After the Champions League group stage draw on Thursday, it time to pick the winners and losers after the 32 teams were drawn into eight groups of four. Some clubs like Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea earned some really favorable draws, while other clubs like Manchester United will be sweating out across six challenging games with the hope of advancing to the knockout stage.
Here are the winners and losers: Winners: Fans of the sport
Look, the Champions League is a spectacle unmatched in club soccer. Every game can produce magical moments, and you can see every game this season on CBS All Access. But the main reason why fans are the winners is because we get to see the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry renewed across two games … and maybe more. Messi’s Barcelona was placed in the same group as Ronaldo’s Juventus. The two teams are in Group G with Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros.
They will place once in Barcelona and once in Turin, and if they advance to the group stage, who is to say they won’t meet again at at some point?
There is nothing like Messi vs. Ronaldo, and we now get it once again for the first time since Ronaldo left for Italy two seasons ago. Losers: Manchester United and RB Leipzig
Tricky draw for two teams with enough quality to make a run. They are in Group H with finalist PSG and a quality team in Istanbul Basaksehir. Logic says PSG win the group, meaning at least one between Man. United or RB Leipzig will be eliminated, with that team expected to go to the Europa League.
At the moment, RB Leipzig has the slight edge due to Man. United’s lack of consistency, but it is a wide open group where PSG probably don’t have to worry, but United and Leipzig do. Winner: Chelsea’s long-term plans
Quite a favorable group for Frank Lampard’s team in getting Sevilla, Krasnodar and Rennes. If the Blues don’t make it out of that group … there should be massive repercussions. The Blues have started the Premier League season on an OK note, but we really don’t get to see the full potential of this team until they are healthy. That means getting Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech back and giving them some time to all gel together, with Timo Werner and Kai Havertz now at the club. This weak group Chelsea has gives them some wiggle room, as even if they aren’t all that healthy, they should still move on.
Expect the Blues to get into the knockout stage, and if healthy and in form, to make a run. Loser: RB Salzburg … again
Poor Jesse Marsch. The American manager got his team into the group stage last season, becoming the first American manager to manage at that portion of the competition. He was then grouped with some tough teams including Liverpool and Napoli. The Austrian side almost made it out of the group stage, but things look so much different this season with departures. The club lost superstar striker Erling Haaland in January to Dortmund, and now they have to face Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid in the group stage.
Marsch will feel like he and his team can get through — that’s just the positivity and ambition his team has. But this group, which also includes Lokomotiv Moscow, is about as tricky as it could get. Winners: Hungary’s champions
Chances are you hadn’t even heard of the club Ferencvaros before this week, but they are the Hungarian champions who are back in the UCL group stage for the first time in a quarter century. They have next to no chance of advancing, but expect them to embrace this, play with pride and take it all in. Here’s a club based in Budapest with not a lot of international experience that are going to get to welcome Messi and Barcelona as well as Ronaldo and Juventus into their stadium, while also getting to play them on the road. Losers: Real Madrid
I think Real Madrid will advance from Group B, but this is a tough group. Los Blancos will play Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter Milan and a really strong Borussia Monchengladbach, and if Zinedine Zidane’s team shows some inconsistency, they may just have to sweat it out. Real have produced some surprising results over the last couple years in UCL, including drawing Club Brugge at home after trailing 2-0 a year ago. It won’t be easy, and they could be in a bit of trouble if this team isn’t in sync and continues to deal with injury issues.