By. Mauricio Ponce
The Uefa Champions League is back and with it comes all of the drama, joy, and heartbreak that we love to watch. Group B is chock-full of big European clubs, with Liverpool, A.C. Milan, FC Porto, and Atletico de Madrid all looking to stake their claim for the prestigious trophy. 15 Champions League trophies are split between 3 clubs in this group, with A.C. Milan winning 7 (2nd most all-time, behind Real Madrid), Liverpool with 6, and FC Porto with 2. Group B has European footballing royalty, and is arguably the toughest group in this year's CL, bar group C. All teams in this group have a rich history, good managers, and even better squads. There are many interesting matchups as well, with Milan and Liverpool having previously met just 2 times in this competition, both in the final. We have been given a delectable medley of footballing splendour to enjoy, so let's preview Group B.
Liverpool will look to continue their love affair with the European cup, the most decorated English club in the competition. Jurgen Klopp and his reds will be looking to improve on last season's finish, losing to Real Madrid 3-1 on aggregate in the quarter final. Liverpool will be given no reprieve however, with a squad lacking depth and a particularly tough group, Liverpool have a rough road towards the R16. After last season’s injury ravaged campaign, Liverpool will be in good spirits with their first team fully fit, minus forward Roberto Firmino, who picked up a knock during Liverpool’s entertaining 1-1 draw with Chelsea. Key Players like Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, and Jordan Henderson all are healthy and ready to bring the Champions League back to Merseyside. Liverpool will welcome A.C. Milan to Anfield in the first game of the group, and will be looking to get all 3 crucial points against Stefano Pioli’s men, who are in good form, winning their first 2 games in Serie A.
After an 8 year absence from the competition, Milan make their triumphant return to the Champions League. A club of Milan’s stature would be a shoe-in for regular Champions League football, but years of underperforming in the Serie A and bad management led Milan into relative obscurity. Under the management of Stefano Pioli however, A.C. look hungry again and after a good season in Italy, the Rossoneri will look to ruffle some feathers this campaign. Despite the loss of Gianluigi Donnoruma to Paris on a free, Milan quickly replaced him with French Keeper Mike Maignan, a solid replacement after losing one of the hottest prospects in world football. Pioli will look for goals from 2 veteran strikers, Oliver Giroud and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who are 34 and 39 years old, but still offer plenty of goals and assists when fit. Milan will travel to Anfield for their first group game and will hope to rewrite the headlines and silence the critics.
Atletico de Madrid
Los Colchoneros will be favouring their chances this year with Simeone and his boys coming off a fruitful winning season in La Liga. Simeone will be wondering when his time will come to lift the famous trophy, losing in 2 finals (both against cross-town rivals Real). After losing to eventual champions Chelsea in the R16 last year, this could be his best chance yet, this time around he's got a seasoned squad with good depth and world-class players in each position. Despite Simeone’s approach and tactics (some may consider their play-style boring), Atleti has improved majorly in their attack, adding French forward Antoine Griezmann, Matheus Cunha, and Rodrigo De Paul to their ranks, with Luis Suarez and Joao Felix already at the club, their attacking options are fearsome and can cause havoc. Atletico has bolstered their side and are refusing to becomplacent after winning the league, a good sign for Los Colchoneros.
Some people may think that Porto are not gonna finish in the top 2 but Sergio Conceição and his dragons will be up for the fight. Porto are a side mixed with youth and experience. Pepe is still the club's captain and has played in many Champions League fixtures, most notably with Real. They have great attacking depth and have a solid midfield to help dictate play. Luis Diaz and Jesus Corona add a threat on both wings, cutting inside and creating chances or shooting at goal. Porto under Conceição have developed a very physical play style, with quality in possession and counter attacks. One great example was their R16 win vs Juventus in last year's Champions League. They made it a scrappy affair, and in the second leg had to play with a man down and still won. Porto were knocked out by Eventual Champions Chelsea, so they have to want to do better this year and play with that same grit and determination. When Porto are playing well, they are an annoying team to play.