Champions League Preview | Group H, Including Barcelona
Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images. Pictured: Barcelona star Robert Lewandowski.
This is one of the more straightforward groups that you will find in the Champions League. Given the draw they got, which is one of the easiest routes to the round of 16, I believe that there is a big play to be made on Barcelona.
Champions League Preview
The last two Champions Leagues that Barcelona have been in they have been in two incredibly difficult groups. Two years ago Xavi took the reigns midway through the Champions League group stage when Barcelona had already lost to Benfica and Bayern, so he couldn’t salvage it.
Last year, they were incredibly unlucky to lose the first meeting with Bayern where they dominated the first hour of the match, and then Bayern scored off a counterattack and that was all she wrote.
Both matches against Inter were very even and they just got caught on the wrong side of variance.
I like the signings they made this summer bringing in Gundogan, Romeu and Martinez to give them more solidity and depth in the spine of their midfield. They also just signed Cancelo and Joao Felix on loan, which gives them a ton more depth.
More than anything, I know Barcelona ran ridiculously well, but they were one of the best defensive teams in the world last season, allowing only 0.87 npxG per 90 minutes in La Liga, which is the second-most difficult league.
Last Barcelona they were +1.11 xGD per 90 minutes. That was the second-best mark behind City in Europe’s top five leagues.
There really aren’t any weaknesses in this team and they have the depth to go deep into the Champions League.
I have them power-rated as the fourth-best team in the world behind Manchester City, Arsenal and Bayern Munich. I think they should be sitting around 10/1, rather than 16/1.
Porto should cruise through to the round of 16 as well after putting up great underlying numbers in Portugal. They held onto a lot of key players this summer with their only main loss being Otavio to the Saudi League.
Comparatively to years past, this version of Shakhtar is miles behind talent wise and they only had a +1.03 xGD in the Ukrainian Premier League last season.
Royal Antwerp are really lucky to be here. Belgium is one of the few leagues that has playoffs, so Antwerp were able to get into the playoffs and win the league on the final day. They took out AEK Athens in the final round of Champions League Qualification, but lost on xG BY a combined 4.08 to 1.98.
Champions League Pick
The price on Barcelona to win this group is a tad too high and there is nothing else of value in this group. However, I do think there is good value on Barcelona at +1600 to win the Champions League.