UEFA announced the results of its Champions League draw in swanky Monaco this week. Yes, our deep fondness and fascination with the Champions League means that UEFA can have these draws wherever they please and we’ll tune-in because, well, we can’t get enough.

Much like an episode of Archer (or Matthiessen’s “The Snow Leopard”), Champions League is about the journey more than the destination (unless your team is in the finals then it’s obviously about the destination.) Save for upstart Leicester City, there will be much the same cast of characters in the 2016-2017 Champions League as there was last year. A team from Spain or Germany or if you’re feeling particularly generous England is going to win it, and that’s before changes will make the Champions League even more powerhouse-heavy next year.

Starting next month the group stages will begin. Eight groups of four teams each will criss-cross Europe for the right to face off next spring in the glorious destination of…Cardiff, Wales?

If the hometown of Roald Dahl and, ah, Charlotte Church doesn’t excite you then at least maybe the road to it will. Here are the talking points for the group stage, taking course over the next several months. The rules are simple: two teams get out for every four, and the other two will only have their memories.

Group A

Who will win:
It’s tough for Arsenal to screw this one up. They are head and shoulders above everyone else and their toughest match – at Paris St. Germain – comes first. They should breeze through, with an emphasis on “should.”

Who comes in second:
Paris St. Germain has taken over from Olympique de Marseille as the French juggernaut with a chip on its shoulder. They haven’t won anything yet and are without Zlatan this time around, but that won’t stop them from trying.

Who you should root for:
Arsenal, unless other obligations prohibit you. For those Tottenham fans, rooting for Basel and Granit Xhaka’s less talented brother Taulant should be familiar.

Best name in the group:
PSG’s Hervin Ongenda, Presnel Kimpembe and Grzegorz Krychowiak are narrowly defeated by young Filipino-French goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.

Group B:

Who will win:
Napoli. Y’all, if you somehow missed Marek Hamsik this summer playing for Slovakia — don’t double your goof by missing the remarkable midfielder pulling strings for Napoli.

Who will finish second:
Besiktas JK has a pair of world-class wingers in Ricardo Quaresma and Aras Ozbiliz. And with all apologies to Dynamo Kyiv, nobody wants a weekday trip to Besiktas’ new stadium and its thousands of anarchist ultras.

Who you should root for:
I’m a Galatasaray man and even I can’t pass up the chance to pull for Besiktas in European competition. Even without Mario Gomez, who went home due to civil unrest, this is an enormously talented Turkish group, playing in a beautiful stadium, with nothing to lose.

Best name in the group:
Can you imagine the nerve of young Judilson Mamadu Tuncará Gomes when he was like “nah, I made it to the bigs with Benfica — call me Pele.”

Group C:

Who will win:
Barcelona will win, because they always do. This is one of the weaker Barcelona sides in recent memory, but not weak enough.

Who will finish second:
If Borussia Monchengladbach can get out of September with 4 points hosting Barcelona and travelling to Manchester, they have a puncher’s chance. But Pep Guardiola does not give teams like the Foals any chances. Man City should take it.

Who you should root for:
Come watch Fabian Johnson play the game he was meant to be played and not shackled like Harrison Bergeron on the USMNT. Come watch Borussia Monchengladbach. (Note: if you’re one of those Irish Americans who root for Celtic out of a sort of historical duty, hey, go for it.)

Best name in the group:
I suppose teams can’t win this award, so Borussia Monchengladbach is out. But Saidy Janko, a 20-year-old right back, may be the next big thing and essentially the Swiss Deandre Yedlin. Even if he won’t reach even those heights, he will forever be the first Saidy Janko.

Group D:

Who will win:
Bayern Munich if for no other reason than they can cruise through the Fall in domestic competitions, in ways that Atletico Madrid cannot.

Who will finish second:
There are probably PSV or Rostov supporters who will travel to Madrid to see their teams face the Spanish giants. I suggest they also spend a day checking out El Prado.

