’t beat out Roma or Real Madrid this is too much quality in those two teams for them to do that. However they could put a stamp on 3rd and go on a Europa League run. However if prongs is neutralized or doesn’t play particularly well or even in a worst-case scenario getting injured Moscow could be in a heap of trouble. It would give Victoria an opportunity. The biggest downside is Moscow will be too reliant on one player Moscow has other players with quality but not at his level. This is why it’s incredibly important the prongs plays smart football and doesn’t allow his emotions to get the best of him because if he messes some games due to suspension it’s going to make things a lot more difficult. I feel like they are the favorites to get third in this group but I’m afraid that the ceiling of what they will do in this Champions League. It’s basically Dzagoev or bust and that may not even be enough.

 

Cska Moscow’s Alan Dzagoev

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Victoria Plzen
Country: Czech Republic 
Last Year: N/A
Best Finish: Group (2014)

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Victoria won’t stand much of a chance in this group unfortunately. I don’t think that have a player that’s going to be a major difference in this competition. Domestically in the Czech Republic League they are phenomenal but in Europe they have struggled even when and stars aligned for advancement. A few seasons ago they were in the Europa League group stage with Roma Astra from Romania and Austria Wien. Other than Roma there was no excuse for them not to come out of the group. That was a group they should have finished second in. That may have been a few years ago but it shows how much this team have struggles in Europe. If they’re going to have a chance in this group they must get results in both games against Cska Moscow it’s very much established that Roma and Real Madrid are not going to be challenged by either Moscow or Victoria. However Victoria getting that Europa League spot would be important for their Club in Europe it would show some  progress over the years. They are not going to get that unless they deal with Moscow. I’ll tell you one thing for sure nobody’s going to be excited about making that trip to the Czech Republic their Stadium is a less than impressive and in some situations you could refer to it as an uncomfortable place to play. Not because of their fans or the atmosphere but because of the status of the pitch. It’s not a well taken care of  but they play on it all the time which will give them advantage at home. That’s what they purely need to focus on getting results at home. Going to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadio Olimpico and VEB Arena isn’t something they’re going to look forward to. That is why it’s absolutely essential that they try to pick up the maximum points they can in their own backyard. Victoria they may not have a big time player but I would look out for Michael Krmenčík he’s going to need to perform well above is expectations. This is the only team in the group that doesn’t have some sort of star he’s a good player but he won’t wow you at least compared to the other stars in this group. It is possible they won’t get any points. Games against Moscow will determine the point total. I don’t see any way they get any points against Roma or Real Madrid the quality of those two teams have is far too much for a small team from the Czech Republic to handle. Victoria is not spend very much time in the Champions League even qualifying is not something they do very consistently I imagine they’re happy to be here and they will give their best in all the games but I’m afraid their best probably won’t be enough.

 

Victoria Plzen’s Michael Krmenčík

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