When looking at the Champions' League group stage draw, it seems that every year there is one group that stands above the rest, and this is no exception this season. This year, that ‘one’ batch of teams is group A. Considering two of the last semifinalists in the 2020 Champions League we’re Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, it is no stretch to say that the Winners of the Champions League could come out of this group. With that being said, let’s learn a bit more about the teams in Group A.
After City’s remarkable run to win the Premier League, it seemed that they were destined to win the Champions League. However, after an impressive aggregate 4-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain, City would fall short in the final losing 1-0 to Thomas Tuchel’s revamped Chelsea squad.
Since their Champions League final in May, City has added talented English Winger Jack Grealish for a transfer fee of 100 million pounds ($139 Million) from Aston Villa. It may be too early to tell, but outside of Grealish, Guardiola’s starting eleven will be virtually the same as it was last season.
One of the biggest storylines to watch in this group is that of Pep Guardiola. The Manchester City manager has a decorated track record but has not delivered recently in the Champions' League. Since 2011, Guardiola has failed to win the champions league despite five semi-finals appearances and one finals appearance.
If Manchester City fails to deliver this season, it will not be because of the players, but once again will be due to manager decisions on player selection, tactics and play style. In City’s biggest games, their toughest opponent has been Guardiola’s tendency to overthink.
Along with Manchester City, expectations for PSG are also extremely high. For starters, they had an extremely impressive transfer window that saw them bring in Achraf Hakimi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos, and Lionel Messi. All of which, outside of Hakimi, came to PSG on free transfers.
With a front attacking three of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and now Lionel Messi, PSG will have one of the most potent attacks in Champions' League. This strong attack will fit well with manager Maurice Pochettino’s high pressing, attacking style and should be a joy to watch.
The only question around this PSG squad is if they can win when it matters. While they have had a traditionally strong team in the past few years, they have failed to win in crunch time as they failed to even win the French Ligue 1 last season, finishing one point behind Champions, Lille.
This may be the last hurrah from a key player though, as star striker Kylian Mbappe is set to leave for Real Madrid on a free transfer this upcoming summer so this could be one of PSG’s last pushes with this core squad.
Red Bull Leipzig
Leipzig is undoubtedly going to be an interesting team to watch in this group. After a second place in the Bundesliga, the club is in a transitional period. They have hired a new manager, Jesse Marsch, and have lost some key pieces in an effort to build a young core. In fact, everyone that Leipzig signed in the transfer window is 25 years old or younger with the average age of new arrivals being at 19.2 years old.
However, with this transitional period comes some tough losses for the Red Bulls. The departure of the 2 French center backs Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konate, and central midfielder Marcel Sabitzer will most definitely make an impact on Leipzig in both the Bundesliga and Champions League.
While Leipzig will be a fun team to watch, they are not really in a position to make it outside of the group stages in the competition. With that said, Leipzig is still a great team that has no pressure to win, which could be the fuel that Jesse Marsch and his new squad need for the push for an upset against PSG and Manchester City.
In the final spot in group A, is Belgian club, Club Brugge. The Belgian side has never made it past the group stages of the Champions' League but have gotten off to a strong start in 2021/22 losing just one of their first seven games in the Belgian Pro League.
The Belgian side is managed by former player, Philippe Clement, who has had an impressive career at Club Brugge going 61-26-19 in his first 106 games with the club. In this time, he has won two consecutive Belgian Pro League titles.
While expectations are low for Brugge, they have caused problems for teams in past European competitions and lost just one player from their championship team last season. Just last season, Brugge was able to beat Lazio and FC Zenit but finished two points short of advancing.