Friday, 27 August 2010

UEFA Champions League Draw 2010/11

So on Thursday the groups were drawn. Here's a quick look at the teams and how they might get on.

Group A: Inter Milan, Werder Bremen, Tottenham Hotspur, FC Twente

English Champions League debutants Tottenham face the daunting task of navigating a tricky group containing last season's winners Inter and new Dutch champions Twente. This will not be an easy group for any of the teams as they all capable of taking points from each other. It might just be Spurs' lack of European experience at this level that could cost them. Look out for Wesley Sneijder of Inter who was instrumental in their charge to the European crown last season - one of the likely candidates for FIFA World Player of the Year.

Winner: Inter Milan
Runner-up: Werder Bremen

Group B: Lyon, Benfica, Schalke 04, Hapoel Tel-Aviv

Lyon continue to be one of the best teams never to have won the Champions League. With the constant sale of their star players they somehow continue to bounce back but their lack of a French title last season sent them under the radar during the transfer window this summer. Benfica are now a team considerably weaker with the sale of Brazilian Ramires to Chelsea and Angel Di Maria to Real Madrid. Bundesliga runner-up Schalke will be boosted by the summer signing of Raul who found himself surplus to requirements in Spain. Hapoel can only offer an intimidating atmosphere and must use that to their advantage if they are to achieve a Europa League place.

Winner: Lyon
Runner-up: Schalke 04

Group C: Manchester United, Valencia, Rangers, Bursaspor

Sir Alex Ferguson must have been delighted when he looked over the group for this season's European exploits: a severely depleted Valencia side, a team from the Scottish Premier League and unknown entity from Turkey. With the core of this Manchester United side remaining from last season's quarter-final exit it remains to be seen whether they can go one further or are in need of reinforcements. Valencia fans will be saddened by the departures of their star duo David Villa and David Silva and with no real replacements (bar the excellent Mata) qualification to the knockout stages would be an achievement. Expect the home, hostile environments of Rangers and Bursaspor to the main players if they are to expect further European football this season.

Winner: Manchester United
Runner-up: Valencia

Group D: Barcelona, Panathinaikos, FC Copenhagen, Rubin Kazan

Is it worth talking about Barcá? The imminent signing of Mascherano (at time of writing) coupled with the already signed David Villa gives you the sense that Barcelona might just destroy everyone they meet in Group D. Panathinaikos continue their recruitment of players their best. Luis Garcia (of Liverpool fame), Sidney Govou and Jean-Alain Boumsong have all moved to join Djibril Cissé and Gilberto Silva at the Greek champions. The effect that Rubin Kazan had on the competition was a positive one and were it not for the strength of their group last season (again grouped with Barcelona as well as AC Milan) they would have qualified. After all, they did Barcá at the Camp Nou. If Copenhagen can utilise their home form against the Greeks and the Russians, they may stand a chance of a Europa League place.

Winner: Barcelona
Runner-up: Rubin Kazan

Group E: Bayern Munich, Roma, Basel, CFR Cluj

Last season's runners-up Bayern will go into the competition this season with high hopes. With Frank Ribery electing to stay in Munich, coach Guus Hiddink will have access to a powerful attacking trident in Ribery, Arjen Robben and German Thomas Muller. Throw into the mix the lively Ivica Olic and expect Bayern to be challenging again this year. Roma finished runners-up again in Serie A but the astute signing of the apparently reformed Adriano could prove fruitful as captain Francesco Totti begins to fade. Basel might be able to hold one of the European giants at home but don't expect too many surprises in this group. Romanian's Cluj will be happy to be here.

Winner: Bayern Munich
Runner-up: Roma

Group F: Chelsea, Marseille, Spartak Moscow, MSK Zilina

No surprises as to who is likely to stroll through this group. Chelsea's impressive start to the Premier League season, albeit against West Brom and Wigan, is an ominous sign as both have been very impressive performances. If Drogba can remain consistent and free of injury this season he could easily finish as top scorer in the competition. The departures of Deco, Joe Cole and Michael Ballack shouldn't hurt the Blues too much as they have acquired able replacements in Ramires and Yossi Benayoun from Liverpool. Marseille will be buzzing from their Ligue 1 title, halting Lyon's dominance of the French league. The success of new striker Andre-Pierre Gignac from Toulouse will prove vital to their European ambitions. No club, no matter how big they are, enjoys a trip to eastern Europe and it is Russians Spartak who will provide this groups dreaded away days. The cold climates there will suit the home side and will be used to their advantage. Sadly cold climates are the only thing Spartak have to offer in this group. Like Cluj, Slovakian champions Zilina will be very happy to be here and should expect a bottom of the group finish.

Winner: Chelsea
Runner-up: Marseille

Group G: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Ajax, Auxerre

The glamour group. Three of these teams have won the competition before but you can't look past Real for a real contender for the title this season. With new coach José Mourinho installed alongside the new era of Galacticos which include Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, German star Mesut Ozil, Sergio Ramos amongst others, like Barcelona, you would expect them to crush all of their opponents. Including Milan. The red side from Milan are not the team they once were. They are still an ageing team with the likes of Gattuso, Pirlo, Nesta and Ambrosini still comprising their first team. The likes of Alexandre Pato, Mathieu Flamini and the impressive Thiago Silva breathe some life into what could be seen as a team going stale. Whether the revitalised Ronaldinho can catapult Milan to the latter stages remains to be seen. Ajax could challenge one of the big boys if they hold onto club captain Luis Suarez, who despite his unprofessional behaviour, excelled at the World Cup. Auxerre are not the team they once were and without the likes Cissé and Kapo they will find themselves concentrating on Ligue 1 after Christmas.

Winner: Real Madrid
Runner-up: AC Milan

Group H: Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk, Braga, Partizan Belgrade

Although seen as favourites to win the group, Arsenal's lightweight squad could struggle to make it out of this tricky group. The Gunners are clearly the technically superior team in the group but should injuries hit to key players such as Fabregas, Arshavin or Walcott, they could struggle. Shakhtar's Brazilian contingent should fare them well and the signing of Arsenal striker Eduardo should give an interesting scenario when the two clubs meet. Celtic's conquerors Braga showed there are more than three teams in Portugal and they should also fare well within the group. Partizan will ensure that Serbia is never a nice place for a team to visit and will use their home environment to their advantage if they wish to move forward from the group. A Europa League looks like the limit for them. Like Group A, all of these teams are capable of taking points from each other and it should be interesting to see who prevails.

Winner: Arsenal
Runner-up: Shakhtar Donetsk

So there you have it, a run-down of this season's Champions League groups. Here's to an interesting campaign, goals scored, mistakes and controversial decisions. We thank you in advance UEFA.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think?