The worst case scenario
- Manchester City
- Borussia Dortmund
- AC Milan
- RC Lens
After winning the treble last season, Manchester City are showing no signs of slowing down. Despite losing key players like Riyad Mahrez and ex-BVB man Ilkay Gündogan, Manchester City have been boosted by the arrivals of Jérémy Doku, Joško Gvardiol and Mateo Kovačić.
One key factor is that Pep Guardiola’s side will be missing their biggest creative output in Kevin De Bruyne for the Champions League group stage as he will be out until around the New Year.
The real core of City’s strength relies in the central zones and just how well they utilise players all over the pitch to bully their opponents with possession. Add to that the goalscoring prowess of Erling Haaland, and Manchester City could well offer a nightmare test for Borussia Dortmund
Stefano Pioli’s side cut the ropes off the bandwagon last season, beating the exciting Napoli in the quarter finals of the Champions League. Since then, they have reinforced with a new look to the side that now features the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tijjani Reijnders and Rade Krunić in midfield and Christian Pulisic in attack.
Even though AC Milan have won both their games so far this season, they don’t quite appear to be in full flow just yet. But come September/October, they could pose a much tougher threat to the opposition.
One key flaw of Milan’s team of last season was their handling of set pieces. Borussia Dortmund have been utilising their strengths in set pieces modestly this season. And that is something that could provide a good weakness for Edin Terzic to exploit against the Italian side.
With Dortmund very likely fighting for the second place in the group, they will do well to avoid a side as highly competitive and comfortable on the big stage as the Rossoneri.
RC Lens quietly finished Ligue 1 in second place last season, just one point behind PSG. It may not have been as close as those numbers suggest, but it takes nothing away from what was a magnificent season for Franck Haise’s side.
As it is with any team that is a surprise package, two key factors will determine if they can follow up on their success. The first is retention of their best players. Lens have lost Löis Openda to RB Leipzig and Seko Fofana to Al Nassr this summer. The second is coping with a packed schedule for the bulk of the season.
They have replaced the aforementioned players mainly with Elye Wahi and Andy Diouf, which appear to be great reinvestments. This season will reflect on whether this Lens side can hang with the big boys in Europe, whom they are very likely to match as they sit in Pot 4. They are certainly one of the lower seeded teams that BVB will look to avoid.