The balance of power in European club soccer just got tilted a bit off center this summer. Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and now PSG, round out the top five, but with Neymar, PSG might edge toward the middle of the group rather than languish in the caboose. Chelsea and Man City might break into the top tier if the former can retain its mettle while the latter can reclaim theirs and Borussia Dortmund will join in, if they can ever get up the nerve to use a line-up that resembles, for instance, the attacking verve of Mario Reus, Mario Goetze, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, supported by the creativity and Christian Pulisic, Emre Mor, and Nuri Sahin. What a set of Champions League quarterfinals these eight could provide!
As August wore down Kylian Mpabbe’s loan to PSG, with its promised mutation to full purchase next year, accomplished two things: first, moving PSG firmly into the middle of galactico soccer elite and second, finally moving FIFA into a financial inquiry over PSG’s summer fortunes. All this was set in motion in advance of the Champions League group stage draw which saw the following pairings, with the underlined teams as the likely survivors of each:
Basel, Benfica, CSKA Moscow, and Manchester United, with a decidedly British tilt.
PSG, Bayern Munich, Anderlecht, and Celtic, with our first glimpse of a galactic clash.
Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Roma, and Qarabag (from Azerbaijan) with a wide-open feel.
Barcelona, Juventus, Sporting CP, and Olympiacos with a “no easy game ahead” texture.
Sevilla, Liverpool, Maribor, and Spartak Moscow, with an English-Spanish flavor.
Manchester City, Napoli, Feyenoord, and Shakhtar Donetsk with an English-Italian taste to it.
Besiktas, RB Liepzig, Monaco, and Porto, with a Radamel Falcao at center stage.
Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Apoel, and Tottenham Hotspur with a Spanish-German tilt but an English twist to boot.