By: Scoop Staff (Matt Pelosi, John Casale, Sal LoPiccolo, and Jeremy Goldstein)
CURATED BY JEREMY GOLDSTEIN @jsg0425
We polled both staff of the @TheScoop_Sports and fellow community members on their juicy and not-so-juicy Champions League Predictions. We had over 250 survey respondents with a diverse range of takes, and our Scoop writers responded to the results with widely differing opinions.
In addition, there was a prize incentive for anyone who could successfully predict the four Champions League semi finalists. If you would like more content like this, please let us know.
GROUP A: Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, RB Salzburg, Lokomotiv Moscow
100% of participants choose Bayern Munich to advance to the round of 16. Are they the clear-cut favorites in this year’s field?
In my opinion, the round of 16 in the champions league is when teams can really start making their case to be considered legit title contenders. After Bayern thrashed Chelsea in the first leg 3-0 in London, I started to believe nobody in the world could stop them. Bayern refused to take their foot off the gas after the restart and they continued to dominate European football. After they embarrassed Barcelona 8-2 and comfortably dismissed Lyon from the tournament in the semi-final, they went on to beat PSG and take home the trophy. Since then, the German giants have improved through the transfer market and have shown no signs of dropping their near-perfect form they finished with last season. At this point, there is no way you can argue that this team is not the clear-cut favorite to win it again this year but with that being said, it’s still early on in the season and you never know who might be catching form in time for the knockout stages.
You chose Alphonso Davies as your young player to watch. Why?
Alphonso Davies has grown so much in the past few years at left back as his attacking style provides several assists and goals each campaign. His speed allows for him to cover defensively as well and he is a humble player as well. You can always tell which player is truly thankful to be a professional player and does not take it for granted and Davies encompasses this. He will do anything to support the team that gave him the spotlight on the big stage and has been arguably the top player as well.
GROUP B: Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter Milan, Borussia Mönchengladbach
95.4% of participants chose Inter Milan to advance, but some didn’t. Are they a lock to make it out?
Inter Milan is not a lock to make it out of the group stage. Antonio Conte talks too much in the media and complains he needs more reinforcements after having the highest market spending in Italy. He has the third oldest average age team in Italy which means he has decided to rely on experience for short-term success. Lukaku is an excellent striker and Lauturo continues to grow but it seems like midfield and defensive issues still hold this team back. If Inter Milan does not win a trophy this year, Antonio Conte must be sacked! He is the highest-paid coach in Italy at around 12-13 Million while the second highest is on average 3-4 million. Needless to say, Inter’s Chinese management was close to sacking him after the loss in the Europa League final last season.
You chose Martin Odegaard as your young player to watch. Why?
Martin Odegaard, since his debut all the way back in 2015, was the Prince who was promised for Real Madrid. He spent most of the next 3-4 years featured on “Failed Wonderkids -- Where are they now” lists, before finally impressing at Vitesse and even more so at Real Sociedad. Surely if he were available on the open market, his fee would surpass 50 million. With Toni Kroos and Luka Modric aging and Isco constantly underperforming, there will be future openings in the creative part of Madrid’s midfield. Will Odegaard or Marco Asensio fill either of these voids? Performances in this season’s Champions League will help answer those questions.
GROUP C: Porto, Manchester City, Olmpiacos, Marseille
If you were a betting man, do you take the over/under on Manchester City points in this group at 17.5?
I am a betting man and I would be taking the under. Firstly, from a logistical standpoint, if City has 15 points in match-day six, Pep will certainly field a rotated squad, potentially against a team needing points to go through. Secondly, flukes are bound to happen on the road, and Olympiakos and FC Porto are no slouches in particular, as both are their respective league’s reigning champions. Lastly, six wins in six matches in the Champions League is a very difficult feat, and has only been done by seven clubs.
You chose Ferran Torres as your young player to watch. Why?
Manchester City are battling depth issues upfront like they never have before under Pep Guardiola. With Leroy Sane gone and both Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus battling injuries, summer-signing Ferran Torres (20) all of a sudden isn’t one-for-the-future but one who the Catalonian needs right now. The two-footed winger can play on either wing and will be featured heavily in a side where he’ll have ample opportunity to rack up easy goal+assist tallies.
GROUP D: Liverpool, Ajax, Atalanta, Midtjylland
Liverpool are down both Alisson and Virgil Van Dijk. What are the chances of them struggling to make it out of this group?
As much as I would love to see Liverpool fall out of the tournament during the group stage, I think the chances of that happening are slim to none. The group is weak and even without Van Dijk and Alisson, Liverpool should comfortably top the group and move onto the next round. With that being said, without VVD, I do not believe they can reach the level they have been playing for the past three seasons. They will for sure suffer and have a tough time challenging for any titles this year, let alone the Champions League.
You chose Diogo Jota as your young player to watch. Why?
Jeremy - The long-term future of this Liverpool side rests not on Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, or Roberto Firmino (who are all 28), but new Portuguese signing Diogo Jota. The 23-year-old will be given ample time to grow into a world-class forward by 2023/24. If he doesn’t, Liverpool’s current front-three will all be 32 and the squad will face a long rebuild. Is Jota the right man for the job? He was certainly pricey and has mostly racked up goals in Europa League qualifying for Wolverhampton, but a two-goal + one assist showing in the Nations League against Sweden is a good sign.
