9/12/16 Champions League Tues/Wed 2:45 pm on Fox Sports Networks/ESPN2, Indy 11 Home Sat vs Miami, US Open Cup Tues, CHS Senior Night Tues Night, Guerin Pack the House Night Tues Night

If you didn’t watch Borrusia Dortmund vs  Legia Warsaw — Watch it now — US National 17 year old Christian Pulisic not only played but he started and had an assist!!!  Hi lights show 9:30 till 10:30 pm on Fox Soccer Channel and again on FS2 2 to 3 am Thurs AM.

The Wrap-up of Champions League Day 1 (second day)

Dortmund Hi-Lights 6-0 – Christian Pulisic starts and has assist

Real Madrid Score Twice Late to Survive vs Sporting CP

EPL Champ Leicester City crush Brugge 3-0 in first UCL Game

Tottenham loses at Wimbley to Monaco

Real Madrid get late win, Leicester and Manchester City win in UCL

Late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata earned Real Madrid a comeback 2-1 win against Sporting Lisbon at the Bernabeu.Bruno Cesar had put Sporting into a 48th-minute lead with a low curling effort but the holders left it late, first Ronaldo scoring a free kick in the final minute of normal time before Morata headed home in the fourth minute of added time to earn Los Blancos all three points.Leicester City began their debut Champions League campaign with a bang, running out 3-0 winners against Club Brugge in Group G.Marc Albrighton took advantage of a defensive mix-up to score from close range on five minutes and Riyad Mahrez doubled the Foxes’ advantage, in front of a below-capacity stadium, with a 28th-minute free kick.Mahrez added a third from the spot in the 61st-minute after Jamie Vardy was fouled by Brugge goalkeeper Ludovic Butelle.Manchester City kept up their perfect start to the season and began their Champions League campaign with a win, at the second attempt, by beatingBorussia Monchengladbach 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium courtesy of a Sergio Aguero hat trick.Aguero turned in a low cross from Aleksandar Kolarov after eight minutes, added a 28th-minute penalty when debutant Ilkay Gundogan was fouled, and completed his treble on 77 minutes when Raheem Sterling’s through-ball allowed him to round Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer and tap in.Kelechi Iheanacho came off the bench to add a late fourth. That result puts City second in Group C, behind Barcelona on goal difference.It wasn’t a good start for Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on their Champions League return, however, as they crashed to a 2-1 defeat againstAS Monaco.Bernardo Silva had the Ligue 1 side in front on 15 minutes before Thomas Lemar added a 31st-minute second. Toby Alderweireld pulled one back for Spurs on 45 minutes with a header from a cornerJuventus played out a frustrating 0-0 draw with Sevilla, Gonzalo Higuain’s second half header, which struck the crossbar, their best chance against the three time Europa League winners.Headers from Mario Gotze and Sokratis and a close range tap-in from Marc Bartra had a rampant Borussia Dortmund three goals ahead against Legia Warsaw inside 20 minutes as they ran out 6-0 winners in Poland. Raphael Guerreiro added a fourth early in the second half after Ousmane Dembele’s blocked shot fell kindly to him in front of goal before substitute Gonzalo Castro and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang completed the rout late on.CSKA Moscow fought back from two goals down to earn an unlikely 2-2 draw against Bayer Leverkusen. The Bundesliga side controlled the opening exchanges, and took a two-goal lead through Admir Mehmedi and Hakan Calhanoglu inside the opening 15 minutes, but against the run of play Alan Dzagoev and Roman Eremenko pulled the Russian champions level and earned a point.In the other game in Leicester’s group, Porto were held to a 1-1 draw by 10-man FC Copenhagen. Andreas Cornelius pulled Copenhagen level on 52 minutes after they had fallen behind to Otavio’s 13th-minute strike for Porto, before Jan Gregus was dismissed for a second bookable offence. That draw leaves Leicester top of Group G.Goals from Corentin Tolisso, Jordan Ferri and Maxwel Cornet gave Lyon a convincing 3-0 win against Dinamo Zagreb in France.

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=So Champion’s League Group Play gets underway this Tues/Wed as the top teams in Europe begin the quest for the ultimate Team Prize – the EUFA Champions League Title.   Anyone want to grab a late lunch with the games Tues or Wed let me know!!  Huge games for Arsenal Tues on Fox Sports 2 as they host their UCL nemisis PSG, while Man City host US Winger Fabian Johnson of Borussia M’Gladbach on Fox Sports Indiana as they open their campaigns at home.  Also Tues night 10 pm on ESPN 2  its the US Open Cup Final as NE takes on Dallas FC and former Carmel High star Matt Hedges.  On Wednesday Juve hosts Sevilla 2:45 pm on ESPN 2, while Tottenham host Monaco on FS Ind and Leicester City travels for their firsts ever UCL game at Club Brugge (Belgium) on Fox Soccer Channel.  The big game of the weekend overseas was of course the Manchester Derby and oh it did not disappoint!!  The huge match-up was EPIC as Man City and coach Pep G. showed their class with a masterful first half performance that put them up 2-1 at Old Trafford as they dominated possession 70-30.  Not to disappoint however – the self appointed – Special One Man U’s Jose Mourino changed tactics in the 2nd half and had the boys in Red in charge with nearly a 65-35 possesion time dominance and 3 times as many shots on goal.  Man U couldn’t find the equalizer however despite new Goalie Claudio Bravo’s many gaffs.  Great game, great atmosphere on Sat early morning on NBCSports Network.  Friday Chelsea hosts Liverpool in the only decent game of the weekend in the EPL at 2:30 on NBCSN, while in Italy Juve hosts Inter Sunday 12 noon on beIN Sports.

The Indy 11 return home Saturday in a desperate search for a win vs Miami at 7:30 pm at The MIKE!  The 11’s last win was at home nearly a month ago but they still stand in 4th place overall in the NASL standings with 21 pts.  They host Octoberfest this Saturday night with beer specials galore get your tickets today!

 LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL

The 5th ranked Carmel High School boys team is hosting Senior Night this Tues, Sep 13th – 7:00pm Murray Stadium.  We have 2 former and 1 current Senior on the Squad – Max Toubin is a current U18/19 player and Reese McDaniel and Matthew Skor are former CFC’ers.

Guerin High School is hosting their Pack the House night this Tuesday night, Sept 13 at Grand Park on Field 1 – the Championship Field Jv at 5:30, Varsity at 7pm. FREE Admission for Carmel FC and CDC kids and parents, prizes, contests and more. CFC has many former and current players on the JV and 9th grade teams and these 9 on Varsity: Cooper Fetters, Julian Tessarzyk, PJ Grocki, Matt Quinn, Scott Corman, Logan Bedford, Noah DeWaal, Jack Hagle, and Patrick Koehl.

