The groups for the first stage of UEFA’s Champions League were drawn on Thursday (Aug 30) and the match ups are all exciting. The most attention -gathering of course is Group D where all the teams are their respective national champions, but with enough ambition the rest have the potential to provide an equal thrill.
Let’s start the preview with Group A and B:
Group A doesn’t look really difficult at first look, but Porto has an experienced team and PSG have certainly fortified themselves for their return to the Champions League. Dynamo Kiev went through the qualifiers to get into the round of 32 but possesses enough CL experience to make this group very difficult. PSG will have a lot to prove and the inexperience on the international level for the majority of the players could prove challenging. Intrigued as to what Ancelotti’s strategy will be for the group stages, but I hope he bets on experience.
In Group B Champions league regulars Arsenal FC (the only first seeded club that has never won the trophy) are poised against Schalke and the newly crowned French champion Montpellier Herault FC. Huge fan of Montpellier’s explosive game in the midfield, in fact I saw them live (post here). However, both Arsenal and Schalke reached only the quarterfinals last year so both will be aiming for more. Olympiacos is an equally dangerous opponent with a steady CL presence so this doesn’t make the French newcomers’ task any easier.
Group C sports Italian grand AC Milan and the Russian champions Zenit to face Anderlecht (here after a significant pause and went through qualifiers) and Malaga - a club with rare talents and some terrible management. Should look like an easy win for the 7-time champions from Milano, but with the club going through a transition there is a large possibility for another club to take advantage on the international stage and top this group.
On to the Group of D-eath - I really wished Real M could meet Juventus but perhaps in the next stage. Ajax (Amsterdam) and Real obviously have more CL experience so I would bet on them. This is Man City and Dortmund’s second consecutive year back in the Champions League and they were hoping for an easier draw but oh well. City is a team that is coming together on the international level but is still much inexperienced. Voting for BVB to be the surprise quarter finalist.
Group E features the current champion Chelsea FC and one of the most successful international clubs - Juventus FC. Juve is finally back to the Champions League and in their current formation I think they have all the power to be really successful this year. Many have said Juve doesn’t have enough attacking power but that might be fixed over the winter break. The recent loan of Bendtner from Arsenal for his supposed CL experience won’t be enough. While the newcomers from Denmark don’t look as dangerous, Shakhtar certainly are a challenge and should get Chelsea’s engines running pretty early. Can we hope that Chelsea leave after the group stage? Signed, a tortured United fan.
Seeing BATE in Group F with Bayern M and Valencia makes me excited - I loved their play last year vs. AC Milan (they couldn’t really give much opposition to Barca in midfield) and I want to see more! Valencia and Lille are stellar teams but I don’t see anyone topping Bayern int his group. The Bavarians experienced a dramatic disappointment in last year’s final against Chelsea and are not likely to take any of their games lightly - they will be playing to reach that final again.
Time to talk Groups G and H, which are lead by more recent former champions FC Barcelona and Manchester United.
Barca seem to have landed a safe draw as they have a good record against all of these teams. Spartak Moscow went through the qualifiers to get into the 32 and returned to the Champions League to land in this titled group. If there is one thing to be really excited about here it is the return of Celtic FC to the elite. Neil Lennon’s men have had some good performances in the Europa League but this is where they truly belong. Hoping Celtic gets a chance but it they would have to fight or every inch against the southerners in this group.
MUFC cannot afford to be complacent, as last year’s exit is still looming over our poor heads. If the reader recalls, United got eliminated by Basel who are not even in the 32 this year. Once again trips will be made to Portugal and Romania (the joke is on us). Hopefully one man with tons of Champions League experience - RVP, can bring the Red Devils back to the elite 16.
Explanation of the draw with photos from the ceremony can be found here.
Watch the bits of the draw and the UEFA player of the year award ceremony here.
What are your thoughts on the draw? Leave me a comment!