Champions League group analysis: A to D

A look at how the four groups stack up, the players to watch out for and the headline fixture in the group.

Barcelona has won its group in each of the last five seasons and is a favourite to do so again.   -  Getty Images

With about half the 32 participating clubs being regulars in the Champions League, the draw does have the tendency to produce ties that are repetitive. This season, however, most of the groups and ties have a refreshingly new look about them, none emphasising this more than Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain — which will be facing each other for the first time in 27 years — being drawn together in Group C. Inter Milan's return to the Champions League after a six-season exile adds excitement to Group B also, the Serie A heavyweight being drawn alongside Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur and PSV Eindhoven.

Here, Sportstar runs you through Groups A to D, looking at the teams' route to the Champions League group stage, the players to watch out for and more.

Group A

Teams: Atletico Madrid (La Liga), Borussia Dortmund (Bundesliga), Club Brugge (Belgian First Division), Monaco (Ligue 1)

Atletico Madrid: The Rojiblancos qualified for the Champions League by winning last season's Europa League. As the Europa League winner, it earned itself a place in Pot 1.

Borussia Dortmund: The two-time Bundesliga champion qualified directly for the group stage by finishing fourth in the domestic league last season. It was in Pot 2.

Club Brugge: As the champion in the Belgian First Division, it qualified for the group stage directly and was in Pot 4.

Monaco: As the Ligue 1 runner-up from last season, the 2016-17 France champion earned itself a place in the group stage, placed in Pot 3.

Potential group winner: Atletico was one of the surprise eliminations from the group stage of the competition last season. This time round, however, having settled into the Wanda Metropolitano, it can be expected to progress to the round of 16 as the group winner.

Player to watch: Thomas Lemar moved to Atletico from Monaco in the summer after three seasons in the Municipality. A player who is technically sound, Lemar is one of the players to keep an eye on.

Thomas Lemar of Atletico Madrid   -  Getty Images

 

Headline fixture: Atletico-Dortmund is the pick of the fixtures in this group.

Group B

Teams: Barcelona (La Liga), Tottenham (Premier League), Inter Milan (Serie A), PSV Eindhoven (Eredivisie)

Barcelona: The Catalan club gained direct entry to the Champions League by winning the La Liga last season. As a domestic champion, it was slotted in Pot 1.

Tottenham: Spurs finished third in the Premier League last season, thereby gaining a direct entry into the group stage. It was in Pot 2.

Inter Milan: Inter, like Dortmund, finished fourth in the domestic league last season. And, with UEFA's new rule (the fourth-placed team in UEFA's top four associations — namely Spain, England, Germany and Italy) taking effect from this season, Inter gained directly entry into the group stage as a team in Pot 4.

PSV Eindhoven: Winning the Eredivisie last season helped it enter the group stage through the playoff route. It beat BATE Borisov 6-2 on aggregate in the playoff round.

Potential group winner: Barcelona has won its group in each of the last five seasons and is a favourite to do so again.

Player to watch: Lionel Messi will be raring to go once again, particularly after a disappointing World Cup campaign with Argentina. This competition has eluded Barcelona for three seasons now and the weight on Messi's shoulders, in the absence of Andres Iniesta, to regain the Champions League will be immense.

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi   -  Getty Images

 

Headline fixture: Tottenham impressed in the group stage last season, topping a group that had had Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, which didn't manage to beat Spurs home and away. Its fixtures with Barcelona will be exciting.

Group C

Teams: Paris Saint-Germain (Ligue 1), Liverpool (Premier League), Napoli (Serie A), Red Star Belgrade (Serbian Superliga)

PSG: The French champion qualified directly for the group stage by winning Ligue 1 last season and being one of the eight Pot-1 teams.

Liverpool: The Reds sealed direct qualification by finishing fourth in the Premier League last season. It was slotted in Pot 3.

Napoli: Finishing second in Serie A last season earned it a direct entry into the group stage, being one of eight Pot-2 teams.

Red Star Belgrade: The Serbian champion came via the qualifying route. It was in Pot 4, resulting in it being drawn in arguably the toughest group.

Potential group winner: PSG, Liverpool or Napoli could win this group.

Player to watch out for: Like Messi, the World Cup was a disappointment for Neymar and the Champions League is the competition the Brazilian will want to succeed in. Similar to his former Barcelona team-mate, much will ride on him if PSG is to go the distance in this competition.

PSG star Neymar   -  PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images

 

Headline fixture: Liverpool-PSG is undoubtedly the headline fixture of this group, thanks to the attacking riches in both teams and Jurgen Klopp going head to head with compatriot Thomas Tuchel, who took over from Unai Emery in the summer.

Group D

Teams: Schalke (Bundesliga), FC Porto (Portuguese Primeira Liga), Lokomotiv Moscow (Russian Premier League), Galatasaray (Turkish Super Lig)

Lokomotiv: Winning the Russian Premier League title helped Lokomotiv be one of the eight Pot-1 teams in the group-stage draw.

Schalke: Finishing second in Bundesliga earned it a direct entry into the group stage with a place in Pot 3.

FC Porto: The two-time winner qualified directly for the group stage by winning the Portuguese domestic league.

Galatasaray: As the Turkish league champion, it gained direct entry to the group stage. It was in Pot 2 of the Draw.

Galatasaray celebrate winning another Turkish league crown   -  Twitter: @Galatasaray

 

Potential group winner: Any of the four teams could win the group, given how closely matched each one of them is.

Player to watch out for: A strong central defender but also a set-piece specialist, Naldo is a player who can enthral fans and neutrals alike.

Headline fixture: With three association champions in the group, almost all the fixtures are likely to be close contests.