Champions League - Group by Group

The draw for the group stages of the Champions League 2013/14 took place today in Monaco. The footballing world's premier club competition is sure to get the pulse racing in every football fan, but what can we expect from each of the groups.

Group A

Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Sociedad

Manchester United and David Moyes could have been given a harder job to make it to the knock out stages, however Shakhtar Donetsk will provide stern competition for the English Club. Leverkusen and Sociedad will not be there to make up the numbers and could surprise the two 'bigger' teams, especially on their home patches. 

Player to look - Shakhtar winger Bernard is highly thought of back in his home country and has chosen an increasingly popular career path for Brazilians by moving to Ukraine, expect pace and fireworks from the £22 Million wonderkid. 

Familiar faces - Shakhtar have former Arsenal striker Eduardo on their books, whilst Sociedad have one time Arsenal player Carlos Vela and recently signed Esteban Granero on loan from QPR

Predictions - United and Shakhtar should pick up enough points to take the coveted top two positions, but expect both Leverkusen and Sociedad to provide sterner tests than they perhaps appear on paper

 

Group B:

Real Madrid, Juventus, Galatasaray, Copenhagen

Real Madrid and Juventus are two heavyweights of European football, and will be expected to show their dominance in this group. However Galatasaray reached the quarter finals last season, and will be intimidating, especially at home. Sadly for fans of Danish football, Copenhagen would have to pull off a remarkable shock to not finish bottom.

Player to look - This group is littered with stars such as Tevez, Pirlo, Drogba, Sneijder and a certain Portuguese forward. Slightly below the radar, Paul Pogba formally of Manchester United is a young, powerful and creative midfielder with an eye for the spectacular. If he is given space, he can produce moments of brilliance.

Familiar faces - This group is like a reunion of Premier League stars. Tevez, Ronaldo, Drogba, Pogba and Xabi Alonso are all present and correct. Also keep an eye out for cult Arsenal hero Eboue.

Predictions - Real Madrid and Juventus should go throw, but expect Galatasaray to take points off of them in Istanbul, and potentially run them close.

 

Group C: 

Benfica, Paris St-Germain, Olympiakos, Anderlecht

Group C includes the Super Eagles of Lisbon, Benfica, and oil rich Paris St German, and should offer good value for money. Despite Benfica being top seeds, PSG will be licking their lips at this group, and you can expect Cavani and co to be confident of securing top spot. Olympiakos and Anderlecht will offer opposition but will struggle against the stronger squads of their opponents.

Player to look - Frustrating one minute, sulking the next, but on his day, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is an absolute delight to look. Equally capable of scoring a wonder goal, such as his overhead kick against England for Sweden, as he is to storm off - expect plenty of both especially if record signing Cavani starts to steal the limelight.

Familiar faces - PSG have Mohammed Sissoko who had a spell at Liverpool. Quite bizarrely, Olympiakos keeper is none other than Northern Ireland international Roy Carroll.

Predictions - PSG will walk the group, followed by Benfica

 

 

Group D:

Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Manchester City, Viktoria Plzen

Manchester City may not be in the group of death that they have grown accustomed too, however they do have the gigantic hurdle of current champions Bayern Muncih, now managed by the suave Pep Guardiola. Munich will be as fearsome as ever whilst City boss Pellegrini has strengthened his squad with one eye on this competition. City and Bayern will not have it all their own way, with CSKA Moscow sure to spring a surprise or two. Viktoria Plzen will probably have to settle for enjoying the experience.

Player to look - You could probably pick any of the Bayern Munich line up as a player to look and justify it, especially newly crowned player of the 2013 tournament, Franck Ribery. One player to keep an eye on is Yaya Toure. The Ivory Coast man mountain is among the best midfielders in Europe and has an uncanny abilty to ghost past players.

Familiar faces - Arjen Robben will be a familiar sight to Chelsea fans, as will his passing ability, whilst City may potentially face two former players in the form of Jerome Boateng and Daniel Van Buyten.

