It’s that time of the year again when the best sides in Europe do battle in the toughest competition in football, the UEFA Champions League. Having a slightly later start date due to the COVID pandemic, it has meant that teams are arriving into the competition a bit rustier than usual. This will no doubt give some lesser teams the chance to cause a few upsets and take all the headlines for themselves. Who could be up for a giant-killing run like Lyon did last season when they eliminated giants such as Manchester City and Juventus? Our Champions League predictions look at five outsiders who could prosper in this year’s tournament.
Champions League predictions 2020
Hardly the biggest name in Italian football, Atalanta have proved in recent seasons why they belong with the European elite. A run to the quarter-finals in last season’s campaign showed that the Bergamo-based side have all the players necessary to reach the final rounds despite their late exit to PSG. Atalanta have retained many of their key players over the summer break, with the likes of Alejandro Gomez and Josip Ilicic proving to be one of the trickiest attacking partnerships to handle in Europe. The group draw has been relatively kind with Liverpool looking to be their biggest threats for the top spot in the group. Their fate will no doubt rest on how they handle a closely-matched Ajax side and whether they can overcome Danish champions – the unfancied FC Midtjylland.
The kings of the Europa League, Sevilla had already qualified for the Champions League with a 4th place finish in La Liga before winning a record 6th Europa League title back in August. There’s no doubt that Los Nervionenses will want to translate their success to the top tier of European football and they have a good chance of doing just that.
The addition of Ivan Rakitic to the midfield gives them a real boost in the middle of the park underlining their intentions to mix with the best in town. Sevilla will most likely battle with Chelsea for the top spot in Group F, especially with Rennes and Krasnodar making their first ever appearances in the Champions League group stages. With all their success in the Europa League over the past 15 years – there is surely no better time for Sevilla to have a real shot at glory in the Champions League itself. They simply have to be included in our Champions League predictions with their fantastic record in European football.
Before the pandemic postponed the Bundesliga season, Borussia Monchengladbach were putting Bayern Munich under severe pressure in the title race. The return saw things cool slightly for Gladbach as they settled for 4th place and yet another Champions League spot. They will no doubt be looking to showcase themselves on the biggest stage of all this time around, especially with many of their star players like striker Lars Stindl, Yann Sommer and Alassane Plea all entering the prime of their careers.
It won’t be an easy task for the German side though, with Group B looking like one of the toughest groups to try and escape from. Not only do they have Real Madrid to contend with but there is also a rejuvenated Inter Milan side to overcome as well as an always tricky trip to Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk. Should Gldbach do well enough to qualify from this group, then they know they have all the resources needed to overcome any side in the competition.
Having seemingly come from nowhere, the rise of Istanbul Basaksehir has shaken the status of Turkish football to its very foundations. The smallest of Istanbul’s footballing giants claimed their first Super Lig title last season paving the way for them to enter the Champions League group stages for the very first time. They aren’t short of household names either, with Premier League veterans Nacer Chadli and Demba Ba in their ranks as well as unheralded gems such as Edin Visca and Giuliano looking to prove themselves at the highest level for the first time.
It will be a baptism of fire for the Turkish side though, as they face some of Europe’s best including PSG and Manchester United which will make for some tough matches. RB Leipzig will also be a handful to deal with, meaning that should Basaksehir qualify for the last 16 from Group H, they will be a tough force to overcome no matter who they might face.
The ultimate minnows of this year’s draw, Hungarian side Ferencvaros know that just being in the draw itself marks itself out as a notable achievement. However, the Budapest won’t be appearing just to make up the numbers as they appear in the group stages for the first time since 1995. Whilst their squad may not have many household names, the likes of former Liverpool goalkeeper Adam Bogdan and former Zenit striker Robert Mak will look to lead their team through any hurdles.
Their group draw is a real minefield to navigate with defending champions Bayern Munich, a star-studded Juventus side and a dogged Dynamo Kiev all looming on the horizon. However, if they can turn their new Groupama Stadium into a fortress and pick up points at every possible opportunity, Ferencvaros could be the Cinderella story of this generation.
Andrew Roach has been busy putting together his Champions League and Europa League predictions. To see his picks for the Europa League click here.
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