With Group A getting underway on Wednesday, the first group to be drawn should offer plenty of entertainment. Bayern Munich are looking to build on their previous campaign with the addition of Harry Kane and their trip to Old Trafford should be a headline fixture, given the abundance of rumours linking Kane and the Northern outfit in the past.
We also have United’s Rasmus Højlund – who was arguably the club’s backup option after failing to secure Kane’s signature – returning to his first professional club, FC Copenhagen. The outcome of Group A seems inevitable, with Bayern Munich and Manchester United seemingly the clear and obvious favourites to advance to the knockout stages.
However, Galatasaray are more than capable of causing an upset, so it’s important that United don’t become complacent as the second qualifying spot has potential to become a tightly contested battle should they underestimate the lower seeded sides and come away from Istanbul and Copenhagen with less than six points.
Bayern Munich are undoubtedly one of the favourites to win the competition this year, boasting one of the strongest squads in world football. Last season, they had the misfortune of facing Manchester City in the knockout stages which is a tough battle for any side – never mind a team with no true striker.
Of course, this issue has been addressed this summer with the blockbuster signing of Harry Kane. The ex-Tottenham forward has had a strong start to life in Bavaria, scoring three goals across his first three Bundesliga games and he’ll be sure to add to his goal tally in the Champions League too.
The only issue with the Bayern squad this season is their squad depth, with their defensive options looking a little thin; especially considering the deadline day departure of Benjamin Pavard with no replacement signed.
Ultimately, there’s no doubt as to whether Bayern will make it through the group. The only question is how far in the competition they’ll go – it looks as though there are only a couple of teams, and potentially their own squad depth, that may be able to stop them from going all the way to Wembley.
It seems expected that Manchester United will easily make the knockout stages of the Champions League, and looking at their squad it seems like a completely reasonable ask. This being said, their summer transfer window was disappointing, and their attack remains thin – especially with the recent news that Antony isn’t training with the squad.
Regardless, they should be able to make their way through the group without much trouble. They have lost Champions League games to both Copenhagen and Galatasaray in the past, but it seems unlikely should United play at their best.
But with that said, the Red Devils have had a massively disappointing start to the Premier League season, and should their poor form continue into Europe, there is no guarantee of knockout Champions League football.
FC Copenhagen are a side that shouldn’t be underestimated. They may lack the starpower of some of their group adversaries, but they make up for that with a tactically solid brand of football, and diehard supporters.
Only last season, they managed to hold eventual champions Manchester City to a goalless draw, and they also drew with Sevilla and Dortmund – going unbeaten at home in the competition. They may have lost the remaining three games 11-0 on aggregate, but their home form shouldn’t be overlooked.
Copenhagen is a tough city to visit and there’s a real chance that the Danish side can get a result against the better teams in the group. Ultimately, however, it looks like they’ll probably be going home after the group stage, as they will face particularly strong opposition.
Despite ending up in Pot Four, Galatasaray are certainly capable of causing some upsets with their dangerous strike force of Mertens, Icardi and now Zaha. They won the Turkish Süper Lig last season with two games to spare, being led by Icardi’s impressive 29 G/A.
Galatasaray are also a notoriously difficult team to play away at, having some of the most passionate – and sometimes hostile – fans in the tournament. There’s no reason that this side can’t at least make the Europa League spot, and perhaps even exceed that should they face Manchester United on one of the Reds’ weaker days.