The UEFA Champions League group stages are among us and that means the greatest teams in Europe are about to battle it out week in and week out. A group that should stand out in the upcoming weeks is Group E. German champions Bayern Munich, Spanish giants FC Barcelona, Portuguese dark horses S.L. Benfica and Ukrainian Champions Dynamo Kyiv are set to fight for their knockout place. Continuing our coverage of this year's UCL run, we’ve detailed all the most notable facts and statistics you need to know before watching...
Currently 9-time champions of the German Bundesliga, Bayern Munich are back to prove themselves as one of Europe’s best clubs. The tied favourite in the group, Bayern has dominated the football scene this past decade and has collected two UCL’s in the process. The most recent being the 2019/2020 season where they managed to have an undefeated run and be victorious over PSG in the final with a 1-0 victory from a Kingsley Coman header. Last season was rough for the Bavarians after getting knocked out on away goals from PSG (ironically) as they didn’t have many key players due to injury. This season, however, Bayern we’re a little quiet during the transfer window signing only 2 big names, French center back Dayot Upamecano and Austrian midfielder Marcel Sabitzer. In a squad filled with pace, strength, accuracy and great finishing ability up top it only makes sense to further increase their depth. If they can stay fit this season, new coach Julian Nagelsmann will look to take Bayern to the very top with their counter-attacking ability mixed with their traditional controlling play. Lots of exciting matchups to come and a well-suited rematch for Barcelona after their last meeting ended in 8-2 in favour of the Bavarians, overall it'll be close but I still see Bayern finishing on top of the group.
You could say this Barcelona team is a brand new setup, a new era if you will. In one of the most talked-about sporting transfers this year, Lionel Messi will no longer be a part of the Catalonian club. The Spanish giants have been a little wobbly the last few seasons, having key players leave and bringing in transfers that just haven’t shown any promise. That being said, in this 2021/2022 season, Barca has a whole new arsenal in their attack with players such as Memphis Depay, Sergio Aguero, and Luuk De Jong joining the club this summer. Although they are missing their star Argentinian along with Frenchman Antoine Griezmann, this could be a good change for once. That change will allow Barca to rely on their excellent youth stars that have filled many concrete positions over the years, Ansu Fati, Pedri and Oscar Mingueza are those to look out for. Overall, Barcelona has a lot of young talents they will rely on for this UCL Campaign and still have that dominating quality that they’ve had in years past. A rebuild is just beginning and with the stars they have, Barcelona looks to be a favourite for topping this group with Bayern and potentially can go even further.
Frenkie De Jong
The Portuguese Eagles are back in the champions league this season and have a pretty decent squad with all things considered. Coming in third last season in the Liga Nos and getting knocked out in the Europa League in the round of 32 against Arsenal, Benfica are coming in this season with a lot to prove. Mainly playing the 3-4-3 or 4-4-2 formation, Benfica relies on the pace of their wingers such as Rafa Silva, Soares Everton, and ex-Barcelona academy wingback Alejandro Grimaldo, a tactic that could prove helpful against Bayern’s right side as the Bavarians will most likely play a more possession-based game. As for summer business, Benfica has had quite a busy window, losing their clinical German finisher Luca Waldschmidt but replacing him with KAA Gent’s Roman Yaremchuk who netted 23 times in 43 games in all competitions for the Belgian club last season. Other new signings Soualiho Meite, Gil Dias, Valentina Lazaro and Joao Mario are all excellent inclusions that should prove important for their UCL campaign. With some veteran players and young talents, this Benfica squad shouldn’t be ignored, although no superstars such as those in Bayern and Barcelona, Benfica still have pretty decent quality all around the pitch all things considered. Most likely the Eagles will make that third-place spot but it is the Champions League after all.
Currently placed first in the Ukrainian Premier League and last year's title-winning squad, Dynamo Kyiv are the fourth team to be included within Group E. Compared to the other three squads in the group, there, unfortunately, isn’t much to compare in the sense of quality and potential for going further into the knockouts. That being said, we’ve seen in previous years clubs that have been overlooked and produced some pretty great results. Dynamo Kyiv brings raw pace and good control with their game, having their key number 10, Vitaliy Buyalskiy picking up whatever is thrown at him in the box. They have plenty of great attacking options such as Ukrainian talent Viktor Tsygankov, new signing Venezuelan Eric Ramirez, Brazilian winger Vitnho, as well as Serbian forward Benjamin Verbic who has also been a great inclusion in the squad the last few seasons. Kyiv also has plenty of Ukrainian national squad members who played great in the Euro’s this past summer, young defenders Vitaliy Mykolenko and Illya Zabarnyi looked lively and are only getting better with age. Overall, the squad has plenty of depth and potential to do a job against the other clubs in the group but realistically, the lack of experienced UCL players and real firepower will be the issue going forward, I see them finishing at the bottom.