With the Champions League returning for the group stages, there are bound to be a few surprise teams thrown into the mix who could cause a few upsets along the way.

AFC Ajax proved that clubs do not need to spend £500 million in order to get to semi-finals, but instead possess young and hungry players that are collectively playing as one.

The Champions League always produces teams that are not necessarily strong enough on paper to challenge the ‘elite’, but somehow find a way to do so.

With that being said, here are three clubs to look out for who could make waves in 2019/20:

 

Atalanta

GENOA, ITALY - MARCH 10: Atalanta BC Fans during the Serie A match between UC Sampdoria and Atalanta BC at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on March 10, 2019 in Genoa, Italy. (Photo by Paolo Rattini/Getty Images)

Having finished third last year in Serie A, Atalanta surprised many with their consistent, excellent displays under Gian Piero Gasperini.

The Italian manager does not have the budget of their competitors – Inter Milan, Napoli, Milan and Roma – but did a remarkable job nonetheless by coaching the squad to the highest degree possible.

Perhaps the club’s most intellectual bit of business was signing Sampdoria’s Duvan Zapata, who finished as their top-scorer last year with 23 goals and already has two in as many matches in Serie A.

Having also added Luis Muriel to the forward line, the Orobici feel confident enough to make strides in Group C which contains: Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb.

Gasperini has won one and lost one so far in the league, but when they start to hit form as they did throughout 2018/19, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

 

LOSC Lille

Lille's fan cheer ahead of the French L1 football match Lille (LOSC) vs Olympique de Marseille (OM) on September 30 2018 at the " Pierre Mauroy " stadium in Villeneuve-d'Ascq northern France. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

While Lille might have lost Rafael Leao to Milan over the summer, they quickly identified that it would be RSC Charleroi’s Victor Osimhen who would replace him as the star of their forward line.

The Nigerian has, so far, found the back of the net four times in Ligue 1 in four matches, averaging a goal every 85 minutes. He has shown very similar traits to Leao and will be wanting to carry that form into a hotly-contested group.

Chelsea, Valencia and Ajax stand in Lille’s way to progress into the knockout rounds, but they are unlikely to panic, just as they showed their composure under pressure when battling for second place with Olympique Lyon last season.

Lille have, arguably, one of the best recruitment departments in Europe and have signed one of Turkey’s rising stars: Yusuf Yazici. The attacking playmaker will be expected to deliver in the final third and make a difference, as he had done for Trabzonspor.

Jonathan Ikone, who was called up to the senior France side in the latest international break, as well as scoring his first goal, is a winger who, when given space, can be devastating – especially on the counter-attack.

Christophe Galtier is a very smart coach who knows his team’s strengths as well as their weaknesses. Group H is going to be a very competitive affair, but Lille will feel confident that they can challenge anyone in order to progress.

 

RB Leipzig

Leipzig's fans cheer duringthe German second division Bundesliga football match between RB Leipzig and Karlsruher SC at the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig, eastern Germany, on May 8, 2016. Leipzig won the match 2-0 and will be promoted to the first division Bundesliga next season. / AFP / Robert MICHAEL (Photo credit should read ROBERT MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images)

There is a clear divide between the top two in Germany and the rest, but RB Leipzig are inching closer and closer to disrupting the Bundesliga.

Similarly to Lille, Leipzig pride themselves on signing youth players, moulding them into world-beaters, and then selling them on for profit. It is a model that has worked well for them and allows them to develop the club and make it sustainable.

In the summer transfer window, however, Leipzig brought in Ademola Lookman from Everton – who was previously at the club on-loan – as well as Patrik Schick, the Czech Republic centre forward that could not get motoring in Italy.

The German club’s whole squad is littered with enormous potential and players now that are ready to influence their standing in Europe’s elite competition.

Placed in Group G, Leipzig have a fantastic chance to progress even as the winners if they manage to conquer Lyon. There will be no player shortage given the amount they have currently in the team, and are expected to perform better in Europe under Julian Nagelsmann.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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