Champions League Groups

Similar to the World Cup, here are my predictions for each group of this year’s Champions League. Some of these were quite difficult, but my picks for the teams to advance are bolded. After the team listings I share my thoughts on the groups. Let’s see how wrong I end up being.

Group A

  • Atletico Madrid
  • Dortmund
  • Monaco
  • Club Brugge

I feel like this group is fairly cut and dry. Dortmund could flounder and in that case Monaco moves up, but we will see.

Group B

  • Barcelona
  • Tottenham
  • PSV
  • Inter Milan

Nakedly eye-balling the groups, this one was my pick for “group of death” due in no little part to Barcelona’s presence along with three other internationally notable clubs. I have to give the nod to Barcelona and Tottenham, though I am minorly worried about Tottenham having the necessary depth for both the EPL and Champions league. We will see.

Group C

  • Paris Saint-German
  • Napoli
  • Liverpool
  • Red Star Belgrade

Congratulations to the Serbian club for making the Champions league, enjoy facing two of the best clubs in the world and Napoli.

Group D

  • Lokomotiv
  • Porto
  • Schalke
  • Galatasaray

Interestingly the two clubs I know the best in this group are Schalke in the Bundesliga and Galatasaray in Turkey. Porto is a top tier club from Portugal but I do not follow that league, and same for Lokomotiv. During my research I find myself leaning towards Schalke and Galatasary making it out, though Porto will make a good challenge.

Group E

  • Bayern Munich
  • Benfica
  • Ajax
  • AEK Athens

Ajax are my pick for the Cinderella run for this year’s Champions cup. They qualified for it by defeating Dynamo Kyiv 3 – 1 convincingly. Bayern is Bayern.

Group F

  • Manchester City
  • Shakhtar
  • Lyon
  • Hoffenheim

Manchester City are the chosen club by God himself this year, I am convinced. Lyon will come second in the group though I could see Hoffenheim managing it.

Group G

  • Real Madrid
  • Roma
  • CSKA
  • Plzen

Neither the Czech Plzen nor Russia’s CSKA will be able to get past Real Madrid (even without Ronaldo and Zidane) and Roma. I am excited to see Roma vs. Real Madrid’s two legs.

Group H

  • Juventus
  • Manchester United
  • Valencia
  • Young Boys

I don’t have faith in Jose, even if he’s still around for this. Man. United isn’t going to get out of this group. However Juventus and Spain’s Valencia will.

Watch These Matches for the Week of 8/27

Here is a look at the best matches of the week from around the world.

Monday, Aug. 27

  • Tottenham vs. Man. United (EPL) — Two of the leagues biggest teams meet up for a (for me) midday battle. Tottenham are undefeated after two, while Manchester had split their results. For me this is much see soccer.
  • Roma vs. Atalanta (Serie A) — Both teams won their first match of the Serie A season after having moderate successes in the previous season. Roma ended in 3rd and Atalanta were in 7th. Should be a good match to start off the week.

Tuesday, Aug. 28

  • Dynamo Kyiv vs. Ajax (Europa) — Well if I had the first leg in the list last week then it merits inclusion again to see how the fixtures end. After the first, Ajax lead 3 – 1, so Kyiv at home have their work cut out for them.

Wednesday, Aug. 29

  • DC United vs. Philadelphia Union (MLS) — Philadelphia are having a solid season in a good position for the playoffs, while DC United have come alive with the arrival of Rooney and they are scrapping their way into contention. Winning versus Philadelphia would definitely help with that.
  • Indy Eleven vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL) — It’s a sad fact that most Americans view lower division leagues as pointless as primary entertainment when in fact they often offer fantastic entertainment.

Friday, Aug. 31

  • Milan vs. Roma (Serie A) — Roma make their second appearance on the list this week, but like Atalanta, it seems that this should be a good match of the Serie A lineup this week.
  • Leeds United vs. Middlesbrough (Championship) — It’s #1 vs. #2 in England’s second division battling.
  • USA vs. Chile (Women’s Friendly) — The Women’s World Cup is on the horizon and the women’s matches are some of the best soccer I watch.