The 2nd Ranked Carmel High Girls – host Teacher Appreciation Night tonight at Murray Stadium vs North Central with 5 pm Coach Carla Baker’s JV and 7 pm Varsity.

9_11_u11_girls

Coach Andy Martin (a former Captain in the Army who served in Kuwait, and West Point Grad) was proud of his U-11 girls displaying the Flag at their Sunday game on 9/11.  Mighty proud ladies and Coach!!

GAMES OF THE WEEK 

 Tues  Sept 13                                         Champions League Group Stage Starts 

2:45 pm Fox Sports 2                       Arsenal @ PSG                                  home date for Arsenal

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1                      Celtic @ Barcelona

2:45 pm Fox Sports Indiana         Man City vs Borussia M’gladbach – US Winger Fabian                                                                        Johnson travels to Man City in the group of death

2:45 pm ESPN 2                                   Bayern Munich vs Rostov

10 pm   ESPN2   Dallas vs New England – US Open Cup FINAL – see who takes home US                                                                               club team top hardware-like the FA Cup in England

Wed Sept 14

2:45 pm ESPN 2                                   Juventus vs Sevilla

2:45 pm Fox Sports 2                       Real Madrid vs Sporting CP

2:45 pm Fox Sports Indiana        Tottenham vs Monaco –The Spurs host their 1st                                                                                                                                    game at Whiteheart Lane

2:45 pm Fox Soccer Plus               Club Brugge vs LEICESTER CITY  – the Foxes travel for                                                                                  their 1st ever UCL game ! Go Foxes!!

Thurs, Sept 15

8 pm ESPN 2                          US Ladies vs Thailand

Fri, Sept 16                                              

3 pm NBCSN      Chelsea vs Liverpool   – weird to have this huge game on a Friday with no                                                                                  decent games on the Sat/Sun–tape it to watch

Champions League

5 Must See Games in Group Stages – eSPN FC

Which 16 Teams will make it out of Group Stages – NBC Sports

Vote Best 11 in UCL

32 players you must watch

Group A  1. Paris Saint-Germain 2. Arsenal 3. FC Basel 4. Ludogorets Razgrad

Group B  1. Benfica 2. Napoli 3. Dynamo Kiev 4. Besiktas

Group C  1. Barcelona, 2. Manchester City 3. Borussia Monchengladbach 4. Celtic

Group D  1. Atletico Madrid 2. Bayern Munich 3. PSV Eindhoven 4. Rostov

Group E   1. Tottenham 2. Bayer Leverkusen 3. Monaco 4. CSKA Moscow

Group F  – 1. Real Madrid 2. Borussia Dortmund  3. Sporting Lisbon 4. Legia Warsaw

Group G –  1. Porto 2. Leicester City 3. Copenhagen 4.Brugge

Group H –  1. Juventus 2. Lyon 3. Sevilla 4. Dinamo Zagreb

INDY 11

Indy 11 lose 2-1 to Ft. Lauderdale

OctoberFest Celebration for Sat Night home Game

USA 

US Women Host Free Practice Session at Columbus Crew Stadium Wed followed by Game Thurs Eve

US Open Cup final Pits FC Dallas vs New England Revs

Game notes for Tuesday Night – US Open Cup Final on ESPN 2

More GAMES ON TV

Mon, Sept 12

3 pm NBCSN                                           Sunderland vs Everton

Tues  Sept 13                                         Champions League Group Stage Starts 

2:45 pm Fox Sports 2                       Arsenal @ PSG                                   

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1                      Celtic @ Barcelona

2:45 pm Fox Sports Indiana         Man City vs Borussia M’gladbach

2:45 pm ESPN 2                                   Bayern Munich vs Rostov

2:45 pm ESPN Desporte                 PSV vs Atletico Madrid

10 pm   ESPN2                                      Dallas vs New England – US Open Cup

Wed Sept 14                                                                 

2:45 pm ESPN 2                                   Juventus vs Sevilla

2:45 pm Fox Sports 2                       Real Madrid vs Sporting CP

2:45 pm Fox Sports Indiana        Tottenham vs Monaco

2:45 pm Fox Soccer Plus               Club Brugge vs LEICESTER CITY

Thurs, Sept 15

1 pm Fox Sport 1                                Feyernord vs Man United

3 pm Fox Soccer Plus                      Inter vs Hapoel Sheva

8 pm ESPN                            US Ladies vs Thailand

Fri, Sept 16                                              

3 pm NBCSN                                           Chelsea vs Liverpool

Sat, Sept 17

7 am beIn Sports                                 Barcelona vs Leganes

7:30 am NBCSN                                    Hull City vs Arsenal

9:30 am Fox Sports 1                       Buyern Munich vs Ingolstadt

9:30 am Fox Sports 2                       Dortmund vs Darmdstadt

10 am NBCSN                                        Man City vs Bournemouth, Leceister City vs Burnley,

12:30 pm NBC                                      Everton vs Middlesborough

12:30 pm Fox Soccer +                  Borussia Mgladbach vs Werder Bremen                                                    

7:30 pm YES                                           NYCFC vs Dallas

7:30 pm TV 8, GolTV   Indy 11 host Miami

Sun, Sat 18

7 am CNBC                                               Watford vs Man United

9:15 am NBCSN                                    Crystal Palace vs Stoke City

9:30 am FS1                                            Augsburg vs Mainz

9:30 am Fox Soccer Plus                Ingolstadt vs Hertha BSC

9:30 am Fox Sports 2                                               Freiburg vs Borussia M’Gladbach

11:30 am NBCSN                                 Tottenham vs Sunderland

12 noon beIN Sports                                                Inter vs Juventus                                 

11:30 am FS 2                                       Hertha vs Schalke 

2 pm FS 1                                                                         LA Galaxy vs Sporting KC

2:45 pm beIN Sport                                                  Espanyol vs Real Madrid

5 pm FS 2                                                                         Toronto vs NY Red Bulls

7 pm FS 1                              US Women vs Netherlands

Sept 27

Man City @ Celtic

Bayern Munich @ Athletico Madrid

Sept 28

Real Madrid @ Dortmund

Porto @ Leicester City

MLS TV Schedule ‘

EPL TV Schedule on NBC + NBCSN

German Bundesliga TV Schedule on Fox Soccer and Gol TV

Indy Eleven’s Comeback Bid Falls Short in 1-2 Loss at Fort Lauderdale-Justin Braun’s Fifth Goal of the Season Not Enough to Help Indiana’s Team Earn Road Result
(Saturday, September 10, 2016) – Indy Eleven saw a late comeback bid fall short, as forward Justin Braun’s 88th minute tally could only bring things close in an eventual 1-2 defeat at the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Central Broward Stadium. Fort Lauderdale used goals from Brazilian forwards Paulo Junior and Maicon Santos on either side of halftime to build a lead that proved insurmountable, keeping Indy Eleven winless on the road in seven Fall Season attempts.STATS: Get detailed Opta statistics from #FTLvIND via the NASL MatchCenter

