Champions League Preview: Group H
Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford once again, a Belgian striker with a bat persona joins a side with a bat within its crest and a squad of young lads are going to be kept up past their bed time. It’s Group H of course and David Ronney is here to preview the action for you.
Undoubtedly the biggest signing of the summer, Cristiano Ronaldo’s switch from the Bernabeu to the Allianz Stadium. At the age of 33 years old, it surprised many, myself included, that he would make a move to such a big club at such a late stage in his career. That said, the infamous number seven hasn’t showed any signs of slowing down. It’s not like he scored 54 goals in 54 matches last season.
The five-time Ballon D’or winner has won the Champions League on four occasions, three of which in the last four years. He’s also the top scorer in the history of the Champions League (120 goals). So, it’s hard to argue against not only the possibility of Juventus winning this group, but going onto win the competition itself.
Juventus themselves have reached two Champions League finals since 2015, losing on both occasions to each of the El Classico sides. And last season, the Italian side saw themselves on the receiving end of the Portuguese striker’s spectacular overhead kick in the quarter-finals. They’ll be hoping this campaign, he delivers similar efforts but this time at the other end of the park.
You would think a side who finished second in their league campaign last season and reached a cup final would somewhat have a positive atmosphere around the club. However, for whatever reason, there’s this tension around the red side in Manchester at the moment. Despite being backed with a new contract in January, Jose Mourinho wasn’t backed with an experienced defender in the summer, has outbursts upon the media every other week and some supporters begin to worry about the ‘third season curse’ that’s haunted the Portuguese boss in recent managerial tenures.
A poor preseason followed by a poor league start which included a 3-0 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur was a tough pill to swallow for both Jose and the players. Especially considering that United played some good football despite that result. Leading into this European campaign they haven’t exactly been handed the best draws, especially seeing their struggle against Sevilla last campaign in the knockout phases, to face up against a similar Spanish side this year-round.
However, should the David De Gea whom is renowned for his spectacular saves over the years show up and an Alexis Sanchez, who needs to pull his finger out and start playing for the wages he’s on, can reignite his form from his European nights with Arsenal, then United have a good chance of progressing into the last 16 from this group.
The Spanish side are yet to win a match this season in their league campaign which doesn’t exactly bode well when you’re facing off against some of Europe’s best. That said, 27-year-old forward, Rodrigo could be one of the players to look to for goals this European campaign. The Spanish striker found the back of the net on 16 occasions last season and a potential partnership alongside on-loan Chelsea striker, Michy Batshuayi could prove quite the challenge for opponents’ defence.
Personally, I was quite surprised to see Batshuayi be sent out on loan yet again after his stint with Borussia Dortmund in the second half of last season. The Belgian striker scored nine in 14 which isn’t a bad return for a player who has been limited game time in recent years. However, if the 24-year-old is to feature on a regular basis this season, he must perform on a consistent basis and probably avoid repeating that goalpost strike we all saw during the World Cup.
Despite their club name, Young Boys have a squad age of an average of 25-years-old. The Swiss side’s forward line has already managed to gain an abundance of goals this season. The squad’s achieved 18 goals so far this league campaign and could pose a threat going forward.
Honestly, they enter this group quite obviously as the underdogs but with the madness of football and what the summer in Russia taught us, any team can beat anyone on their day. Just a matter of time to see if the Young Boys become men on the biggest stage.