Saturday, Sep. 1

  • Leicester City vs. Liverpool (EPL) — Liverpool are undefeated in the Premier League, and Leicester City have only lost one. Leicester haven’t looked fantastic ever since winning the league but they have a spark this season thus far.
  • Chelsea vs. AFC Bournemouth (EPL) — Bournemouth are not what you would consider a powerhouse in the Premier League, but they are 2 – 1‑0. Chelsea remain dominant and have started the league 3 – 0. Can Bournemouth dent the Chelsea machine?
  • Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC (MLS) — The narrative of MLS is quickly become all about the post season. Seattle, after defeating Portland on the road in Providence Park, must protect their position for the post season and chasing an eighth consecutive win back at CenturyLink would go a long way to ensure that.

Sunday, Sep. 2

  • Watford vs. Tottenham (EPL) — Tottenham joins Roma in making this week’s watchlist twice. Tottenham are potentially undefeated (depending on Monday’s match) and Watford are definitely undefeated coming into this match. I think Watford have to feel like the underdogs, though they are playing at home. Should be entertaining.
  • Schalke 04 vs Hertha BSC (Bundesliga) — The first German match to make the list this week, and it’s between two teams in the middle of the pack. As with all European leagues, it’s early and things will change but this looks like a fairly even match of two German sides.
  • Barcelona vs. Huesca (La Liga) — Watch Messi do Messi things to a La Liga side. At least, that’s why I have it on the list.
  • DC United vs. Atlanta United (MLS) — Atlanta United have quickly become a dominant team in the MLS, and they sit atop the Eastern conference of the league. That said, DC United and them have history and DC United needs a win to push for the post season.

Watch These Matches for the Week of 8/20

Looking at the upcoming week, here are the soccer matches I am most excited to watch:

Wed. Aug. 22

  • AJAX vs. Dynamo Kyiv (Europa Cup) — It’s hard for me to watch midweek games, and honestly I don’t watch much of the Europa cup until the final rounds. But this match jumped out at me and I am going to try and catch it.
  • New York City vs. New York Red Bulls (MLS) — I’m a sucker for a derby and this one looks to be a good one. #2 vs #3 in the east!

Fri. Aug. 24

  • Bayern Munich vs. Hoffenheim (Bundesliga) — Bundesliga is kicking off and the first match are the Munich juggernauts facing Hoffenheim, who finished last season in 3rd.
  • Atlanta United vs. Orlando City SC (MLS) — The rivalry of the south, the enmity of these two teams rivals Seattle and Portland’s, sadly this match is likely to be a bit lopsided. But I’ll tune in regardless.
  • Los Angeles Galaxy vs. LA FC (MLS) — As above, a good cross town rivalry though the teams are not quite performing at the same level as our NYC derby.

Sat. Aug. 25

  • Arsenal vs. West Ham United (EPL) — Both London teams are winless thus far into the EPL season, but one or both of them will leave this match with at least a point.
  • Juventus vs. Lazio (Serie A) — Ronaldo is still settling into his new team, and I am eager to see how this week goes.
  • Seattle Reign vs. North Carolina Courage (NWSL) — I am ardent fan of women’s soccer whether it is on the international stage or at the NWSL here in the US. North Carolina Courage just proved themselves to be the best women’s soccer team in the world, and they are pulling a Bayern on the NWSL as they run away with the league’s record. That said, the Seattle Reign are second in the league and will be eager for a rematch after their 4 – 1 loss against the Courage in June.

Sun. Aug. 26

  • Girona vs. Real Madrid (La Liga) — I have to admit, even as I moderately follow La Liga, I knew almost nothing about Girona. They finished mid-table last season. This isn’t about them, it’s about the new Real Madrid without Zidane and Ronaldo and watching how the team evolves.
  • Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders (MLS) — The unquestionably best rivalry in MLS, playing in the best atmosphere in MLS, between two teams that are running very well right now. Sounders are on an unprecedented winning streak, Portland is playing very well, and this one should be an absolutely classical match for the history books.
  • Santos Laguna vs. Cruz Azul (Liga MX) — Number 1 vs. 2 in Liga MX, should be an entertaining match! Liga MX is a league I rarely watch so I don’t have more to add, but I have faith this one will be entertaining.