Paulo Jr. would see the game’s first quality look just four minutes in when a ball found him with ample space in the right side of the area, but his rushed shot would miss just high and wide of goal. He would make up for that miss in the 19th minute, when he finished a lengthy run down the right flank with a shot that beat Indy Eleven goalkeeper Jon Busch low and inside the far left post to give the home side the early 1-0 advantage.Despite several dangerous crosses and set pieces earned throughout the first half, Indy Eleven couldn’t scratch across a goal. Midfielder Gerardo Torrado’s volleyed attempt in the 14th minute marked the visitors’ best chance until the 37th minute, when midfielder Don Smart’s crafty chip was batted away by Strikers netminder Bruno at the near left post.Paulo Jr. nearly had his second of the night in the 42nd minute when he danced past a defender and into the area to snap off a shot from 10 yards, but Busch did well to knock away the chance with two hands. A minute later Maicon Santos saw a header ring off the crossbar and bounce off the goalline, but the shot was nullified anyway when the offside flag went up on the dead ball opportunity. Indy Eleven looked to have scored a last gasp goal in first half stoppage time when Lovel Palmer got a head on Nemanja Vukovic’s set piece delivery, but it too was whistled dead for offside.The second half would take some time to heat up, but quality chances would come from both sides around the hour mark, first from the Strikers when a cross found Ramon Nunez unmarked at the far post, but the Honduran would push his header from five yards out wide. A minute later Indy’s best chance from the run of play on the evening would end with substitute Duke Lacroix running onto Eamon Zayed’s low ball played across the area, only to sky the chance from the edge of the six.That would leave the door open for the home side to double the advantage, and it would do just that through Maicon Santos in the 67th minute. With the Indy backline stretched, Santos was able to carry 20 yards into the left side of the Eleven area before cutting inside and firing a low shot inside the far right post, giving Busch no chance and extending the Fort Lauderdale lead to 2-0.Braun had a great chance to cut the lead in half in the 72nd minute after running onto Lacroix’s cross five yards out, but the ball short-hopped the forward, forcing him to pop up the golden opportunity. However, Braun would indeed make things interesting in the late going thanks to his fifth goal of the season, ending well an industrious shift in what was his first start in more than a month since suffering a right MCL strain. Braun’s return to the scoresheet came in the 88th minute, when he nodded home Lovel Palmer’s cross from 10 yards out, cutting the Fort Lauderdale lead in half and setting up a contested finish. However, repeated forays into the final third would be repelled through four minutes of stoppage time, resulting in Indy Eleven’s recent winless streak moving to five games (0W-2D-3L).ndy Eleven returns to IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium next Saturday, Sept. 17, and will look to extend its 14-game home undefeated streak when it welcomes The Miami FC to “The Mike” for the first time. Kickoff that evening is set for 7:30 p.m. (live on WISH-TV and online via ESPN3.com), while the club’s second annual Oktoberfest event will begin at 5:30 p.m. Tickets for that match and the pre-game Oktoberfest celebration are available at IndyEleven.com or by calling 317-685-1100 during regular business hours.
NASL Fall Season
Fort Lauderdale Strikers  2 : 1  Indy Eleven  Saturday, September 10, 2016
Central Broward Stadium – Lauderhill, FL  Attendance: 2,376

Indy Eleven:
Fall Season: 6W-3D-5L, 21 pts.
Overall Season: 10W-9D-5L, 39 pts.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers:
Fall Season: 4W-4D-5L, 16 pts.
Overall Season: 8W-7D-8L, 31 pts.
Scoring Summary:
FTL – Paulo Jr. (Ramon Nunez) 19’
FTL – Maicon Santos  (Paulo Junior) 67’
IND – Justin Braun (Lovel Palmer) 88’
Discipline Summary:
IND – Lovel Palmer (caution) 15’
IND – Brad Ring (caution) 42’
FTL – Ramon Nunez (caution) 52’
IND – Duke Lacroix (caution) 76’
IND – Gerardo Torrado (caution) 84’
FTL – Bruno (caution) 92+’

Indy Eleven line-up (4-4-2, L–>R):  Jon Busch; Nemanja Vuković, Daniel Keller, Colin Falvey (capt), Lovel Palmer; Omar Gordon (Duke Lacroix 57’), Gerardo Torrado, Brad Ring (Dylan Mares 57’), Don Smart (Nicki Paterson 74’); Eamon Zayed, Justin BraunIndy Eleven bench: Keith Cardona (GK), Marco Franco, Neil Shaffer, Souleymane Youla
Fort Lauderdale Strikers (4-3-3): Bruno; Nana Attakora, Julius James, Dalton, Jorge Luis Corrales; Manny Gonzalez (Bryan Arguez 45’), Luis Felipe Fernandes, Ramon Nunez (Adrianinho 70’); Paulo Jr., Jose Angulo, Maicon Santos (Amauri 81’)Strikers bench: Matias Reynares (GK), Geison Moura, Luis Zapata, Victor Pineda

Five must-see UCL group stage games: Barca-Man City, PSG-Arsenal, more

The Champions League is about to get underway again. James Horncastle takes a look at the five matches to look out for in the group stages… 

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Arsenal, Sept. 13

The last time these sides met was so long ago that Arsène Wenger wasn’t even manager of Arsenal. In fact, to find their last encounter you have to cast your mind all the way back to 1994 and a Cup Winners Cup semifinal decided by a Kevin Campbell goal at Highbury. Reunited at the Parc this Tuesday, Wenger, who amusingly confused Croatia’s doctor for Unai Emery while doing a spot of punditry at the Euros, will finally shake hands with the real thing.While the stakes will no doubt be higher at the Emirates in November, this game also comes at a delicate time, particularly for PSG. Emery isn’t done experimenting with the team and the players are still adjusting to his methods. A defeat to Monaco before the international break was followed by a draw to Saint-Étienne on Friday and for all of Emery’s success in the Europa League with Sevilla, he’s never made an impact in the Champions League. The question is: can Arsenal capitalise at a time when PSG are uncertain in what they do and are still in search of new reference points?Zlatan Ibrahimovic is gone although as fans of Inter and Barça will tell you, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Both just so happened to win the Champions League in the year he left them. If anything, it bodes well… 

