Every day, we at 32 Flags will preview each group in the UEFA Champions League as we build up to the first group stage games of the competition. Today, we are previewing Group F.
Group F might be the group of the tournament. Here we have Barcelona and Ajax, two of the spiritual Meccas of total futbol. Next is a financial powerhouse of PSG, a team that can spend 50 million on David Luiz and shrug as though it was nothing. Finally, we have Apoel Nicosia, the David amongst Goliaths. Can they pull off an incredible upset? This group has so many stories to watch for—so many chances for shocks, for thrills and for some incredible soccer.
Group F Teams and Country (Position in UEFA Coefficient/Position in UEFA Coefficient Compared to Just Last Season):
Ajax/The Netherlands (No. 7/No. 30)
Apoel Nicosia/Cyprus (No. 52/No. 61)
Barcelona/Spain (No. 2/No. 2)
Paris St Germain/France (No. 13/No. 17)
Player to Watch in Group F: Luis Suarez (Barcelona)
Luis Suarez was a force of nature last season. You may not like him, but you can’t take your eyes off him. Not even for a moment. The second you look away is the second he does something magical. The big question will be whether or not he is able to do what so many amazing players have failed to do; recreate the form that convinced Barcelona to buy him while playing in Leo Messi’s shadow. It’s no secret that Messi is the focal point at Barcelona and many players, from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Alexis Sanchez, have failed to live up to the billing. Can Suarez, with his undying determination, do differently?
Suarez’s ban is up in October, which means he will be a big part of the second half of the group stage at the very least.
X-Factor in Group F: Ajax
Go back a decade or two and tell people that Ajax would be considered the underdog to make second in this group. It would be considered blasphemy. The truth remains, however, that Ajax will need to pull something special off to make it out of this group. It is entirely possible that they could do it though. There is still quality in that team and both Barcelona and PSG have their unconvincing moments to be taken advantage of.
Percentage of Advancing out of Group Stage (According to ESPN’s SPI Index):
Paris St Germain: 86.7%
Apoel Nicosia: 4%
Most Important Game: Barcelona vs. Paris St Germain, Matchday 6, December 10
This is the game that could very well decide a few things in this group. The loser of this game might not only lose the group, but be knocked out of the competition should Ajax win the corresponding fixture against APOEL Nicosia.
Teams to Move On: Barcelona and Paris St Germain
Team to Move On To Europa League: Ajax