Friday, 26 August 2011

Champions League Overview

After the draw yesterday, it seems a necessity to analyse the English teams and their opponents. First of all, whilst some have been handed tougher draws than others, they all should realistically qualify for the knockout round. Barca again will be clear favourites but I expect a few shock results and I believe someone else will win it, maybe a team that has never won it before!

Group A
Bayern Munich
Manchester City

This is the inevitable 'Group of Death', with each team possessing quality players. Bayern and Man City should qualify, as on paper they do have the better quality, but each game should be difficult with one mistake or a contentious decision being the decider. Bayern have the most experience at this level which should put them in good stead and with the reliable Neuer in goals, they have every chance of grinding out a result, especially with the pace of Robben and Ribery on the wings. Villarreal and Napoli have decent squads but whether they're good enough at this level is debatable, both sides have strong offensive options but shaky defenses, so should provide some interesting results. Man City have the financial clout to keep on reinforcing, so who knows how many more players they will have signed before the transfer window closes. They don't have much experience at this level and were poor in the Europa League last season, so question marks remain.

Group B
Inter Milan
CSKA Moscow

Inter Milan should qualify from this group with some ease but a tricky trip to Russia might spring a surprise or two. CSKA will only really qualify if they win all their home games and maybe snatch a draw away, which i don't really see happening. Lille have lost several key players from last seasons league and cup double, for this reason they'll struggle but should qualify for the Europa League with their finish, but this might be more of a hindrance than a benefit. Trabzonspor is an interesting one as Fenerbahce are launching an appeal, so either team might be contesting in this group. I really don't see any Turkish teams finishing anywhere but last, the money gained from playing in Europe will be a benefit though.

Group C
Manchester United

This is by far the easiest group to call, Manchester United should walk this group playing their reserves with Benfica the only real competition. Basel should finish third and qualify for the Europa League, I honestly don't see Otelul scoring a goal let alone picking up a point, so expect some big defeats.

Group D
Real Madrid
Dinamo Zagreb

Yet again Real play Lyon in the Champions League, these two games will decide who wins the group and who finishes second. I don't see Ajax or Dinamo having enough quality to pip either of the other two and reach the knockout rounds. Ajax should realistically finish third with Dinamo finishing well behind in fourth.

Group E
Bayer Leverkusen

I believe this group will be tougher than it looks, both Valencia and Leverkusen should provide a stern test for Chelsea. I still think Chelsea will top the group with Valencia not far behind in second and Leverkusen in third, I don't see Genk providing much competition.

Group F
Borussia Dortmund

This is a difficult group to call, Dortmund are dark horses and I think they might cause a few shocks. Arsenal will struggle to reach the knockout stages, unless they get several reinforcements before the transfer window closes. Marseille will be a handful at home and should get a couple of wins, I don't see Olympiacos causing any major problems for any of the other teams. 

Group G
Shakhtar Donetsk
Zenit St Petersburg

I see this group finishing in roughly the same order, there'll be difficult trips to both the Ukraine and Russia for Porto but I think they should pip the other two to top spot. Shakhtar are a strong side and will qualify for the knockout rounds just based on their home form, Zenit will be close behind both but I think the other two are stronger sides. APOEL should be beaten be each team with relative ease.

Group H
AC Milan
BATE Borisov

Barca are clear favourites to win the Champions League again this season, they shouldn't have much problems winning this group either. AC Milan will finish second and I expect Barca to give them at least one thrashing (at least a 3 goal win), there'll be a big gap between second and third with BATE probably edging Plzen into the Europa League place.

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