World Cup 2018 Predictions

As an American, faced with the reality that is being a bystander during the upcoming World Cup. And, as I sit and think about it, I find myself still eager to enjoy the event even as a neutral. Sure, I want to participate in the event living for each American game, but alas it was not to be. So, instead, I can focus on enjoying the game for all its beauty and drama.

With that, I decided to sit down and look at the groups in the first stage of the World Cup and make my predictions on how they will finish. The parenthetical next to each country is their FIFA World Ranking as of May 13th.

I made my predictions before I looked up the countries’ FIFA rankings, before countries began releasing their World Cup rosters and without doing additional research. Lastly, I found an article on 538 from December 2017, with their predictions after the groups were initially picked. I share their picks under mine in each group.

Lastly, my disclaimer: I’m just some guy who loves soccer.

Group A

FiveThirtyEight calls this the easiest group in World Cup history, highlighting the lucky draw of the host nation. I believe Russia will heavily benefit from home field advantage, were this World Cup elsewhere in the world I would predict Uruguay first and Egypt/Russia battling for second. But seeing as they are home they get the advantage and I believe Uruguay also leaves the group with them.

  1. Russia (#66)
  2. Uruguay (#17)
  3. Egypt (#46)
  4. Saudi Arabia (#70)

538: Russia and Uruguay

Group B

This group is easy. Iran and Morocco are nowhere near the same class as Spain and Portugal.

  1. Spain (#8)
  2. Portugal (#4)
  3. Iran (#36)
  4. Morocco (#42)

538: Portugal and Spain

Group C

France is clearly the best in this group but this one is actually tougher than might you immediately think. I waffled on Peru and Denmark but eventually gave the nod to Peru.

  1. France (#7)
  2. Peru (#11)
  3. Denmark (#12)
  4. Australia (#40)

538: France and Denmark

Group D

Argentina is the easy pick in the group, and I had to go with Iceland after witnessing their run in the Europian Championship back in 2016. Plus, how could I turn down an invitation from the President and First Lady of Iceland?

  1. Argentina (#5)
  2. Iceland (#22)
  3. Croatia (#18)
  4. Nigeria (#47)

538: Argentina and Croatia

Group E

Brazil being the easy pick here. According to the FIFA rankings Switzerland is the obvious second pick but I went with the dark horse from CONCACAF (the FIFA region which includes USA, Canada, Mexico and other central American countries.) Perhaps it’s a bit of home region favoritism, but I think they are quite good and they also have one of the best keepers in the world in Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas.

  1. Brazil (#2)
  2. Costa Rica (#25)
  3. Switzerland (#6)
  4. Serbia (#35)

538: Brazil and Switzerland

Group F

Germany, the winners of the last World Cup, are the obvious pick here. I went with Mexico as the second group to leave. I will admit I was tempted to put Sweden in that spot solely out of my appreciation for Gustav Svensson, a Swede who plays for the Sounders right now.

  1. Germany (#1)
  2. Mexico (#15)
  3. Sweden (#23)
  4. Korea Republic (#61)

538: Germany and Mexico

Group G

This group surprised me in their FIFA rankings. I thought England was higher than Belgium, and I thought Tunisia was the lowest ranked country in this World Cup. Little did I know.

This group is also notable as this could be where the US Men’s team were, had things gone differently they might have found themselves in Panama’s rather unenviable spot. USA is ranked #24, and they would also be very hard pressed to escape the group.

  1. England (#13)
  2. Belgium (#3)
  3. Panama (#55)
  4. Tunisia (#14)

538: Belgium and England

Group H

Another one where I was off in my mental country rankings, I thought Colombia was highest in the group and Senegal was the lowest. But I am happy with Colombia and Poland’s chances to escape the group.

  1. Colombia (#16)
  2. Poland (#10)
  3. Japan (#60)
  4. Senegal (#28)

538: Colombia and Poland

Other Predictions

Final Match: Germany vs. Brazil
Winner: Germany, 3 – 2

Golden Boot: Thomas Muller
Silver Boot: Neymar
Bronze Boot: Cristiano Ronaldo

Golden Glove: Manuel Neuer