There is an obvious berth of quality between the best teams in this group and the underdogs. It’s likely that Napoli and Real Madrid will be too strong for Braga and Union, who will be fighting with one another for the Europa League spot.
Real Madrid will be confident that they can top the group, while Napoli will be looking to build on last season where they managed to reach the quarterfinal. Braga and Union came third and fourth respectively in their domestic leagues and will struggle against these European giants – but with this being said, the group is still sure to have some exciting clashes. The battles for first and third will be closely fought and, ultimately, anything could happen.
Napoli prevailed as Scudetto champions last season, winning their first title since 1990. They also reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League, and will be hoping to at least replicate this effort. Napoli’s main issue, however, is the departure of South Korean defender Kim Min-jae to Bayern Munich this summer.
Last season he proved himself as one of the best central defenders in the world and he’ll certainly be missed in this side, especially considering Napoli’s failure to sign a replacement defender of a similar calibre. This Napoli side is certainly powered by its attack, with Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratshkelia both proving themselves as some of the brightest young talents in Europe. Both were linked with summer moves away from Napoli, and the fans will certainly be grateful that they remain in the squad this season.
Napoli will almost certainly advance from the group, although it currently seems unlikely that they’ll be capable of bettering Real Madrid across their two games. They’re certainly a team to look out for, and can potentially make a deep run in the knockout stages of the tournament.
A definite favourite for this year’s competition, Real Madrid are a hugely dangerous side who will be looking to top the group with relative ease. Of course, they have a rich heritage in this competition and their most recent Champions League was lifted only a year ago. Of course, this season they’re without frontman Karim Benzema, but he shouldn’t be too missed as they managed to improve the rest of their squad this summer.
Bundesliga Player of the Year Jude Bellingham was los Blancos’ marquee signing and he’s had an immediate impact in his short time at the club. Real Madrid are, without a doubt, the strongest team of the group on paper and will almost certainly top the group and make a deep run into the latter stages of the tournament. Very few clubs will be able to stop this Madrid side, and they’ll be looking to add one more piece of silverware to their rather full trophy cabinet.
SC Braga will most likely struggle in this season’s Champions League competition, as they finished last season quite a way off Benfica and Porto in the Portuguese First Division. They’ve struggled so far this season too, sitting in seventh place after five games.
To be blunt, their squad just isn’t strong enough to compete with the likes of Napoli and Real Madrid, and even debutants Union Berlin will put up a strong fight against them. They met the German side in last season’s Europa League group stage, where each team won one game each (both 1-0) – however the Portuguese club failed to qualify to the knockout stages, ultimately finishing third in the group. This may prove to be a difficult campaign for the side.
Champions League debutants Union Berlin have certainly pulled a metaphorical short straw by being placed in such a dangerous group in their first UCL campaign, but this won’t deter the Köpenick side who have a history of overachievement.
Their summer transfer window has also boasted some impressive signings, focusing on a combination of young loanees and older, more experienced signings. Only last season, Robert Gosens was playing in Istanbul for Inter Milan and has now decided to opt for Union’s Red and White – the first of three major landmark signings. The other star acquisitions were experienced goalscorer Kevin Volland, and legendary defender Leonardo Bonucci put pen to paper on deadline day.
While a deep run into the knockout stages may seem unrealistic for Der Eiserner, they’ll still be hoping to steal a point or three against the bigger clubs in the groups and – at a minimum – fight for the third place Europa League spot.