Analyzing the Toughest UEFA Champions League Groups

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool celebrates with the Champions League Trophy in 2019. Photo by BPI/REX/Shutterstock (10265937vs)

The UEFA Champions League group stage draw for the 2020-21 edition of soccer’s most prestigious competition took place last week, with the inaugural matches set to be held on October 20th and 21st.

This year’s group stage features plenty of fascinating team matchups which could lead to surprises and early exits for title favorites. There are also plenty of groups that have several strong teams, making them potential “groups of death” in this year’s CL.

So, which groups are the toughest? Let’s take a look at the three which will be the hardest to navigate.

1. Group H

Teams: Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, RB Leipzig, İstanbul Başakşehir

Group H can be considered the toughest group in this year’s edition of the Champions League. Paris Saint-Germain heads the group as the reigning Ligue 1 winners who came agonizingly close to winning their first Champions League trophy in August, but fell short 0-1 to Bayern Munich.

Manchester United is always a strong group and will be considered by many to be favorites to finish second and qualify for the knockout stage. However, RB Leipzig might have something to say about that. These German upstarts are coming off of a run that saw them reach the semi-finals of last season’s Champions League and have plenty of talent to finish in the top two. İstanbul Başakşehir is clearly the biggest underdog, but after they won Turkey’s Super Lig last season, they can’t be counted out either.

2. Group B

Teams: Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter Milan, Borussia Mönchengladbach

Four teams with strong current sides and well-known European histories will square off in Group B, with any of the four teams being real threats to qualify for the knockout rounds.

Real Madrid, the most successful club in Champions League history, will be the presumptive favorites coming off of their 2019-20 La Liga title. Inter Milan came up just short in the Europa League final, losing to Sevilla, and they made their squad better during the summer after adding Achraf Hakimi, Arturo Vidal, and young midfield phenom Nicolo Barella ove rteh summer.

Those two teams will be the favorites to advance, but Shakhtar is a well-coached and solid unit whose home games in Ukraine are notoriously difficult to win. Add Borussia Mönchengladbach and its young and talented team to the mix, and you have the makings of a really tough group to get out of.

3. Group D

Teams: Liverpool, Ajax, Atalanta, FC Midtjylland

With all due respect to FC Midtjylland, this group’s toughness is all about the three other teams which will fight for the two knockout stage places in the group stage.

As we all know, Liverpool is widely considered to be the best team in Europe at the moment. They’ll have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove after being eliminated early by Atletico Madrid last season.

Ajax and Atalanta are two fascinating teams that will cause real problems for their opponents as well. Atalanta was one of the best stories of last year’s Champions League, and they’ve gotten off to a hot start in Serie A play this season with their all-out attacking philosophy. Ajax might not have the star power that they did in previous seasons, but they’re a tough out too. Anything could happen in this group.