Juventus vs. Sevilla, Sept. 14

After spending €162 million this summer (and still managing to turn a profit!), the Champions League is where Juventus will be judged this season, starting with Sevilla. The Old Lady has gone all-in to end her two-decade wait for this trophy and Juventus have matured in Europe under Max Allegri, reaching the final two years ago. Since then, and at his specific instruction, they have looked to add skill to the team in the firm belief that technique is what ultimately makes the difference in this competition.Unlucky to go out at the Round of 16 last year after giving Pep Guardiola’s Bayern a real scare, in truth Juventus only had themselves to blame after defeat in Seville meant they finished runners-up in their group. Their old friend Fernando Llorente came back to haunt them on that occasion. Luckily Llorente is now gone, as is Emery, the mastermind of Sevilla’s hat-trick of Europa League wins.Excitingly, though, Jorge Sampaoli has taken his place. This is his first experience in Europe and it will be fascinating to see him pit his wits against Allegri. Both managers have some wonderful talent at their disposal. Monchi, like Beppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici at Juventus, worked wonders again this summer, bringing Paulo Henrique Ganso, Wissam Ben Yedder, Samir Nasri and Paulo Dybala’s old buddy from Palermo, Franco Vazquez, to Andalusia.This game promises to be a classic, particularly with Juventus uncharacteristically leaking goals at the moment and Sevilla playing roller-coaster football.

Atletico Madrid vs. Bayern Munich, Sept. 28

We get a repeat of last season’s enthralling semifinal when Atleti progressed on away goals and denied Guardiola the fairytale ending to his time in Munich and if there’s even a smidgeon of the drama, tension and skill we saw in late April and early May, this clash will be must-watch TV.Carlo Ancelotti returns to the Spanish capital where he famously got the better of Atleti in the Champions League. Real claimed the Decima at their expense in Lisbon and then eliminated them in the quarterfinals the following year. In some respects, however, this is Ancelotti in a nutshell because the story was completely different in La Liga, where Atleti did the double over Real for the first time since 1951 and even trounced them 4-0 at the Calderón.No one in football looks forward to facing Diego Simeone’s side and Ancelotti is no different. However, Bayern will see this as an early opportunity to put last season’s knock-out behind them. Omitted from the starting line-up the first leg, Thomas Müller missed a penalty in the second. He’ll be out for redemption.

Barcelona vs. Manchester City, Oct. 19

Of course this isn’t the first time Pep Guardiola returns to the Camp Nou to sit in the away dug-out. You’ll remember how a little over a year ago, he daringly tried to get Bayern to out-Barça Barça and memorably had Mehdi Benatia, Jerome Boateng and Rafinha man-mark the “MSN.”As brave as it was foolish, Bayern valiantly held out until the 77th minute, Messi then floored Boateng and the floodgates opened. Barça won 3-0 and the lesson for Pep to learn was a simple one: Don’t try and beat Barça at their own game. The trouble is while the Blaugrana have become more direct since Pep left, their game is his game too and he will not compromise on it.For instance, Pep will not ask his Manchester City players to park the bus at the Camp Nou. You will never hear him say: “We didn’t want the ball,” like Jose Mourinho did when Inter prevailed there in 2010. Or set up like Atleti did last season, alternating between a high pressing game and getting everybody behind the ball in a deep block. How Pep approaches this game will be fascinating.

Real Madrid vs. Borussia Dortmund, Dec. 7

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were to get to the final Matchday in Group F and this game at the Bernabeu still decided the group winner? Historically there is often high drama when these teams clash in this competition, from the Torfall in 1998 to the Polka poker scored by Robert Lewandowski three years ago. Dortmund reached the final that year and I suppose one of things they they have in common with Real’s neighbours Atleti is that no one ever relishes playing them although for the reasons for that are slightly different.Real coach Zinedine Zidane has bad memories of facing BVB. He was on the losing side in the 1997 final when his Juventus team were beaten by Dortmund. However, all of that is in the past now and he can call upon a very settled side. Alvaro Morata was Real’s only summer signing and he scored in both legs when Juventus eliminated Dortmund from this competition two years ago.Dortmund, by contrast, have changed a lot, losing Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the summer but adding a number of uber-talented youngsters, the most exciting of which is Ousmane Dembele. Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel has the look and the genius of a charismatic Bond villain. Make no mistake: he will be a formidable opponent for Zidane to out-think. 

Champions League draw yields great matchups, top-heavy groups

BEN LYTTLETONThursday August 25th, SI

This was the second year that the Champions League group stage draw put reigning champions in Pot 1, and if the day began with everyone wondering who surprise Premier League champion Leicester City would draw, it ended with some mouth-watering ties to look forward to in the opening round of the tournament.Among them, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City was drawn against his former club Barcelona, while holder Real Madrid faces its 2013 semifinal conqueror, Borussia Dortmund. There were no glaring groups of death to emanate from the bowls in Monaco, and the majority of the groups are rather top-heavy, but there will still be some memorable matches on the way.Here is a breakdown of each group, along with picks for the top two spots and who will advance to the knockout stage:

Group A 

PSG, Arsenal, FC Basel, Ludogorets

Overview: Top seed Paris Saint-Germain sacked coach Laurent Blanc as a result of his side’s toothless quarterfinal defeat to Manchester City. In his place has come back-to-back Europa League winner Unai Emery, and already the difference is apparent. PSG now plays a faster, more direct, and riskier brand of attacking football. With Ligue 1 as good as in the bag, Europe is once again the priority for PSG. The French champion now seems closer to winning this trophy than Arsenal, which is in the group stage for a 19th straight season. FC Basel, whose former players Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny are now Gunners (Xhaka’s brother, Taulant, is still there), could prove to be a dangerous Pot 3 side and may push for a knockout berth.

Match to watch: PSG vs. Arsenal, Sept. 13

The group kicks off with a familiar trip for coach Arsene Wenger, who has turned down offers to coach the French capital side on more than one occasion. The French side will be favored, but Wenger will want to cause an upset.Tipped to progress: PSG, Arsenal

Group B 

Benfica, Napoli, Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas

Overview: One of the most open groups to come out of the draw, with top seed Benfica stumbling early in the league and fourth seed Besiktas among the strongest out of the pot. It will mark an early return for Anderson Talisca, on loan to Besiktas from Benfica.Napoli’s challenge will be to make the next round, with Polish pair Arkadiusz Milik and Piotr Zelinski likely to play important roles. Napoli is also trying to sign Eliaquim Mangala on loan from Manchester City. Dynamo Kiev has sold Miguel Veloso and Aleksandr Dragovic but kept onto Andriy Yarmolenko and has won its first five games of the season. Could it be a surprise contender for the next round?  

