Every German club’s European group ranked from easiest to hardest
The 2018/2019 Champions League and Europa League groups are set, and for many German clubs, these are tournaments they aim to do well in. Germany has underperformed in both competitions as of late; only four German clubs have played in finals of either tournament in the 21st century, none of which later than 2013. But, there is a good chance this could change this season.
With seven teams representing Deutschland this time around, I decided to rank every German club’s 2018/2019 European group from easiest to hardest. Several things were taken into consideration, including the quality of the German club in question, the calibre of their group opponents, and the assumed difficulty they’ll find in finishing in a top two spot.
Some of these choices are obvious, and some are controversial. How difficult is your favourite German club’s group?
7. UCL Group E (BAYERN MUNICH, Benfica, Ajax, AEK Athens)
Group E has one clear winner, and it’s Bayern Munich. There’s no way around it. Benfica and Ajax will provide some adequate competition, but Bayern Munich just has too much quality to not walk through this group. Der FCB have won the last six Bundesliga titles and were Champions League semi-finalists in six of the last seven seasons. They were also finalists in 2010, 2012, and 2013. Bayern Munich is a heavy Champions League favourite, and with no other team of their standard in Group E (no offence to Benfica, Ajax, and AEK Athens), Bayern Munich have the easiest group among German teams.
6. UEL Group A (BAYER LEVERKUSEN, AEK Larnaca, FC Zurich, Ludogorets)
Looking at some of the other opponents that were available from pots two, three and four, Bayer Leverkusen should consider themselves lucky with who they were drawn with. Although AEK Larnaca, FC Zurich, and Ludogorets can all cause some scares, it’s hard to envision Bayer Leverkusen missing out on a top two spot. Much of their core is still there, and with new additions such as Lukas Hradecky and Paulinho, this should be a group Bayer Leverkusen qualifies from.
5. UEL Group B (Celtic, RB LEIPZIG, Rosenborg, Red Bull Salzburg)
RB Leipzig will face some challenging tests in Group B. A game against Red Bull Salzburg, particularly in Austria, is one of the most intimidating matches a team could participate in, while Celtic, although prone to heavy defeats when outclassed, have slain even the staunchest of European opposition before. But still, this shouldn’t be too difficult of a group for Die Roten Bullen. They showed in their Champions League debut last season that they’re an annoying side to break down, and expectations are that they’ll finish in Group B’s top two regardless of their opponents’ class.
4. UCL Group D (Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto, SCHALKE 04, Galatasaray)
Arguably the most evenly distributed group in the 2018/2019 Champions League, there’s no guarantee that Schalke will qualify from Group D. All three of their opponents will fancy their chances, so Die Königsblauen will need to get their hands dirty if they want to finish in a top two spot. Head coach Domenico Tedesco showed last season that he can work wonders with this Schalke side, and the club did qualify to the Round of 16 the last time they participated in the Champions League. It won’t be an easy ride though, as Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto, and Galatasaray will all have a competitive mindset going into matchday one.
3. UEL Group H (Apollon Limassol, Olympique Marseille, EINTRACHT FRANKFURT, Lazio)
It’s tough to envision Eintracht Frankfurt having much of a shot at qualifying from Group H. Olympique Marseille were finalists in last season’s Europa League, and have played in the competition’s finale three times; twice in the 21st Century. They also found success continentally through the 1993 Champions League and the 2005 Intertoto Cup. Lazio come into the group boasting some of the best talents in Italian club football, including Thomas Strakosha, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and Ciro Immobile. They were also quarter-finalists in last season’s Europa League. Considering Eintracht Frankfurt’s losses in the off-season too, most notably those of goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky and head coach Niko Kovac, this looks to be an uphill battle for Die Adler.
2. UCL Group A (Atletico Madrid, BORUSSIA DORTMUND, AS Monaco, Club Brugge)
With the reigning Europa League champions and an energetic AS Monaco side as their group mates, it’s questionable whether Borussia Dortmund’s exhilarating core can qualify from Group A. Atletico Madrid have made a name for themselves as European contenders. They’ve won three Europa League titles in the past decade, and they were Champions League finalists in 2014 and 2016. AS Monaco, although inexperienced, are capable of pulling off surprises, and captain Radamel Falcao is known for making continental competitions his playground. Club Brugge can always steal a point too. Group A will be a considerable challenge for Lucien Favre’s unpredictable side.
1. UCL Group F (Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk, Olympique Lyon, HOFFENHEIM)
The Champions League draw couldn’t have gone any worse for Hoffenheim. Not only were they drawn with Shakhtar Donetsk and Olympique Lyon; two sides that can cause a team of Hoffenheim’s quality some problems. But they were also placed alongside Pep Guardiola’s Premier League-winning Manchester City. Group F is one where every mistake will be punished and every point will be warred over. There’s no room for error here, and although Julian Nagelsmann has revolutionized Die Kraichgauer’s football during his tenure, the club is greatly inexperienced in the Champions League. This is the first time Hoffenheim participates in the Champions League group stage, and they’re coming up against opponents who are regulars in European competitions. It’s certainly not impossible for Hoffenheim to finish in a top two spot, but Julian Nagelsmann’s side have more than their fair share of work cut out for them.