Champions League Preview
Yet again the Champions League has thrown up many tasty encounters in this years group stage. Celtic yet again entertain Barcelona while Arsenal are in with Napoli, Dortmund and Marseille along with many other exciting encounters.
Arsenal are unquestionably, placed in the toughest group. Dortmund showed last year that they are no pushovers with their performance in last season’s competition. Dortmund’s record signing and Mario Gotze replacement, Henrikh Mkhitaryan (sorry for any spelling errors!) has looked lively in the his first three games in the black and yellow of Dortmund and has recently got off the goal scoring mark in this game week with a brace. Could he be the missing link in this young and frighteningly good Dortmund side?
Napoli have also invested their money wisely that they received from the sale of Cavani. Gonzalo Higuain will be looking to impress the Argentinian boss in the run up to the World Cup. With the talent of Mertens, Higuain and Callejon, this team could cause a decent Arsenal side a few problems. Having recently purchased BT Sport I now get to watch an increasingly amount more of Ligue 1 and Marseille have impressed me a lot. A dark horse to get out of the group and possible Ligue 1 title contenders.
Some may argue that Man United have yet again got the ‘rub of the green’ yet again in the group stage. However many of you may be aware that Donetsk caused Chelsea a few problems in last season’s competition albeit they have lost arguably their 2 most influential players, Fernandinho and Mkhitaryan. Real Sociedad came through a tricky qualifying encounter against Lyon along with finishing a respectable 4th in Liga BBVA. Bayer Leverkusen finished 3rd in the Bundesliga as well as beating treble winners Bayern Munich 2-1 away from home. The only team to do that along with Arsenal in the whole of last season.
In Group C, PSG are expected to top the group with ease but in Group H, everything is up for grabs. On paper, Barcelona should top the group with Milan then Ajax in third and Celtic bottom. Then again, the Scottish men beat Barca at home so anything can happen. And thats what makes the beautiful game so beautiful. Ajax could prove an obstacle for Milan however their cause will not be helped with the recent departure of Christian Erikson to Spurs. On the other hand, Milan haven’t had a smooth start to the Serie A campaign with 3 points from the first 2 games, but plenty of time to improve that.
I can also see Chelsea winning their group comfortably if they don’t approach the games with over-confidence with Schalke coming behind. Group D could prove a stumbling block for Manchester City. With Bayern, CSKA Moscow and Plžen in their group. I would be very surprised if City collect 6 points from the ties against Bayern and Moscow will be a very difficult place to go, especially in the middle of autumn. As for Plžen, given the title of minnows, will probably prove a minor speed bump for the bigger teams but nothing more.
As for Group B, Real Madrid should win the group on paper, but as we all know, football is not won on paper. My prediction is that Juventus to finish in pole position, Madrid trailing behind and Galatasaray to claim the Europa League place. One of the most prominent strikers in the past decade, Didier Drogba, could heap more misery upon the other teams. Although one of the veterans, the Ivorian still has plenty of fuel left in the tank. He alone, could alter the final standings of this group.
Last but definitely not least, is Group G. Consisting of Zenit, Austria Wien, Porto and Atletico, I find it hard to predict the outcome of the group. If anyone, Porto and Atletico to fight for the top 2 spots. Although Zenit have the fire-power, I don’t believe they have the team unity to set this group alight.
Another enthralling Champions League group stage awaits us and no doubt it will throw up some thrills and spills for all the teams. The Race to Lisbon has begun!
Winners – Bayern Munich.
Runners Up – Barcelona.
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