Match to watch: Napoli vs. Benfica, Sept. 28

Maurizio Sarri has worked wonders as Napoli boss, but how he copes with the Champions League remains an intriguing proposition. The home tie against top seed Benfica could be decisive, and Napoli should have enough to get out of the group.Tipped to progress: Napoli, Dynamo Kiev  

Group C

Barcelona, Manchester City, Borussia Monchengladbach, Celtic

Overview: Is this the hardest group of the lot? If not, it might be the most passionate, save for City fans whose relationship with this competition, and UEFA in general, remains muted. Barcelona is one of the favorites to win the trophy, deservedly so if it strengthens its squad with the likely signing of Paco Alcacer this week to lighten the load of its three-man, Messi-Neymar-Suarez machine.Monchengladbach is a dangerous dark horse, having coasted through its qualifier against Young Boys, courtesy of Thorgan Hazard and Raffael hat tricks, and the matchups pose a second straight year of challenges–Gladbach drew Man City, Juventus and Sevilla last season. From Pot 4, Celtic and coach Brendan Rodgers will have a tough task.

Match to watch: Barcelona vs. Manchester City, Oct. 19

This marks a return to Barcelona for Pep Guardiola, new goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and City executives Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain. Barcelona beat City comfortably last season, but this will be a fine opportunity to see how far the English side has progressed under its Catalan coach.Tipped to progress: Barcelona, Manchester City

Group D 

Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, PSV Eindhoven, Rostov  

Overview: Atletico beat Bayern in last season’s semifinal, and this group pits two genuine title hopefuls against each other. Both sides have bought smartly in the summer, with Renato Sanches and Mats Hummels now at Bayern–coached by European Cup specialist Carlo Ancelotti–while Atletico has brought in Kevin Gamiero and Nico Gaitan, among others.Dutch champion PSV has not had its normal summer fire sale but is unlikely to repeat last season’s European heroics, while tournament debutant FC Rostov, which beat Ajax in qualifying, could make it into the Europa League spots.

Match to watch: Bayern Munich vs Atletico Madrid, Dec. 6

It figures to be a straight shootout between these two powerhouses for the top spot in the group, and it could well come down to the final matchday. The winner should get the easier draw in the knockout round.Tipped to progress: Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid

Group E 

CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham, Monaco

Overview: How could we forget the craziness of last season’s European ties involving Bayer Leverkusen? It beat BATE 4-1, drew 4-4 with Roma and in the return game lost it 3-2. And it managed to draw with Barcelona along the way. Expect more goals and drama from Roger Schmidt’s highly entertaining side, who could progress from a group that contains one of the weaker Pot 1 sides in CSKA Moscow. Spurs, playing group matches at Wembley Stadium, will fancy itself to qualify, while Monaco will be happy to use this stage to showcase the talents of tomorrow’s stars like Thomas Lemar and Kevin Mbappe. 

Match to watch: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Tottenham, Oct. 18

Schmidt against Mauricio Pochettino: the chances are that in three or four years, these two men could be leading Bayern and Barcelona. This might show why: they both demand high-tempo and attacking football. It will be great to watch, unless you’re a defender.Tipped to progress: Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham

Group F 

Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Sporting Lisbon, Legia Warsaw

Overview: This is not an easy group for the reigning champion, which faces a highly motivated and well-organized Dortmund side looking to make a big impact under Thomas Tuchel, and a Sporting side that is a much tougher proposition with the charismatic Jorge Jesus at the helm. Madrid might drop points along the way, and Dortmund could push it close for top spot–and might even take it–too.

Match to watch: Sporting vs. Real Madrid, Nov. 22

This will be all about Cristiano Ronaldo, back at the club where he began his career. He may not celebrate when he scores, but then again…  Tipped to progress: Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid

Group G

Leicester, FC Porto, Club Brugge, FC Copenhagen

Overview: No one said Leicester was lucky to win the Premier League but given the caliber of teams the English champion avoided in this draw, fate was on its side in Monaco. It drew arguably the weakest sides from Pots 2 and 3 and has every chance of making it to the next round. As for who might join it, FC Porto, who destroyed Roma 3-0 in qualifying away from home this week, will consider this a great chance to top the group. Brugge and Copenhagen will be fighting it out for third and a place in the Europa League knockout stage. 

Match to watch: Leicester vs. FC Porto, Sept. 27

With no marquee European name in Leicester’s group, this will be the biggest team to grace the King Power Stadium in the group stage. The normally raucous arena will be in full voice for the Portuguese visitors. The Leicester faithful may not get the result they want, but their side should still go through.  Tipped to progress: FC Porto, Leicester City

Group H 

Juventus, Sevilla, Lyon, Dinamo Zagreb

Overview: This is the season that five-time reigning Italian champion has gone all in to win the Champions League. It has spent the money it earned from the Paul Pogba sale to sign Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic, and maintained the back four that was so impenetrable last season. Its biggest challenge will come from three-time reigning Europa League champion Sevilla, a hugely watchable side under ex-Chile boss Jorge Sampaoli. Sevilla could go deep in this competition if it clicks.Lyon has so far held on to most of its star assets this summer, but the next seven days could determine its level in this group. Dinamo is often the afterthought, but the revenue from qualification at least will keep it dominant in Croatia.

Match to watch: Juventus vs. Sevilla, Sept. 14

This is the real test for Sampaoli–and it comes immediately–to work out a way of beating one of Europe’s strongest sides. Sevilla’s individual components are not as strong as Juventus’s, but Sampaoli is expert at making teams greater than the sum of their parts. Let the games begin!  Tipped to progress: Juventus, Sevilla

 PSG to fend off Arsenal for top spot in Champions League Group A

Now that the Champions League draw has been completed, here’s a preview for Group A. Who do you think will go through?

Predicted finish

  1. Paris Saint-Germain
    Arsenal
    3. FC Basel
    4. Ludogorets Razgrad

Paris Saint-Germain

Laurent Blanc was unseated as PSG manager last season despite winning Ligue 1 by 31 points. It all came down to losing 3-2 on aggregate to Manchester City in the Champions League quarterfinals, and now the pressure will be on new manager Unai Emery to go at least one better than that.Emery’s European pedigree is rich, having led Sevilla to three Europa League titles in a row. The additions of Grzegorz Krychowiak from his old club and Jese Rodriguez from Real Madrid represent a change in focus, as PSG get used to life without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who departed for Manchester United this summer.

Arsenal

The Champions League has caused Arsenal sincere pain over the years, yet they also boast the proud record of having made it past the group stage in every season since 2000-01. Finishing second in the Premier League in 2015-16 made them automatic qualifiers, though a lack of squad strengthening beyond the additions of midfielder Granit Xhaka and fledgling defender Rob Holding has many fans exasperated and concerned.Wenger is surely nearing the end of his tenure in North London, though a closing date is not yet set on a term that pushes past 20 years next month. The closest the manager has come to lifting the trophy was losing 2-1 to Barcelona in the 2006 final in Paris.

