Manchester United will play in the Group A of the UEFA Champions League 2017-18 against Benfica, Basel and CSKA Moscow. The Monaco draw proved to be very kind to the Reds of Manchester.
It is probably the easiest draw from all five English teams in the competition. Chelsea will have to play Atletico Madrid and Roma, Tottenham are in group of death with Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. Manchester City will have their task against Napoli and Shakhtar, while Liverpool will have a chance for a rematch against Sevilla.
SL Benfica – Still The Best Team In Portugal
Even after selling some of the more important players, Benfica are not much weaker. The champions of Portugal have sold Victor Lindelof to their Champions League opponents Man United, Ederson to Manchester City and Nelson Semedo to Barcelona.
Benfica earned around £100m for these three sales, but have managed to bring replacements. Bruno Varela joined from Setubal to become Ederson’s replacement between the posts. Haris Seferovic will improve depth in attack after his arrival from Eintracht Frankfurt, while Pizzi and Alex Grimaldo both stayed in Lisbon. Those two players not leaving the club this summer could effectively prove to be the best ‘signings’ for Benfica.
The complete 2017/18 UEFA Champions League Group Stage draw!
— #UCLdraw (@ChampionsLeague) August 24, 2017
FC Basel – The Weakest Team Of The Group
Basel are basically the team with the least chances of advancing to the Round of 16. The champions of Switzerland in the past eight seasons did not have the best season last year. In a Champions League group with Arsenal, PSG and Ludogorets, Basel were favourites to reach Europa League Round of 32 through the third place in the group. Yet, Bulgarian champions managed to win a point against Paris Saint Germain and continue their European path.
Club legend Matias Delgado decided to end his career. Ricky van Wolfswinkel is Basel’s biggest signing this summer, arriving from Vitesse for £3m. Jean-Paul Boetius left the club for Dutch champions Feyenoord while veteran Marc Janko left on free to Sparta Prague.
CSKA Moscow – No Winter Travel
What Manchester United fans will like the most about the double-header against CSKA is that they will not have to travel to Moscow in November or December, as it will be a late September visit.
The Europa League champions should not fear CSKA, though they managed to reach the group stages in a decent fashion. Igor Akinfeev managed two consecutive clean sheets against Young Boys in the play-off, which is a good feat if you have not done anything similar in 11 years in European competitions.
Leonid Slutsky left the club in summer for the Hull City dugout. His replacement Viktor Goncharenko seems to be less defensive minded. CSKA did not spend at all during summer. Three players came back from loans, while four U-21 players joined from the reserves. On the other hand, Zoran Tosic left the club after his contract expired. The forward Konstantin Bazelyuk left on loan to Anzhi, among others.
Manchester United Top Of The Group
This is a really nice group for Manchester United to get started in Champions League after a year of absence. It will be a surprise if Mourinho and his team finish second among these three clubs. Finishing third or fourth seems impossible and would be a catastrophe.
Benfica should join Manchester United in the Round of 16 as the second placed team. CSKA Moscow seem too good for this Basel side and are expected to continue their season in Europa League next spring.