Apart from English champions Manchester City, none of the other Premier League clubs in the Champions League would be too pleased with the groups that they were put in following the UCL Group Stage draw that took place in Monaco on 30th August. In this article, we will focus on Manchester United and Liverpool. Jose Mourinho worries surrounding his clubs form would have multiplied further after seeing the draw that saw them go to Group H alongside last years runner-ups Juventus, Swiss outfit Young Boys, and Spanish club Valencia.
Things aren’t any better for Jurgen Klopp’s men, as they will face off against French champions PSG, runner-ups from Serie A 2017-2018 season Napoli and Red Star Belgrade. Both these teams haven’t tasted European success for some time and will be eager to go till the end this season, especially Liverpool, who suffered a heart-break defeat against Real Madrid in the Final last season. However, in this article, our focus will be on reasons why Manchester United or Liverpool could face elimination from the group stage of the UCL 2018-2018 season.
The turmoil surrounding Manchester United
Even though Manchester United finished 2nd in the Premier League last season, the fact that Manchester City won the title on a canter, would have upset Jose Mourinho and the hierarchy at Old Trafford. The summer that followed was supposed to be used for rebuilding but unfortunately, United’s failure to acquire top targets unsettled the relationship between the manager and the management, which has now in turn severely affected their performances.
With just 3 points from the 3 matches till now, talks about Mourinho being sacked are growing with each passing day and now the Portuguese will have to deal with one of the strongest teams in Europe, Juventus. The atmosphere of chaos and anger that surrounds Old Trafford at the moment isn’t looking likely to go away anytime soon, which could, in turn, be one of the key factors that could dictate the Red Devils performance in the group stage of UCL 2018-2019.
A nightmare run for Liverpool that starts on September 15th could cost their season dearly
Liverpool who have started the season brilliantly with 3 wins out of 3 will have to brace for a nightmarish 22 days in September when they take on the likes of Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City, PSG and Napoli.
Jurgen Klopp’s has secured 9 points in the Premier League till now and are yet to concede a goal this season. However, 22 days starting from September 15th could very well shape their entire season going forward.
On 15th, Liverpool play away to Tottenham and then will start a 22-day run, which includes a match against PSG and Southampton at home on 18th and 22nd respectively. Following that there is a doubleheader against Chelsea, first at home in the Carabao Cup on 25th and second away at Stamford Bridge on 29th. Klopp’s men will then get back to the Champions League as they go away to Napoli on October. The nightmare run ends with a match at home to Manchester City on 8th October.
With so many big matches in the space just 22-days, Jurgen Klopp faces a huge challenge of managing his players in order to keep them fresh for each of these encounters, as losing even one could prove huge in the latter stages of the season. This run of 7 matches, sees 2 very key European fixtures for Liverpool and losing either one could make life very difficult for them with regard to qualification to the knockout round.
Manchester United’s disappointing European performance since Ferguson’s departure
Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, Manchester United’s performance in Europe has seen a significant dip. Since the 2012-2013 season, the Red Devils have reached the quarter-final only once and have even been eliminated in the group stage in Champions League during this run.
Over the past 5 seasons, Manchester United have suffered defeats against the likes of Olympiacos, PSV Eindhoven, Wolfsburg, Midtjylland, Fenerbahçe, Feyenoord, Basel and Sevilla. The fact these teams have managed to defeat the great Manchester United will give lots of confidence to Young Boys and Valencia, especially the Spanish outfit which has been improving on its performance on a consistent basis for the past few seasons.
Travelling away to Valencia will not be an easy task and one which could eventually prove to be a banana skin for Jose Mourinho and his team. The fact is that since Alex Ferguson left, teams have not only grown more confident about defeating them at home but are carry that belief when going to Old Trafford, for example, Sevilla’s devasting performance in the round of 16 last season which eventually knocked United out of the tournament.
The Carlo Ancelotti factor
With Neymar led PSG also in their group, Liverpool’s biggest worry in the group stage could be Napoli. The Italian giants finished 2nd in Serie A last season finishing just 4 points behind winners Juventus. But the biggest change that Napoli has seen during the summer is the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti, who before this was managing Bayern Munich before they sacked him early last year.
Along with Mourinho, Ancelotti probably the most experienced and successful manager in the Champions League. The Italian has won 3 European titles, 2 with AC Milan early on in his career and then one with Real Madrid. Apart from success in Europe, Ancelotti has also managed to win in almost all the leagues that he has managed so far.
Napoli play an attacking brand of football but with Ancelotti now in charge, they might throw caution to the wind and set up extremely solid at the back in order to negate the danger posed by Liverpool’s front three. This group could come down to the 2 matches between these two sides and unlike Klopp, Ancelotti has tons of experience that he can use to his advantage in order to come out with a positive result.