FC Basel

Utterly dominant in Swiss football after seven consecutive title wins and a slippery proposition over the years for teams from bigger leagues having beaten Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United within the last five years. Last season, they failed to reach the Champions League and were beaten in the Europa League by eventual winners Sevilla.

Ludogorets Razgrad

Two seasons ago, they were a fairy tale story when centre-back Cosmin Moti saved two penalties in a shootout and scored his own to qualify them for the group stage after goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov had been sent off. They competed admirably with Real Madrid, Liverpool and Basel.Moti and Stoyanov remain, while coach Georgi Dermendziev has returned. Seeing off Viktoria Plzen in the qualifying round made them the first Bulgarian team to advance to the group stage twice.

Game of the group:

PSG vs. Arsenal — There have been times when it was suggested that Wenger might be tempted back to France, but London is his home now. He is a welcome face in Paris, though, and has made Arsenal hugely popular in France. Emery gets the chance to pit himself against the one who got away.

X Factor

Is this finally the year that Arsenal fall at the hurdle of the group stage? Pulling Ludogorets and Basel might make that seem unlikely but both proved problematic for Liverpool when they faced them in the 2014-15 competition. Arsenal cannot afford to start like last season, when they lost their first three matches and needed to rescue themselves.John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter@JohnBrewinESPN

Can Leicester’s title-winning tactics survive UCL Group B challenge?

Take an in-depth look at the UCL draw and see how each of the teams will line up in this year’s competition.Now that the Champions League draw has been completed, here’s a preview for Group G. Who do you think will go through?

Predicted finish

  1. Porto
    Leicester City
    3. Copenhagen
    4.Brugge

Leicester City

Can the romance and storytelling of last season’s amazing Premier League title win be sustained in the club’s first ever venture into this competition? Manager Claudio Ranieri, who took Chelsea to the 2004 semifinals, has held onto his stars of last season, aside from N’Golo Kante, who departed for Stamford Bridge. Flying forwards Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez remain, and Leicester’s style of play — which eschews long periods of possession to hit opponents on the break, after defending deep and in numbers — might just cause as much trouble for continental opposition as it did last season in England.

Porto

Porto are inn the middle of what is for them a terrible title drought, having not won the Primeira Liga in the last three seasons; the last time they went longer than that without a domestic championship was in the early-1980s. They have a new manager in former Valencia boss Nuno, but their Champions League prospects might depend on keeping hold of key players like Yacine Brahimi.

Club Brugge

Brugge were runaway Belgian champions last season, winning both the regular season and championship playoffs that take place in the Jupiler Pro League, and are coached by goalkeeping legend Michel Preud’homme. Young defender Bjorn Engels looks to be the latest off Belgium’s production line of talent and refused the chance to join Arsenal in the summer.

FC Copenhagen

Overcoming what was looking like a hex for Danish teams against APOEL Nicosia (it was fourth time lucky in the qualifying rounds), FC Copenhagen made it into the Champions League proper by beating the Cypriots with a late Federico Santander goal. Stale Solbakken remains in charge, and they’ll be looking to repeat the 2010-11 competition when they surprisingly qualified from the group, thanks partly to a draw with Barcelona.

Game of the group: Porto vs. Leicester

Foxes fans did not quite get the glamorous trips to the likes of Paris, Munich or Barcelona they might have liked, but a trip to Europe’s Atlantic coast is not to be sniffed at. Porto, a club with ever-changing personnel, due to their policy on cashing in on talent to survive, have proved themselves tricky, canny opposition down the Champions League years. Escape from there with a point, then Ranieri’s team may be set up for further adventures.

X Factor

Can Leicester be as effective in Europe as they were for the entire nine months of the Premier League last season? Might referees disapprove of the strong-arm defending that is often employed by centre-backs Wes Morgan and Robert Huth? Or will Ranieri return to his old tinkering ways, and mess with a previously successful formula? It is certain that their three opponents have real physical tests to pass in playing them.

Pep Guardiola’s return to Barcelona the highlight of Group C

Now that the Champions League draw has been completed, here’s a preview for Group C. Who do you think will go through?

Predicted finish

  1. Barcelona
    2. Manchester City
    3. Borussia Monchengladbach
    4. Celtic

Barcelona

Last season was a disappointment for Barca, as they became the latest team to fail to retain the Champions League trophy. If anyone looked capable of breaking the hoodoo that has tripped up defending champions since AC Milan in 1990, it was them, but they came up against Atletico Madrid, and were mugged by Diego Simeone’s team in the quarterfinals. The star names remain, aside from Dani Alves, who has joined Juventus. Headline additions of the summer are defender Samuel Umtiti, signed from Lyon, and Villarreal winger Denis Suarez. As ever, Barcelona will look to Lionel Messi to win their sixth European title.

Manchester City

If Pep Guardiola was brought to Manchester to achieve anything, it was to finally establish the club as a European powerhouse. Manuel Pellegrini reached the semifinals last year, yet the meek manner of defeat to Real Madrid suggested a club still struggling in such rarefied air. Not that Guardiola does not have anything to prove. Losing in the semis three years in a row at Bayern Munich represented a failure to meet expectations, having been European champion at Barcelona in 2009 and 2011. City have splashed out over £180 million on new talent for Guardiola to hone and the pressure to deliver is on.

Borussia Monchengladbach

Andre Schubert did a mightily impressive job last season to secure a fourth-place domestic finish, after Lucien Favre had shocked the club by resigning in September, in reaction to a poor start to the season. Schubert couldn’t do much about their European campaign, the whipping boys of a tough group featuring Manchester City and Real Madrid, but they should be in a more secure position this time.

Celtic

Former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is back in the Champions League group stage, as are Celtic, who have been in exile since the 2013-14 season, having suffered failures in the qualifying rounds.This time around was a close-run thing, with Hapoel Be’er Sheva taking Rodgers’ team to the wire, as Celtic escaped Israel with a narrow 5-4 aggregate scoreline. Striker Moussa Dembele was the summer’s flagship signing from Fulham, and all-out attack looks the strategy so far for Rodgers.

Game of the group

Barcelona vs. Manchester City — No questions here. The return of Guardiola to Barcelona’s Camp Nou is undoubtedly the headline event of this group. City’s Abu Dhabi owners were admirers of Barcelona from that 2008-09 season when Guardiola’s team sw

difficult than it should be.John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter@JohnBrewinESPN.

