By Parth Parikh,
Sports Business Writer
As September rolls around, sports fans across America begin to gear up for the MLB playoffs and the start of the NFL, NBA, and NHL seasons. But across the Atlantic Ocean, throughout the entire European continent, another tournament kicks off, one that determines who will be Europe’s best soccer club. The UEFA Champions League starts September 12 and finishes with the UEFA Champions League Final in Kiev, Ukraine on May 26, 2018. Every few weeks, the teams partaking in the tournament travel to practically every corner of Europe, showcasing their talent and taking their shot at achieving unparalleled glory.
The biggest tournament in Europe would not attract as much worldwide attention if it were not for the powerhouse teams that headline their domestic leagues on a daily basis.
Teams like Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich, to name a few, bring their passion and signature style to the tournament every year and never fail to entertain their adoring fans.
The tournament begins with a round-robin group stage that determines who will play in the knockout stages come February. In Group A, the multitalented Manchester United squad, led by manager Jose Mourinho, will play Benfica, Basel and CSKA Moscow. Group B will pit German superpower Bayern Munich and the star-studded Paris Saint-Germain team with Anderlecht and Celtic. Paris Saint-Germain will look to make their mark on the world after acquiring one of the best forwards in the world in Neymar from Barcelona and AS Monaco’s young phenom Kylian Mbappé over the summer.
Group C will see the English Premier League champions Chelsea and Spanish super-team Atletico Madrid against AS Roma and Qarabag, the first Azerbaijani team to ever make it this far in the Champions League tournament. In Group D, last year’s Champions League runner-up, Juventus, will take on the world-famous Barcelona team, as well as Olympiacos and Sporting CP. Barcelona, without Neymar, and a Juventus team that could not win the championship after making it to the finals in two of the past three years, will make this group very interesting and exciting to watch.
In Group E, Liverpool will play Sevilla, Spartak Moscow, and Maribor, while in Group F, the Pep Guardiola-led Manchester City team will play Shakhtar Donestsk, Napoli, and Feyenoord. Manchester City, with new additions like Kyle Walker and Danilo, along with veterans Sergio Aguero, David Silva, and Kevin De Bruyne, will make this team a force to reckon with.
Group G will be AS Monaco against teams like Porto, Besiktas, and RB Leipzig, who have become one of the Cinderella-like stories in the German league. Group H, which has been dubbed the Group of Death, will see the reigning two-time Champions League title-holders Real Madrid go up against Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham Hotspur, and APOEL Nicosia from Cyprus. Real Madrid, with their superstars are back and ready to do what no team has ever considered doing: winning the Champions League for three straight years. In their way lies the American teenage phenom Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund, as well as a Tottenham Hotspur team led by striker Harry Kane. Due to construction for their new stadium, Tottenham will play their games at the famed Wembley Stadium in London, which makes the games with Real Madrid and Dortmund must-watch television.
This year’s UEFA Champions League might be one of the best the world has seen in a long time, and come May 26, we will see skills, talent, and goals that we have never seen before.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 26th print edition.
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