Who you should root for:
We may only have one or two years left of Atletico Madrid being even remotely branded as plucky underdogs as compared to Real Madrid and Barcelona. Embrace these years while they happen, before Hungry Bear Team gets a new shiny crest to match their shiny sponsors.

Best name in the group:
Dutch dudes usually dominate this category, and PSV has two Dutch dudes named “Luuk.” They also have a Jetro and a Remko, neither of which hold a candle to Bart Ramselaar. Who, amazingly, looks like the most famous Bart there is.

Group E:

Who will win:
There’s something strange about Tottenham Hotspur, competent favorite. But here we are. Hugo Lloris is the best keeper in the group and Harry Kane, it’s best striker. Everyone in between ain’t bad either.

Who will finish second:
Leverkusen continually underwhelms but should be able to do enough to get past AS Monaco and into the next stage. That said, I am now betting on two Tottenhams not to “pull a Tottenham,” the less dignified relative of the “pulling an Arsenal.”

Who you should root for:
CSKA Moscow. Sure, you may not think you can root for the former Red Army squad, but they are coached by Leonid Slutsky who – and I quote from Wikipedia – ”had to retire due to a knee injury sustained after falling out of a tree while rescuing a neighbour’s cat.”

Best name in the group:
Bibras Natkho! Bonus points for being pronounced nothing like how you’d imagine (It’s “Bye-bars Nat-khhho) and for being the only Adyghe dude in the tournament. His CSKA teammate Pontus Wernbloom would win in any other group and indeed should demand a transfer.

Group F:

Who will win:
Real Madrid, because calling for upsets in the Champions League is a foolish venture.

Who will finish second:
Borussia Dortmund because, again, don’t call for upsets! Sporting Lisbon could be frisky, but not like that frisky.

Who you should root for:
Americans will probably want to root for Dortmund as long as Christian Pulisic is there to root for and why not? But don’t lose yourself the chance to root for William Carvalho, the oldest 24-year-old in the world, before he becomes a zillionaire somewhere in Spain next year.

Best name in the group:
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s masterful 2015-16 season took away from how mischievous 19th-century-baron-sounding his name is.

Group G

Who will win:
Leicester City has the depth to either try to repeat on the island or roll their dice on the continent. I hope they go for the latter, if for nothing else than to make N’Golo Kante sad.

Who will finish second:
Club Brugge aren’t well-regarded, but they’re a wellspring of Belgian talent and neither Porto nor Copenhagen are necessarily any better. Look for one of their youngsters make his name this fall in the Champions League.

Who you should root for:
Are you sick of the Leicester City story yet? No? Good then. Consider this their victory lap. They don’t even have to travel to Kyiv or Razgrad.

Best name in the group:
Can you imagine being named Nikola Storm and not winning this award? Probably not, but you also aren’t named that and definitely didn’t have to glare at Dion Cools across the Brugge locker room every day.

Group H

Who will win:
Juventus is probably the favorite, but goodness is this team getting old. Maybe Sevilla can nip them and get the better draw by winning this tight group.

Who will finish second:
Juventus is old and tired, but not THAT old and tired quite yet . They’ll be able to get by Lyon and Dinamo Zagreb.

Who you should root for:
Olympique Lyonnais’ best days were in the 1980s and are essentially the less-talented segment of a world-beating women’s team. Support Lyon, your most woke Champions League squad.

Best name in the group:
As much as I love just how “Southeastern European Central Midfielder” of a name Marko Rog is, give credit where credit is due. Timothée Kolodziejczak’s parents decided that their son could use an extra vowel somewhere, but they just put it in the first name instead of the last.

This post was composed by freelance writer and swell guy, Asher Kohn. Reach out to him and discuss all the soccer happenings from around the world on Twitter at:@AJKhn. Catch up with all of the latest soccer happenings on SiriusXM FC.

Powered by WordPress.com VIP