Atletico Madrid out to upset Bayern Munich again in UCL Group D

Now that the Champions League draw has been completed, here’s a preview for Group D. Who do you think will go through?

ept all before them, just as they were setting up their project in east Manchester. Now, after a long wait, they have their man, as he returns to the region of his birth.

X factor

Guardiola — City are on a steep learning curve with Guardiola, with new players coming in and previous mainstays like Joe Hart and Yaya Toure on their way out. At both Bayern and Barcelona, there was a habit of his teams struggling away from home. Might that let in either Monchengladbach or Celtic? Unlikely, but it could make the group stage more

Predicted finish

  1. Atletico Madrid
    2. Bayern Munich
    3. PSV Eindhoven
    4. Rostov

 

Bayern Munich

Bayern have now reached such a point where winning the Bundesliga is the bare minimum expected, and victory in the Champions League is now the primary aim for the Bavarian behemoths. While any debate over whether Pep Guardiola was a success or failure at Bayern, because he didn’t win the Champions League, is surely too binary; the team brass clearly had Europe in mind when they appointed his replacement. Carlo Ancelotti is one of two managers (along with Bob Paisley) to win the tournament three times, but if he manages what his predecessor couldn’t, then he’ll be the first to win it with three different clubs. And all in the Champions League era too.

Atletico Madrid

Usually you might expect Atletico Madrid to be upset at being drawn with Bayern, but Diego Simeone seems like a manager who likes things to be difficult. He has managed to crack the great Spanish duopoly and nearly won a remarkable second Liga title last season, as well as coming within a penalty shootout of victory in this tournament, which would have been even more extraordinary. This summer they have managed to avoid selling their best players, and in Antoine Griezmann they have a forward who looks like he’s about to make the step up to the “Ronaldo-Messi-Suarez-Bale” level of quality. Even with just about the toughest draw they could have been given, don’t bet against them.

PSV Eindhoven

Eredivisie winners by virtue of Ajax fluffing their lines on the last day of the season, to make it two consecutive championships. Coach Phillip Cocu is developing a fine reputation, with May’s triumph achieved having sold previous stars Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum. A predominantly Dutch group of players will aim to match or better last season, when they lost on penalties in the round of 16 to eventual finalists Atletico, having eliminated Manchester United in the group stage.

Rostov

On Wednesday, they positively humiliated four-time winners Ajax with a 4-1 final qualifying round second-leg thrashing. A club with no permanent manager — Dmitri Kirichenko is the current caretaker — enjoyed the most glorious night in their history on the Don River delta. Kurban Berdyev, who guided Rostov to a highest ever league position of second last season, quit on Aug. 6.

Game of the group

Atletico vs. Bayern. The all-conquering Bavarians will expect to clean up, and probably should do given their resources, but Atleti have made embarrassing teams like that their business in recent years. Don’t be surprised if Simeone’s men top the group by beating Bayern.

X Factor

Kingsley Coman. Bayern have an incredible range of options in the attacking third, to the point that some of the most decorated and talented players in the world cannot consider themselves automatic selections for the first team. But Coman, still just 20, looks like something else, and could well take another step forward this season.

Harry Kane can inspire Spurs in Champions League Group E

Now that the Champions League draw has been completed, here’s a preview for Group E. Who do you think will go through?

Predicted finish

  1. Tottenham
    Bayer Leverkusen
    3. Monaco
    4. CSKA Moscow

Tottenham

Back in the competition after a break of five seasons, and automatic qualifiers having finished third in last season’s Premier League, Mauricio Pochettino’s young team has the potential to cause a few ripples among the continent’s established forces.

Striker Harry Kane is the leading man, and will attempt to put his own and England’s troubles at Euro 2016 behind him. Spurs, on their day, can swarm all over their opponents, a little like Borussia Dortmund under Jurgen Klopp and also like Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. However, a small squad may find itself stretched by trying to meet the tough discipline of playing midweek in the Champions League and then at weekends in the Premier League.

Bayer Leverkusen

The “best of the rest” in the Bundesliga behind the big two of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen have been one of the most consistent sides in Germany in recent years. The last time they finished lower than fifth was 2009, but despite being regular qualifiers from the Champions League group stage, they haven’t gone beyond the round of 16 since reaching the final against Real Madrid in 2002. Javier Hernandez missed the start of the season after breaking his hand falling down some stairs, so hopefully their luck will improve

Monaco

Beyond all-conquering Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco look the second-best team in France and once again feature Colombian striker Radamel Falcao in their lineup, after two seasons of anonymous misadventure with Manchester United and Chelsea. Coach Leonardo Jardim is a canny campaigner, and the Stade Louis II Stadium is a tricky away trip for any opposition.

CSKA Moscow

Leonid Slutsky has won the Russian title in three out of the past four seasons but struggled in charge of Russia at Euro 2016, failing to get out of the group stage. Slutsky’s side haven’t managed to reach the knockout round in the past three Champions League campaigns and will have to do without last season’s top scorer Ahmed Musa, sold to Leicester, although Alan Dzagoev and Aleksandr Golovin will be key in midfield.

Game of the group

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Tottenham — This is not a group granted much in the way of glamour ties, though it looks as if it could be quite even between all four teams. However, a battle of the third-best teams from the Bundesliga and the Premier League last season, with highly regarded coaches in Roger Schmidt and Pochettino taking each other on, may serve as an indicator of the respective strength of each country’s league.

X factor

Wembley — Spurs will be playing their home matches at Wembley this season, as White Hart Lane is being renovated, and the change in atmosphere that brings could be a factor. Five years ago, while Gareth Bale tormented Inter Milan, the Lane rocked. When neighbours and rivals Arsenal tried to use Wembley in the late 1990s in this competition, they twice failed to get past the knockout rounds.John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC.

 Group F: Real Madrid go in search of historic Champions League triumph

Now that the Champions League draw has been completed, here’s a preview for Group F. Who do you think will go through?

Predicted finish

  1. Real Madrid
    2. Borussia Dortmund
    3. Sporting Lisbon
    4. Legia Warsaw

Real Madrid

The defending champions and colossus that always sits astride the Champions League, Real will be gunning for their 12th success in the competition, and to be the first team to retain the trophy since the switch in format in 1992. They’ve been unusually quiet in the transfer market this summer, but that may well be because they already have a pretty stacked squad: Alvaro Morata might make a few more starts up front, but this will largely be the side that Zinedine Zidane guided to success last season. A ticklish draw will at least keep them honest in the group stage, but this is less a football club more a Champions League-winning machine, and success for the second year in a row might be their greatest achievement.

