Champions League Preview | Breaking Down Group A
Anadolu Agency/Getty. Pictured: Mauro Icardi.
Bayern Munich enter Group A as the heavy favorite to win for the sixth consecutive season. The German champions are odds on to win the group, and Man United's Premier League woes leave them as a vulnerable second-favorite to advance.
Galatasaray and Copenhagen don't have much recent success in the competition, but one of the underdogs is primed to surprise in this group.
Here is my Group A breakdown and Champions League preview.
Bayern Munich haven't lost a match in the Champions League group stage since a 3-0 away defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017. They took all 18 points each of the last two seasons and have 23 wins and one draw in their last four CL group stages. Simply put, no team in the world has been more dominant at this stage of the competition.
Bayern now add Harry Kane and Kim Min-jae as their two marquee summer signings that should feature at the heart of the starting XI. Jamal Musiala played 30 minutes off the bench on Friday against Bayer Leverkusen too, so their young attacking star should be back in the fold for the match on Wednesday to kick off the group stage.
The biggest problem for the German side last season was the lack of a true clinical striker to center the attack around. Kane has solved that problem with 0.87 NPxG + xA per 90 through his first four matches at Bayern.
Bayern are not without flaws, especially in defensive transition. A more in-form United could really cause problems for the German champions on the break and in transition, but there’s not much of a threat to them at the top of this group. It’s quite likely that they’ve clinched the group before the final match day.
Manchester United now have two close wins against Wolves and Nottingham Forest and three defeats to Arsenal, Spurs and Brighton to begin the new season. The pressure is mounting around Erik ten Hag, the injuries are littered across key areas of the pitch and now the off the field issues have both Jadon Sancho and Antony not playing.
The schedule makers did them no favors to get this all sorted out either because they’ll begin with their most difficult fixture at Bayern before hosting Galatasaray. The primary issue for the Red Devils has been their defensive metrics. Casemiro looks a step slower in defensive midfield and that’s contributed to United ranking in the bottom half of the Premier League in big chances conceded, box entries, progressive passes allowed and xG conceded.
Their inability to keep goals out makes them extremely vulnerable to finish outside the top two in the group, especially while Rasmus Hojlund is just settling in at the club as the new striker. We know how much talent there is at the club, but the whole is much less than the sum of the parts right now.
In my view, Galatasaray represent the best long shot value on the board in the Champions League. They are priced around 250/1 to win the entire competition, when they should be priced closer to 100/1. You can find +400 at BetMGM on them to advance from this group, which is my favorite ticket of the entire group stage. They’ve assembled a squad of cast offs from the top five leagues, but plenty of them still have a lot to give. Angelino is an excellent creator at left back, Karim Demirbay started big minutes for a top four German side at Leverkusen last year and Mauro Icardi can’t run anymore but still can finish goals as a poacher.
They’ve also added Tanguy Ndombele and Davinson Sanchez from Spurs, Sergio Oliveira from Porto/Roma and Hakim Ziyech from Chelsea. A lot of the talent is past its prime for sure, but the high end talent and depth has come together to produce some impressive underlying numbers in Turkey and during the Champions League Qualifiers.
There’s no obvious hole in talent for Galatasaray, and the market could be behind in pricing them because of how much money they’ve spent in the last few windows.
Copenhagen are one of the worst defenses in the entire competition, and it will be a serious uphill battle for them to try to escape ahead of the three teams ahead of them that have vastly superior quality. Despite their lower talent level, there will be spots to back them as a home underdog in this group.
Even in a difficult group with Sevilla, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund last year, Copenhagen managed draws in all three of their home matches. In those three matches, Copenhagen produced 2.8 xG and conceded just 3.6 xG.
Their underlying numbers in the Danish Superliga have underwhelmed thus far. Through seven matches, they have a +2.4 total expected goal difference, which is fourth-best in the league. They were 23 goals better than every other team in the Superliga last year, so it’s been a sluggish start that doesn’t give a ton of optimism for a potential surprise.
Best Bet: Galatasaray to advance (+300 or better, +400 via BetMGM)