UEFA Champions League – Group by Group
With the Champions League group’s announced we thought it would be a great time to take a group-by-group look at the biggest fixtures, expected results and controversy in this latest blog post.
Liverpool are back after 4 years out of the Champions League and have been rewarding with a glamour tie against one of Europe’s elite clubs: Real Madrid. After being seeded in pot 3 Liverpool are lucky to escape some of the other big clubs, and can be hopeful of progression.
Ludogorets Razgrad of Bulgaria made it into the group stages of the Champions League after their defender stopped 2 penalties, and scored his own in a dramatic shootout. Although a small club, with only an 8,000 seater stadium Ludogorets Razgrad will be passionate and have a great desire to win.
The final team to make up Group B are FC Basel, who defeated Chelsea both home and away in last year’s competition.
Real Madrid should win the group, with Liverpool and FC Basel fighting for 2nd place and progression.
Group C could and should be one of the tightest groups, with all of the teams fancying their chances.
Super rich Monaco are playing in the Champions League for the first time since the 2004/2005 season after finishing last year’s Ligue 1 campaign as runners up. Arsene Wenger’s former club have lost key players Falcao (Manchester United) and Rodriguez (Real Madrid) yet they will still be a big threat.
Travelling to Russian club Zenit St Petersburg will provide a test in itself for the teams in Group C, and once they are there they will be required to play on the artificial pitch.
Portugese winners Benfica, and German club Bayer 04 Laverkusen make up the rest of Group C.
In a tight group it’s hard to call, but it’ll be fun to watch!
After scrapping into the Group stages via the play-offs Arsenal will be quietly confident. The trickiest game in the group will be against German runners up and 2013/2014 beaten Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund. The tactical battle between Arsene Wenger and Jürgen Klopp will be interesting.
Man City should qualify for the knockout stages if they play to their best. Tough matches at far away destinations like CSKA Moscow of Russia will test the blues, along with tricky ties at Serie A runners up Roma.
The main tie of Group E has to be against Bayern Munich though, who won the competition 2 years ago.
Manchester City would take finishing 2nd and getting through, which is the most likely outcome.
Barcelona were knocked out of last year’s competition after facing domestic Spanish rivals and La Liga champions Atletico Madrid. However, with the likes of Messi and Neymar in the squad you can never write off the 2010/2011 Champions League winners.
Since Paris Saint-Germain’s takeover they have become a super club, with multiple world class players such as Silva, Cavani and Ibrahimovic.
Ajax are often seen as a development club, whereby once players reach their peak they are sold off for a high price. Having said this Ajax are always a competitive team, and beat Barcelona in last year’s competition at home.
You have to feel sorry for Group F minnows Apoel Nicosia who will do well to get a single win from the group.
Barcelona and PSG should both progress, with Ajax dropping to the Europa League.
Chelsea have arguably the easiest group out of the English clubs. They should progress, with the trickiest tie coming against FC Schalke 04 of Germany.
Sporting Lisbon won’t be a walk over either in the group, but if Chelsea play anywhere near their best they should be able to navigate through to games. It will be interesting to see how Nani (on loan from Manchester United) performs back at his former club, and to see if Scottish teenager Gauld gets a game.
The final club in Group G is NK Maribor who dumped Celtic out of the competition to get into the group stages.
Chelsea should top the group, with FC Schalke 04 or Sporting Lison finishing 2nd.
The final group, Group H is likely to be a tight group, with no super clubs involved.
It is likely BATE Borisov will finish last in the group, even though they beat both Bayern Munich and Lille 3-1 in the Champions League in the 2012/2013 season.