Champions League Preview: Group E
“Football is a simple game, 22 men chase the ball for 82 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”
That was Gary Lineker’s take on the German national side’s success, however Bavarian giants Bayern Munich are no stranger to Champions League glory themselves, as they battle it out with AEK Athens, Ajax and Benfica in Champions League Group D. Grant Barnes previews.
In all honesty, this group looks won before a ball has been kicked. Bayern Munich’s star studded line up should prove too much for their opponents and make them clear favourites to progress to the round of 16.
It will be Niko Kovac’s first pop at the Champions League with Bayern Munich, and with the Bundesliga becoming a near formality, the real measure of Kovac’s success this year will be judged on how they do in the Champions League.
Bayern have tasted European Cup glory a grand total of 5 times, and as always they will be up there with the favourites to win the whole thing. Barring a potential banana slip against Benfica at home in their first game, Bayern should see this group out comfortably.
Benfica will be the favourites to secure 2nd spot in Group D. After seeing past Fenerbache and PAOK in the qualifying rounds, Benfica will be looking to carry their promising domestic start to the season into the Champions League.
Benfica will look to players like exciting winger Eduardo Salvio to create the moments of magic they will need to get past particularly tricky ties, starting with Bayern at the Allianz. Striker Haris Seferovic seems a good acquisition from Eintracht Frankfurt, and if Rui Vitória can get all his players firing on all cylinders, then Portugal’s most successful team could etch an exciting chapter in their rich history.
For the last few years Ajax have been one of Europe’s premier young teams to watch. A trip to the 2017 Europa League final provided some much needed experience for a talented, yet inexperienced side, and after finishing 2nd in last year’s Eredivisie, de Godenzonen’s young core will be looking to make their mark on the European stage again, and will be hoping for at least a Europa League spot which would be secured with a 3rd place finish.
There is a welcome return for veteran striker Klass-Jan Huntelaar, however he will need all the support he can get from youngsters such as Matthijs de Ligt and David Neres if Ajax are to have true Champions League ambitions.
AEK Athens will be no stranger to Scottish football fans this season, after dumping out Celtic in the Qualifying rounds of the tournament. So, in true Jim Bowen spirit, “here’s what you could have won.”
Athens dispatched of two champions in their route to the group stages, after overcoming Celtic and Hungarian champions MOL Vidi respectively. Whilst coming into the group as outsiders, Athens avoid Bayern Munich until the 3rd gameweek, so if they can get a few points on the board ahead of their Bayern double header, they may find themselves with an outside shout of sneaking into the round of 16, however this will be a tall ask for Marinos Ouzounidis and his squad.