02/03/2024

Europe's elite learn their fate for the group stages. (Photo: UEFA Champions League X)

The 2023/24 UEFA Champions League group stage draw was held in Monaco on Friday morning AEST in what will be the final season under the current format.

Selected from the pots, some intriguing fixtures will take place in the coming few months, including Real Madrid vs Napoli and Bayern Munich vs Manchester United set to play out.

One group that stole all the headlines with no surprise consists of Group F participants PSG, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, and Newcastle United, representing four of the top five European leagues.

This has now been deemed the ‘group of death,’ as referred to by many. What exactly does that term mean and is there any criteria?

In a group of four, the requirement involves at least three clubs with the potential to progress to the knockout rounds and generally must include some of the best teams in their field.

Discussions have now been raised as to whether Group F is the toughest in Champions League history.

To help enlighten the memory, below are the top five most difficult ‘group of deaths’ in the UEFA Champions League. Will group F grab top honours?

5. 2021/22, Group B: Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, FC Porto, AC Milan

Topping the group with a perfect 100 per cent record, eventual runners-up Liverpool perhaps made this group easier than it looked on paper.

Four clubs with a rich European history and 15 European cups between them, they all had a right to feel confident of advancing through to the knockout rounds.

It served up some cracking contests along the way including 3-2 wins for Liverpool against Atletico and Milan respectively.

Second through to fourth were separated by only three points in what was an almighty tussle up until the final matchday.

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4. 2018/19, Group B: FC Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan, PSV

This group contained absolutely everything from high-end drama and stunning goals to go along with it.

Who can forget Lionel Messi’s magic away in London to notch up two goals and Inter Milan’s warrior-like performance at the back to salvage a point against the Catalans?

As Barca ran away from the chasing pack, Spurs and Inter could only be separated through the away goals rule.

That was enough to see the Premier League giants advance, forcing Antonio Conte’s men to participate in the Europa League where he would win silverware and prove how much quality was within Group B.

3. 2012/13, Group D: Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Ajax Amsterdam, Manchester City

To think that a Manchester City outfit finished bottom of this group demonstrates the depth and quality that was on show.

Despite being relatively new to the competition in terms of experience and exposure, the likes of Sergio Augerö, Yaya Toure, and Carlos Tévez would not be able to conjure up a single victory.

Why? It simply came down to Real Madrid and Dortmund playing in their absolute prime, with the Germans going on to reach the final of the competition under charismatic manager Jürgen Klopp.

2. 2013/14, Group F: Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli

Hands down the craziest group ever witnessed in Champions League history, one of these clubs missed out on progressing to the next round after finishing with 12 points. Yes, four wins.

The unlucky victims in this scenario would be Napoli, spearheaded by an incredible attacking third with Gonzalo Higuain, Lorenzo Insigne, and Dries Mertens, not to mention the presence of captain Marek Hamsik and a young Jorginho in midfield.

Arsenal and Dortmund, who also finished on 12 points, followed Napoli’s approach with quick counter-attacking and high-intensity football, which would ultimately be enough to edge out an extremely tight group.

From a football purist point of view, this was a combination of the group of death and the group of dreams.

1. 2023/24, PSG, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Newcastle United

You may be sick of seeing Dortmund’s name mentioned on this list, but this is how unlucky they have proven to be.

Unlike the previous four groups mentioned, this group hasn’t seen a ball kicked yet. However, it is the storylines off the pitch as well as the quality on it that cements this mouthwatering group as number one.

In an array of sub-plots, Sandro Tonali will return to his boyhood club in front of the San Siro after his €80 million-pound move to Newcastle United, allowing last season’s semi-finalists Milan to strengthen in all areas.

PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma’s infamous departure from Milan will be a massive talking point when the Rossoneri supporters unquestionably make it a hostile atmosphere for the Italian shot-stopper.

American golden boy Christian Pulisic will meet up against his former side in Borussia Dortmund where fellow countryman Gio Reyna will be wearing yellow and black.

Again, from a football purist perspective, the four stadiums of San Siro, Signal Iduna Park, St. James’ Park, and the Parc des Princes are some of the most amazing arenas and atmospheres in world football.

Every team in this group have the right to feel optimistic, but it could also be argued that all four have their flaws, making this a fascinating rollercoaster of unpredictability. 

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