Group D has the potential to be one of the most exciting groups in the tournament, with each team having a real case to advance to the knockout stages. Despite Inter’s trip to Istanbul last season, Benfica are likely favourites for the group.
After all, Inter have lost their starting goalkeeper, Andre Onana – as well as strikers Edin Dzeko and Romelu Lukaku. RB Salzburg and Real Sociedad are also more than capable of beating any team on their given day, so there’s no doubt that this will be a closely fought group. No results are guaranteed and any team could top the table.
Portuguese champions Benfica will be hoping to win their group, and there’s no reason they can’t. They seem to be favourites on paper, however there’s not a single team in the group who couldn’t beat them on their day. Of course, it was actually Inter who knocked them out of the competition last season, so Benfica will be looking to seek vengeance against the Italian outfit, taking advantage of Inter’s slightly weaker squad this season.
It will also be interesting to see how World Cup winner Angel Di Maria performs in the competition, as he is certainly a player who can singlehandedly change the course of a game when he plays at his best.
Inter Milan exceeded expectations last year, reaching the Champions League Final. Sadly for them, their summer departures leave this season’s squad only a fraction of what it was last year. There’s no reason they can’t compete to win this group but the likelihood of them even coming close to last year’s success seems low, if not non-existent.
That being said, they still have an extremely solid squad, and the additions of Marcus Thuram and Alexis Sanchez could certainly prove to be interesting in attack. Last season’s experience will also be sure to help them this campaign and even if it’s tough, they should make it through the group stage.
RB Salzburg are unbeaten in their first seven league games this season and sit at the top of the Austrian Bundesliga. Questions were raised regarding their squad after the departure of Benjamin Sesko but when it comes to Salzburg, there is always the expectation that a new wonderkid will appear whenever one leaves the club.
They have one of the best youth systems in Europe (think Erling Haaland and Sadio Mane) and the constantly renewed talent in their squad makes them a consistently solid team. They’ll definitely be looking to compete for knockout qualification and can beat any team in this group on their given day, once again proving how close this group could potentially be.
Sociedad have gone from strength to strength under the management of Imanol Alguacil, improving every season under his reign and finally qualifying for Champions League football with their fourth-place finish in La Liga last season. They managed to get some impressive results last season too, with their 1-0 win at Old Trafford springing to mind.
The main problem facing this side is their summer window. David Silva has retired, Asier Illarramendi has moved to the MLS, and striker Alexander Sorloth is no longer at the club. The lack of clear replacements makes it difficult to see Sociedad advancing out of the group, but they remain a solid – and ever-improving – side who will certainly get some results in the group.