Manchester United have secured a berth in the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League Group Stage after winning the Europa League last season. And The Red Devils will finally know which teams they will take on this Thursday after the playoff ties end on Wednesday.
Which Team Goes Where?
Before analysing what might happen, here is a remainder of the pots and how they will be distributed.
Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Juventus, Benfica, Monaco, Spartak Moscow, Shakhtar Donestk
Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla, Manchester City, FC Porto, Manchester United
Napoli, Tottenham Hotspur, FC Basel, Olympiakos, Anderlecht, AS Roma, Besiktas, Liverpool
Celtic, Feyenoord, Maribor, RB Leipzig, Qarabag, APOEL, CSKA Moscow, Sporting Lisbon
Teams United Will Not Face
Per competition rules, teams can’t play against league opponents in the group stage. That eliminates the chance of United clashing with Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, and potentially Liverpool.
And since there is only one pot spot per group, United are not going to play against any team in Pot 2. In other words, this eliminates the likes of FC Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, PSG, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, and FC Porto.
That has to be a relief for Jose Mourinho and the rest of his coaching staff. But there are still lots of teams that could cause problems to United in the group stage, so the team must be aware that big challenges are coming up.
Let’s be optimistic first. What if United find themselves in a very good situation on the group stage? They are already avoiding some of the biggest candidates to win the trophy, so that’s a good start. But things can be even better.
What if United ends up in a (relatively) easy group with Skahktar Donetsk, Anderlecht and Maribor? Mourinho’s men would be the biggest favourites there. Or maybe we can put Benfica, Basel, and one of the teams that still need to define their fate such as Qarabag or Copenhagen. Again, that sounds quite easy for a deep, talented team such as United. But of course, this is nothing more than speculation.
Let’s put ourselves in the other end of the spectrum. What if United ends up in the so-called “Group Of Death”? Being realistic, a group involving reigning champions Real Madrid, Napoli, and Bundesliga upstarts RB Leipzig could be quite complicated.
Another option would be to place Madrid and Leipzig alongside AS Roma. And what if we remove Leipzig and Madrid, and replace them with, for instance, CSKA Moscow and Bayern Munich together with Napoli or Roma? That doesn’t sound easy at all, and United would have to be fully prepared solely to advance past the Group Stage.
How about you? Who would you like to see against Manchester United in the UCL Group Stage?