Champions League group analysis: E to H

A look at how the four groups stack up, each team's path to the group stage, the players to watch out for and the headline fixture in the group.

Bayern Munich is the favourite to top Group E.   -  Getty Images

Among the great attractions of this Champions League season is the presence of Juventus and Manchester United in the same group and the irresistible subplot of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba returning to face their previous clubs. Bayern Munich and Manchester City, the champions of Germany and England respectively, have been placed in relatively easier groups.

Here, Sportstar runs you through the Groups E to H, looking at each team’s path to the group stage, the players to watch out for and the headline fixtures.

Click here for Group analysis: A - D

Group E

Teams: Bayern Munich (Bundesliga), Ajax (Eredivisie), Athens (Superleague Greek), Benfica (Portuguese Super Liga)

Bayern Munich: The Bavarian giant won its sixth straight Bundesliga title, which helped it gain a place in Pot 1.

Benfica: Having finished second in the Portuguese Primeira Liga last season, it came through the qualifying route, beating Fenerbahce and PAOK in the third qualifying round and playoff round respectively. 

Ajax: The four-time Champions League winner, having finished second in the Eredivisie last season, had to come through the qualifying route. It qualified for the group stage as one of the playoff winners along with PSV Eindhoven.  

Athens: Greek Superleague champion Athens entered the third qualifying round, where it faced Scottish champion Celtic. It beat Celtic 3-2 on aggregate before beating Hungarian champion MOL Vidi in the playoff round by the same aggregate margin to qualify for the group stage for the first time since 2006-07.

Potential group winner: Bayern Munich is the favourite to win Group E.

Player to watch out for: Manuel Neuer

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer   -  Bongarts

 

His absence between the posts was felt by Bayern throughout its last Champions League campaign, when it reached the semifinals. A fit-again Manuel Neuer could make the difference for the five-time winner this season.

Headline fixture: Bayern-Ajax has the makings of being an exciting tie. The 33-time Dutch champion reinforced its squad in the summer with the additions of Daley Blind, Dusan Tadic, Nicolas Tagliafico, among others.

Group F

Teams: Man City (Premier League), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukrainian Premier League), Lyon (Ligue 1), Hoffenheim (Bundesliga)

Manchester City: For the first time in its brief Champions League history, City found a place in Pot 1, having cantered to the English top-flight title in 2017-18.

Shakhtar Donetsk: The Ukraine champion had to settle for a place in Pot 2. It has been drawn in the same group as Manchester City for the second consecutive season.

Lyon: Lyon finished third in the Ligue 1 last season, thereby earning a direct entry into the group stage. It enters the Champions League after a two-year absence.

Hoffenheim: A third-place finish in Bundesliga, which is allocated four automatic qualifying spots by UEFA, helped Hoffenheim qualify for the group stage directly.  

Potential group winner: Manchester City won its Champions League group for only the second time last season and is a favourite to do so again.

Player to watch out for: Nabil Fekir

Lyon star Nabil Fekir   -  Getty Images

 

He resisted the lure of Liverpool and chose to remain at Lyon and what better stage than the Champions League to showcase his ability once more.

Headline fixture: Man City’s fixtures against Hoffenheim are likely to be intriguing tactical battles, orchestrated by two astute minds in football (Pep Guardiola and Julian Nagelsmann).

Group G

Teams: Real Madrid (LaLiga), Roma (Serie A), CSKA Moscow (Russian Premier League), Viktoria Plzen (Czech First League)

Real Madrid: The defending European champion was one of two Spanish teams in Pot 1, along with LaLiga champion Barcelona.

Roma: A third-place finish in Serie A earned it a direct entry to the group stage with a place in Pot 2.

CSKA Moscow: A second-place finish in Russian Premier League helped gain direct qualification to the group stage with a place in Pot 3.

Viktoria Plzen: Real Madrid’s automatic qualification for the group stage via its LaLiga position (fourth) lent Plzen a direct entry to the group stage as a club from UEFA’s 11-ranked national association (Czech Republic).

Potential group winner: A Cristiano Ronalo-less Real Madrid is still a hot favourite to top this group.

Player to watch out for: Thibaut Courtois

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.   -  Getty Images

 

Real Madrid didn’t make a Galactico signing in the last transfer window, with the arrival of Thibaut Courtois from Chelsea the only high-profile one. Courtois has competition from Keylor Navas for the goalkeeping position. How he reacts to this pressure will be something to keep an eye on.

Headline fixture: Roma made the semifinals of this competition last season, beating Barcelona in the quarters, and its fixtures against Real Madrid will be intriguing to say the least.

Group H

Teams: Juventus (Serie A), Manchester United (Premier League), Valencia (LaLiga), Young Boys (Swiss Super League)

Juventus: Winning a seventh straight Serie A title earned the Old Lady a place in Pot 1.

Manchester United: The three-time Champions League winner finished second in the Premier League last season, thereby earning a direct entry to the group stage and a place in Pot 2.

Valencia: A fourth-place finish in LaLiga gained Valencia a direct entry to the group stage with a place in Pot 3.

Young Boys: As the Swiss Super League champion, Young Boys qualified for the playoff round, where it beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-2 on aggregate to qualify for the group stage.

Potential group winner: This is among the competitive groups that the draw produced. Juventus and Manchester United will vie for the top spot, though Valencia cannot be ruled out entirely either.

Player to watch out for: Cristiano Ronaldo

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo   -  Getty Images

 

Juventus new No. 7, Ronaldo hogs the spotlight once again after a summer move from Madrid to Turin, this time trying to lead his new club to Champions League glory once again.

Headline fixture: Juventus vs Manchester United!