GROUP E: Sevilla, Chelsea, Krasnodar, Rennes
With Chelsea’s recent defensive wobbles in the league, do you expect them to win Group E?
I do not. Chelsea have already proven an inability to defend at any competitive level. Sevilla are the polar opposite of Chelsea, extremely sturdy at the back, led by budding star Jules Kounde. That stability, as well as a very experienced and diverse midfield of Ivan Rakitic, Joan Jordan, and Fernando should see the reigning Europa League champions atop Group E.
You chose Eduardo Camavinga as your young player to watch. Why?
Eduardo Camavinga won’t turn 18 until November and already has three caps for the deepest international team in the world (France). Even in a COVID-depressed market, Rennes sought €80 million for their all-conquering midfielder. In a 3-0 win versus Saint-Etienne on September 26th, the Frenchman completed 47 of 49 passes, completed six tackles and two interceptions, won 10 of his 14 ground duels, and completed two key passes. He’s the box-to-box player of the future.
GROUP F: Zenit, Borussia Dortmund, Lazio, Club Brugge
Lazio’s league form has been a far cry from last season’s. Why do think//why do you not think they will make it out of this group?
Lazio has struggled keeping players healthy since the ending of the last campaign. The depth on the team is not there and lineups each week continue to change which does not allow for players to remain in form and build chemistry. Immobile has heard a lot of criticism lately from Italian media from his performance with the national team but he will not give up on his team. After the lockdown, Lazio has seemed to have lost the team spirit they built throughout the entire campaign. However, this is a very fair group for Lazio to challenge and make it out compared to some of the others.
How do Borussia Dortmund keep churning out so much young talent?
Gio Reyna has been in scintillating form with five-goal involvements in four games at the green age of 17, and considering the club’s record with other products, there’s reason to believe he’ll develop in the same way. By the time this season is over, will we be ready to call him world-class?
GROUP G: Barcelona, Juventus, Dynamo Kiev, Ferencváros
Which team will go deeper in the Champions League: Barcelona or Juventus?
For my money, I’m not taking either to make the semifinals. I’ll take Barcelona for the sheer fact that Juventus’s early-season form is a massive cause for concern. When alarm bells are ringing over the absence of a 36-year-old CB (Giorgio Chiellini) and your manager chooses to start a 42-year-old in goal, one questions the age-profile of the squad. And then there’s the manager himself, as coach Andrea Pirlo has a great mind but no experience. This team is talented, sure, but if Pirlo is no better a coach than Frank Lampard, this team is destined for another early exit.
You chose Ansu Fati as your young player to watch. Why?
Ansu Fati is my young player to watch from Group G. The 17 year old Spanish international, is the leading scorer for Barcelona thus for this season and seems to get better week in and week out. With many fans expecting a down season for the Catalonia side, Fati can play and develop without much pressure or immediate expectations which is part of the reason I think he will thrive in this year's Champions League.
GROUP H: Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, RB Leipzig, İstanbul Başakşehir
You chose Manchester United to make it out of the group, Why?
As a United supporter myself, I will concede that it was a massive disappointment that we were unable to secure the signing of Jadon Sancho, while I do remain optimistic about him signing with us eventually. However, the window was still a solid step forward. Alex Telles is a much more complete player than Luke Shaw and has extensive experience in the Champions League. Edinson Cavani signing on a free offers United a veteran option up top, who also have tons of Champions League experience. I expect United to edge out Leipzig for second place in the group. Leipzig are an exciting team but I think they’ll miss the clinical finishing of Timo Werner in Champions League play.
You choose RB Leipzig to make it out of the group. Why?
Sitting top of the Bundesliga after four games, coach Julian Nagelsman has arguably even more depth at his disposal than last season. Pick your position (CB: Upamacano, Orban, Konate, Klostermann / CAM: Sabitzer, Forsberg, Nkunku, Olmo / ST: Sorloth, Hwang, Poulsen) and you’ll find multiple Champions League level quality players. This should leave the up-and-coming German squad more than equipped enough to compete in both the league and the group stage. Can you say the same about United’s depth?
You chose Mason Greenwood as your young player to watch. Why?
I chose Mason Greenwood. This pick is a stretch because I'm not sure how much playing time Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will give him, given the signings of Cavani and Donny van de Beek. However, if he continues to be given the chance to start at RW, I expect Mason Greenwood to explode on the global stage, much like Erling Håland did last season. Mason Greenwood is the most talented finisher in the United squad and I expect him to lead United in goals. He is lethal with both feet and has stepovers for days.
WHICH FOUR TEAMS ARE GOING TO ADVANCE TO THE SEMIFINALS?
Odds on the left hand side are projections courtesy of '538'
Survey respondents on the right (graph)
TOP GOALSCORER (according to The Scoop Sport’s survey)
1. Robert Lewandwoski
2. Erling Braut Håland (wow) (idk why Jeremy put 'wow' here, Håland will clearly score 60+ goals this season )
3. Cristiano Ronaldo
You choose Erling Braut Håland as the top goal scorer for this season’s Champions League. Why?
Erling Haaland is a few years away from being recognized as the best striker in the world. Dortmund should top the group, grabbing easy wins along the way with Haaland leading their frontline. I have Dortmund to make the semi-finals and I expect Haaland to be a big reason why they make it that far.
I could go on. for day about how much I love Haaland and why I think he will be one of the best players in the world sooner rather than later... but I'll leave that for another day. ;)