Champions League group stage draw: Winners/losers, rankings, predictions, more

The 2018-19 UEFA Champions League group stage draw is complete. And it has offered up a few mouth-watering group matchups.

The headliners are Groups B, C and H. The former will feature Barcelona, Tottenham and Inter Milan. The latter will feature Juventus, Manchester United and Valencia.

But C might be the toughest of all, with one of PSG, Napoli and Liverpool guaranteed to be bounced before the knockout rounds.

Real Madrid will also play Roma in Group G in a matchup of two of last season’s semifinalists.

Meanwhile, Group D might as well be known as the “group of life.”

Here are all eight groups:

2018-19 Champions League groups

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Monaco, Club Brugge
Group B: Barcelona, Tottenham, PSV Eindhoven, Inter Milan
Group C: PSG, Napoli, Liverpool, Red Star Belgrade
Group D: Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto, Schalke, Galatasaray
Group E: Bayern Munich, Benfica, Ajax, AEK Athens
Group F: Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon, Hoffenheim
Group G: Real Madrid, Roma, CSKA Moscow, Viktoria Plzen
Group H: Juventus, Manchester United, Valencia, BSC Young Boys

Winners and losers of the draw

Losers: PSG, Napoli — Liverpool might belong in the “loser” category here as well. But the Reds, coming out of Pot 3, knew they could be in for a tough task. PSG and Napoli realistically could have expected otherwise. Instead, Group C is the toughest of the lot, with three of our top 10 teams. One of them will be in the Europa League (at best) by December.

Loser: Tottenham — Spurs appeared to have escaped with a two-team, top-heavy group, and as clear favorites to advance. Then Inter arrived from Pot 4. Now Group B looks a lot like Group C.

Winner: Borussia Dortmund — Group A is by no means a stroll in the park. But Dortmund A) drew the only Pot 1 team to be eliminated at the group stage last year, B) a sliding Monaco squad that looks nothing like the one that beat BVB in the quarterfinals in 2017, and C) a Pot 4 minnow. There were very few better scenarios, and many worse ones.

Winners: Schalke, Porto, Galatasaray — Every “dream draw” included Lokomotiv Moscow. These three lucked out and got the Pot 1 outsider. Porto is the favorite in the group, with Schalke not far behind.

Loser: Manchester United supporters whose fandom originated as Cristiano Ronaldo fandom — Self-explanatory. Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford … with Juventus.

The 2018-19 Champions League group stage draw took place Thursday. Real Madrid is the defending champion. (Getty)

Ranking the groups by difficulty

Which groups, top to bottom, are the toughest? We’ll go with …

1. Group C
2. Group B
3. Group F
4. Group H
5. Group G
6. Group E
7. Group A
8. Group D

We ranked all 32 teams yesterday.

Group stage predictions

With the projected winner listed first and the runner-up second …

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund
Group B: Barcelona, Tottenham
Group C: Liverpool, PSG
Group D: Porto, Lokomotiv Moscow
Group E: Bayern Munich, Benfica
Group F: Manchester City, Lyon
Group G: Real Madrid, Roma
Group H: Juventus, Manchester United

When does the Champions League group stage kick off?

The first group stage games aren’t until Tuesday, Sept. 18 and Wednesday, Sept. 19. Here’s the full schedule, via UEFA:

18/19 September: Group stage, matchday one
2/3 October: Group stage, matchday two
23/24 October: Group stage, matchday three
6/7 November: Group stage, matchday four
27/28 November: Group stage, matchday five
11/12 December: Group stage, matchday six

17 December: Round of 16 draw
12/13/19/20 February: Round of 16, first leg
5/6/12/13 March: Round of 16, second leg
15 March: Quarter-final & semi-final draw
9/10 April: Quarter-finals, first leg
16/17 April: Quarter-finals, second leg
30 April/1 May: Semi-finals, first leg
7/8 May: Semi-finals, second leg

Saturday 1 June: Final – Estadio Metropolitano, Madrid

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.