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Champions League groups ranked by difficulty

Champions League group, Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez and PSG's Neymar in conversation | PSG v Manchester City live stream
(Image credit: Getty)

The Champions League groups are starting to taking shape; after this week, the natural order of European giants should begin to fall into place, with the best sides in Europe six points up and, essentially, taking one foot into the next round of the competition. 

But while there are decent teams in each pool and no heavyweight looks like getting eliminated from the competition just yet, some groups are harder than others. You can understand if Jurgen Klopp is cautious to rotate too much; Pep Guardiola, meanwhile, faces Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool, all away within the space of a week.

So who does have the most difficult group? Are Manchester United deceptively unlucky to have landed the Europa League champions and Atalanta? Are Chelsea going to have to grind out some more 1-0s? And do Barcelona have a fight on their hands for second place?

We've calculated the most difficult groups by coefficient. And it doesn't work out quite how you'd imagine it would... 

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8. Champions League Group G: Lille, Red Bull Salzburg, Sevilla, Wolfsburg

If the "group of death" is a must-have at every major tournament going, this must be the group of life. Lille qualified as the top seeds from Pot A - having won Ligue 1 and taking what most of us would have expected to be Paris Saint-Germain's easy group, leaving Sevilla as the next-best side on paper.

Really, anyone can qualify from this one. Wolfsburg look like the weak links in this pool, with Red Bull Salzburg having looked impressive for their stature in recent years. With none of these sides having made it past the quarter-finals in Europe before, though, there's a golden opportunity for everyone.

Combined coefficient: 180,500

7. Champions League Group C: Ajax, Besiktas, Borussia Dortmund, Sporting

Group C boasts four big European names and five trophies from two former winners. But really, it's one of the easiest groups in the competition, at least by coefficient. 

Ajax have underwhelmed massively in Europe - both in this competition and the Europa - since their daring dart to the semi-finals in 2018/19, while Borussia Dortmund have either made the second round or the quarters every season since making the final in 2013. Ajax and Dortmund should top the group - but Sporting and Besiktas can't feel too hard-done-by with the draw.

Combined coefficient: 217,000

Check out the Ajax 2021/22 range here

6. Champions League Group F: Atalanta, Manchester United, Villarreal, Young Boys

After an opening night loss to Young Boys, some Manchester United fans - some - may tell you that this group is more difficult than first meets the eye. We're not having it. 

Get the Manchester United 2021/22 range here

Villarreal have little to no European history, last season aside. Atalanta are similar: a recent regular in the Round of 16 but still punching above their weight and collecting coefficient. United essentially carry Group F with their coefficient and should still breeze into the second round of the Champions League. 

Combined coefficient: 240,500

5. Champions League Group D: Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sheriff

OK - Sheriff drag the difficult of Group D down somewhat. But it's not as if Inter Milan or Shakhtar have covered themselves in glory in the Champions League of late. 

Real Madrid are only the sixth-best team in UEFA's coefficient list, themselves. While this is a group that still features superpowers of Europe and some of the most exciting players on the planet, it's not the mountain for Sheriff that it perhaps could have been in recent years...

Combined coefficient: 241,500

4. Champions League Group H: Chelsea, Juventus, Malmo, Zenit

European champions Chelsea and Juventus are similar, in that after a few years trying to shift to a more attractive brand of football, they've arrived back at a more solid brand that the club is perhaps known for. Both have two European titles and both have final heartbreaks. You'd expect both to sail through Group H.

Get the Chelsea 2021/22 range here

Zenit have the potential to spring a shock, though not much is expected of Malmo. Hell, if Juventus play like they have been in Serie A, then Chelsea will walk this one...

Combined coefficient: 261,500 

3. Champions League Group B: AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Porto 

Now we're getting into the genuinely tricky groups. 

Despite Atletico's billing as the Pot 1 entrants, Liverpool are the most complete side in this lot, while Porto - as last season showed - can be extremely tough to break down themselves. AC Milan are the Pot 4 side severely underrates how they're flying in the Italian league. 

Get the Liverpool 2021/22 range here

Not only could we have the potential Champions League winner in this group, we could have the Europa League winner, too. 

Combined coefficient: 308,000

2. Champions League Group E: Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Dynamo Kiev

It might be controversial that Group E pips Group B into second, especially as looking at current form, every team in this group might well be weaker than their Pot equivalent in Group B. This is arguably the worst Barcelona side for almost 20 years and they will probably still advance to the knockouts: it doesn't look like the second-strongest group. 

Still, there are 13 European Cup titles between three clubs in this group. Bayern top the coefficient charts these days - they're still outrageously strong - and in some of these groups, Benfica and Dynamo Kiev would both fancy themselves getting through. Look past how disappointing Barca are compared to recent years and actually, you wouldn't want to be in Group E.

Combined coefficient: 311,000

Check out the Barcelona 2021/22 range here

Check out the Bayern Munich 2021/22 range here

1. Champions League Group A: Manchester City, Club Brugge, Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig

It had to be. And Club Brugge already have a point in this group. 

While oil-rich European heavyweights Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain bump up the difficulty of this group, though, RB Leipzig are no slouches, themselves. All three of those sides have reached the semi-finals in the past two seasons, two of them the final and hey - Brugge are Belgian champions, for what it's worth.

This is the group of death, at least according to the hype. Now just imagine if Brugge were to get through... 

Combined coefficient: 317,000

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