Borussia Dortmund

Another summer, another departure of a key player to a big rival. Mats Hummels was the latest to defect to Bayern Munich, but while they might therefore be concerned about their defence, their forward line looks pretty decent. Marco Reus is joined by Mario Gotze and Andre Schurrle, playing behind Pierre Emerick Aubameyang with the hugely promising Ousmane Dembele waiting in the wings. As curious as it sounds, they probably have a better chance of winning Champions League than they do their domestic competition. At home they face an immovable object in Bayern, who will almost certainly prevail during a long season, but in Europe most things are possible.

Sporting Lisbon

Without domestic success in 14 years, even after poaching Jorge Jesus from Benfica, they haven’t had too much luck in Europe either, since making the semifinals of the Europa League in 2012. Sporting have gathered a squad featuring several Premier League outcasts, including Alberto Aquilani, Bryan Ruiz, Sebastian Coates and Joel Campbell.

Legia Warsaw

Poland’s champions were pushed all the way by Ireland’s Dundalk in the final qualifying round on Tuesday. Down to 10 men, a late goal from Michal Kucharczyk in Warsaw made it secure at 3-1 and eventually returned Legia to the Champions League group stage for the first time since the 1995-96 season. This looks a very high step for them to make.

Game of the group

Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid — In the wider scheme of things this match might not actually matter too much, as they should both qualify. But this is why we watch the Champions League, two of the finest teams in Europe slugging it out, and the atmosphere at either ground should be sensational.

X factor

Gareth Bale — Whether Cristiano Ronaldo really is on the wane is open to debate, but if he does slip at all this season then at least Real Madrid have someone already in their ranks to step forward. After such an exhilarating summer with Wales at Euro 2016, Bale has returned to Spain looking sharp and dangerous. This could be his year.

Can Leicester’s title-winning tactics survive UCL Group G challenge?

Now that the Champions League draw has been completed, here’s a preview for Group G. Who do you think will go through?

Predicted finish

  1. Porto
    2. Leicester City
    3. Copenhagen
    4.Brugge

Bottom of Form

Leicester City

Can the romance and storytelling of last season’s amazing Premier League title win be sustained in the club’s first ever venture into this competition? Manager Claudio Ranieri, who took Chelsea to the 2004 semifinals, has held onto his stars of last season, aside from N’Golo Kante, who departed for Stamford Bridge. Flying forwards Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez remain, and Leicester’s style of play — which eschews long periods of possession to hit opponents on the break, after defending deep and in numbers — might just cause as much trouble for continental opposition as it did last season in England.

Porto

Porto are inn the middle of what is for them a terrible title drought, having not won the Primeira Liga in the last three seasons; the last time they went longer than that without a domestic championship was in the early-1980s. They have a new manager in former Valencia boss Nuno, but their Champions League prospects might depend on keeping hold of key players like Yacine Brahimi.

Club Brugge

Brugge were runaway Belgian champions last season, winning both the regular season and championship playoffs that take place in the Jupiler Pro League, and are coached by goalkeeping legend Michel Preud’homme. Young defender Bjorn Engels looks to be the latest off Belgium’s production line of talent and refused the chance to join Arsenal in the summer.

FC Copenhagen

Overcoming what was looking like a hex for Danish teams against APOEL Nicosia (it was fourth time lucky in the qualifying rounds), FC Copenhagen made it into the Champions League proper by beating the Cypriots with a late Federico Santander goal. Stale Solbakken remains in charge, and they’ll be looking to repeat the 2010-11 competition when they surprisingly qualified from the group, thanks partly to a draw with Barcelona.

Game of the group: Porto vs. Leicester

Foxes fans did not quite get the glamorous trips to the likes of Paris, Munich or Barcelona they might have liked, but a trip to Europe’s Atlantic coast is not to be sniffed at. Porto, a club with ever-changing personnel, due to their policy on cashing in on talent to survive, have proved themselves tricky, canny opposition down the Champions League years. Escape from there with a point, then Ranieri’s team may be set up for further adventures.

X Factor

Can Leicester be as effective in Europe as they were for the entire nine months of the Premier League last season? Might referees disapprove of the strong-arm defending that is often employed by centre-backs Wes Morgan and Robert Huth? Or will Ranieri return to his old tinkering ways, and mess with a previously successful formula? It is certain that their three opponents have real physical tests to pass in playing them. John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC.

 Group H: Juventus plot Champions League glory with Higuain and Pjanic

Now that the Champions League draw has been completed, here’s a preview for Group H. Who do you think will go through?

Predicted finish

  1. Juventus
    2. Lyon
    3. Sevilla
    4. Dinamo Zagreb

Juventus

Overwhelming favourites in Serie A, the Champions League is surely Juve’s main priority this season. The purchase of Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic could well have simply looked like bullying their only real domestic rivals, but it also sees them armed with a formidable squad to take a shot at the biggest prize, one they haven’t won since 1996. Two decades is a yawning chasm of time for club of their size to go without success in Europe, even considering the few years when their role in the Calciopoli scandal put them out of continental action. Coach Massimiliano Allegri proved the doubters wrong at home, but the real test for him is now in the Champions League.

Lyon

There are signs of revival in a club that seemed a permanent fixture in the knockout rounds of this competition a decade ago or so. Last season, they finished second in Ligue 1, just as they had the previous campaign, and though that was 31 points behind Paris Saint-Germain, coach Bruno Genesio had taken over from Hubert Fournier in December to rescue the campaign. Whether striker Alexandre Lacazette will be available to Genesio or sold before the transfer window closes is a leading question against them.

Sevilla

It has been all change in southern Spain, as the heart of a team that won three Europa League titles in a row was finally ripped out. Crucially, coach Unai Emery has gone to Paris Saint-Germain and the loss of Ever Banega, Coke, Kevin Gameiro and Grzegorz Krychowiak would be felt by any team. Jorge Sampaoli is in charge now, with Brazilian Ganso perhaps their headline signing. Another drop down to play in the competition they pretty much own may again be in order.

Dinamo Zagreb

After squeezing through their playoff with an extra-time win over Red Bull Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb might just be happy to be in the Champions League this season. Manager Zlatko Kranjcar is back at the club for his third spell as manager (his fourth in total and he also played for them for six years), after a short spell in Qatar. Dinamo is the seventh club he’s managed since leaving the national team job in 2006.

Game of the group

Sevilla vs. Lyon — The winners of Group H should be relatively obvious, so attention turns to who joins Juventus in the next phase. Sevilla of course have European pedigree, but Lyon are a little more stable, and the two fixtures between these two clubs could go a long way to determining who qualifies.

X Factor

Jorge Sampaoli — Sevilla seem to be one of those clubs that barely needs a head coach because they’re so well organised. They’re certainly one of the best equipped to deal with upheaval, but Sampaoli is something of a wild card. Whether they progress in this tournament or drop back into the comfort zone of the Europa League may well depend on how their new man slots in.

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