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Group A Predicted Finish
1. Paris St. Germain (France)
2. FC Basel (Switzerland)
3. Arsenal (England)
4. Ludogorets Razgrad (Bulgaria)
Paris St. Germain
Qualified automatically by winning Ligue 1.
There’s been some turnover in Paris despite PSG winning Ligue 1 by a whopping 31 points. Domestic success didn’t prove to be enough to save manager Laurent Blanc, who was dismissed earlier this summer. Paris St. Germain made it to the quarterfinals of the Champion’s League last season but fell 3-2 (on aggregate) to Manchester City. Perhaps even more news and noteworthy was the departure of star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (on a free transfer to Manchester United) leaving a noticeable gap up front for PSG. Jese Rodriguez (in from Real Madrid) will hope help new manager Unai Emery, who led Sevilla to remarkable Europa League success, bring international silverware to Paris.
Group A shouldn’t prove to be much of a challenge for Paris St. Germain. Angel Di Maria and Edison Cavani have both looked solid in preseason and Ligue 1 so far, helpijg to replace Zlatan. Their biggest test will come against Arsenal at the Emirates on November 23rd.
Qualified automatically by winning the Swiss Super League.
Basel have faced little competition in the Super League, winning by 14 points for their 7th consecutive title. European success has been evasive for them however, as they failed to advance past the Champion’s League group stage and were beaten by Sevilla in the Europa League. Basel are not likely to be intimidated by international giants Arsenal and PSG, having beaten Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea in recent years. Three points at home against Arsenal on December 6th will help them move past the Gunners to the knockout stage.
Qualified automatically as runners-up in the Premier League.
Despite being a constant contender in Europe and England, Arsenal just can’t win. Arsene Wenger has led the Gunners out of the Group Stage with great consistency, but they have only one appearance in the final, a 2-1 loss to Barcelona in 2006. The lack of new faces combined with fan unrest will result in a third-place finish for Arsenal. If Arsene Wenger wishes to keep his job and lead Arsenal to the knockouts they will need a result in Switzerland against Basel on December 6th.
Qualified to the second qualifying round as winners of Bulgaria’s Group A.
There seems to be a trend of domestic success in this group, and Ludogorets fit in perfectly having won Group A five times in a row. Their path to the group stage was not as simple, having to navigate past Mladost Podgorcia (Poland), Red Star Belgrade (Serbia), and Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic). The Bulgarians certainly have character to have made it this far (as we saw a couple of years ago with a dramatic shootout involving a center-back playing keeper), but don’t have enough to make it out of the group. A win at home against Basel seems likely on November 23rd and is their best shot at getting three points.
Group B will be released next…stay tuned.
Photo Credit: arsenal.com