UEFA change the rules to guarantee four Champions League Group Stage passes to Europe’s top four leagues. Champions League draw sees Pep Guardiola reunited with his old club Barcelona.
UEFA has granted four of Europe’s elite leagues four guaranteed places in the UEFA Champions League Group Stages starting 2018-19.
The new regime will see the Top 4 teams from Spain, England, Germany, and Italy qualify for the group stages automatically. Currently, only the Top 3 teams from Spain, England and Germany gain an automatic qualification, with the fourth placed team qualifying for the play-off round. The Italians have two guaranteed spots, with the third place team also qualifying for the two-legged play-off. The new system will also see the winners of the Europa League gain immediate qualification to the Champions League Group Stages.
The draw for the 2016-17 Champions League groups created some compelling stories the pick of which is a return to his old club Barcelona for Pep Guardiola. Visits to the German side with the longest name in world football and the Scottish champions Celtic make Group C one of the toughest.
Reigning champions Real Madrid will face a strong Dortmund side, and last year’s runner-up Atletico Madrid have a tough group facing the German champions Bayern Munich and Dutch outfit PSV Eindhoven. Last year’s fairytale side Leicester City had a much kinder draw. Claudio Ranieri’s men have an excellent chance of making it to the knockout stages after being pooled with Porto, Club Brugge, and Kobenhavn.
UEFA Champions League Winners Odds (Courtesy of Bodog)
Bayern Munich +400
Real Madrid +500
Manchester City +1200
Champions League Draw in Full
Paris St Germain
Manchester United Are Favourites For Europa League Title But Does Anyone Care?
West Ham lost against Romanian minnows Astra Giurgiu in their two-legged Europa League qualifying round, this week, and that sums up my feelings about a competition that none of the big clubs takes seriously, and is nothing but a banana squeezed into a tail pipe.
Under the tutelage of Slaven Bilic, the Hammers recorded their highest Premier League placing of seventh, unearthed world class talent in Dimitri Payet, and secured European football at their new London Stadium.
The fans got to see one game.
Bilic and the players will say they care. They will sit in front of the press, talk about the importance of qualifying for the Europa League places, and how distressed they are at failing to beat a team of nobodies from Romania.
But secretly, they don’t care.
None of the bigger teams does.
It’s nothing but a distraction.
Europa League success is one pie chart missing from the KPI’s of the Board of Directors of all of the big clubs around Europe.
But we are where we are. The qualifying rounds are over, and the draw for the group stages has ended. There are 12 groups in total, and the English Premier League (EPL) has two teams in the mix.
Manchester United is the favourite to win the competition at +600. As with West Ham, I don’t think Jose Mourinho will care about this trophy. It will be a contest where the reserves will get the chance to show the Special One what they can do, with the stars stepping in should they advance. United face tough trips to Turkey (Fenerbahce), Holland (Feyenoord), and a headache of a trip to the Ukraine to face minnows Zorya Luhansk.
Southampton has a much tougher group where they will face the Italian giants Inter, Sparta Prague, and Hapoel Beer-Sheva. The Bodog sportsbook believes the Saints are a +3300 prospect for the title. Inter are third favourites at +1400.
The second favourites are Roma with Bodog offering odds of +900. The Italian’s have a relatively easy route to the qualifying stages after being drawn against Viktoria Plzen, Austria Vienna and Astra.
UEFA Europa League Winners Odds (Courtesy of Bodog)
Manchester United +600
Inter Milan +1400
AFC Fiorentia +1600
Athletic Bilbao +1600
Europa League Draw in Full
Maccabi Tel Aviv