Prediction - Munich to sail through comfortably and City to edge into the last 16 after a fist fight in the car park with CSKA Moscow

 

Group E:

Chelsea, Schalke, Basel, Steaua Bucharest

Chelsea seem to have played their get out of jail costless card after a poor champions league showing last season and have been handed the easiest group of the lot. They overcame Basel and Bucharest on their way to the UEFA cup final, and whilst both provide some form of test for the London club, the Mourinho factor should make those ties forgone conclusions. Schalke have consistently punched above their weight in the tournament in recent years, and will provide the special one with a stern examination.

Player to look - after spending a few seasons out on loan, Kevin De Bruyne has been outstanding in pre-season and the premier league. Expect him to play a bigger role at Chelsea, especially if they steam roll the first few games. Schalke defender Papadopoulos has been attracting several EPL clubs attention, and he will make it hard for the groups forward lines.

Familiar faces - Slim pickings here. Phillipp Degan, who plays for Basel played seven games for Liverpool

Predictions - Chelsea and Schalke will comfortably make the last 16

 

Group F:

Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli

The Champions League always throws up a group of death, and this time round, Arsenal will have to navigate it. Last years finalists Dortmund have done well from pot 3, and look like being early group favorites. Marseille will struggle, especially without Joey Barton tweeting from the sidelines. Napoli have splashed the cash this summer, and their front two of Higuain and Pandev will provide goals.

Player to look - A number of Dortmund players could walk into most teams in Europe. Expect Lewandowski to continue scoring at an almost impossible rate and Marco Reus to continue where he left off last season. Summer recruit Mkhitaryan will provide flair to fill the void left by the departure of Gotze to Bayern Munich,

Familiar faces - Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina has been farmed out on loan to Napoli and takes his place alongside former West Ham player Behrami. Former Charlton player Diawara plys his trade for Marseille. Expect Higuian to show Arsenal what they missed out on in the summer.

Predictions - Arsenal's run of group qualification is at serious risk, and i would expect Napoli and Dortmund to progress at their expense.

 

Group G: 

Porto, Atletico Madrid, Zenit St Petersburg, Austria Vienna

Group G is made up of teams, with the exception of Porto, that you would expect to inhabit the Europa League. However Atletico Madrid are a strong outfit, whilst Zenit St Petersburg will provide tough opposition, especially at home. Austria Vienna will be no pushovers but will mainly be there to swap jerseys.

Player to look - With the departure of the prolific Falcao, David Villa will be relied on for Madrid's goals, and if he captures any of his previous form, he will remain deadly in the 18 yard box

Familiar faces - Maicon has recently joined Porto from Man City, whilst Courtois, the giant Belgian goalkeeper is on loan in the Spanish capital from Chelsea

Predictions - Porto and Atletico Madrid to make the last 16, if they can survive the Russian winter

 

Group H: 

Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax, Celtic

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has described this group as the best and worst he could have picked. The only group in Champions League history to be made up entirely of former champions, this group is one for the football romantics. Barcelona and AC Milan will be favorites to qualify, however Ajax finished third in last years group of death, and Celtic beat Barcelona at Parkhead last year. Certainly the pick of the groups with 16 European cups between the four teams.

Player to look - Messi, Neymar, Iniesta and Xavi from Barcelona are the obvious candidates. However Balotelli and Boateng will provide flair in Milan. One player that may surprise a defender or two will be Celtic's Samaras, who on his day will terrorize even the best defence. However the front two of Messi and Neymar look set to take the majority of the headlines.

Familiar faces - Mad hatter Mario Balotelli, and former Portsmouth player Boateng will be crucial for Milan. Mascherano, formally of West Ham and Liverpool will be seen strutting his stuff for Barcelona

Predictions - Barcelona will go through top of the group, and Milan will expect second place, but if Ajax or Celtic can exploit a Milan team not at its best, this group could be remembered for some time.

 

 

VAVEL Logo