The group stages were drawn on Thursday evening for the forthcoming UEFA Champions League campaign and the draws look very exciting.
The predictions for this draw are not particularly obvious due to massive clubs like Borussia Dortmund, Ajax and Manchester City have been placed as third seeded teams.
An interesting feature of this draw is that a handful of teams keep meeting each other in this competition for example: Barcelona and AC Milan are set to meet for the third time in three years. Also Arsenal have had their fair share of meetings with Olympique Marseille.
Nonetheless, this article will look at the groups and the potential challenges that each team faces. It will predict how games are likely to go bearing in mind that a couple of upsets are likely to occur.
Members: Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen and Real Sociedad
1) Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)
2) Manchester United (ENG)
3) Real Sociedad (SPA)
4) Bayer Leverkusen (GER)
Shakhtar Donetsk are veterans in this competition are expected to qualify comfortably bearing in mind they also relegated Chelsea to the Europa League and reached the quarterfinal last year.
Meanwhile, Manchester United have not always qualified from the group stage with ease, in addition they have only won six UCL games in past two years and have a manager that is not accustomed to European football.
But they should still qualify but maybe not as comfortably as most people might expect. Real Sociedad knocked out Lyon and they look like the “real deal” but will have to settle for a Europa League spot while Bayer Leverkusen don’t look like they will offer much competition this season especially after the sale of Andre Schürrle.
Members: Real Madrid, Juventus, Galatasaray and Copenhagen
1) Juventus (ITA)
2) Real Madrid (SPA)
3) Galatasaray (TUR)
4) Copenhagen (DEN)
This group looks very straightforward with both Real Madrid and Juventus expected to qualify with relative ease. Although, the Old Lady may pip Los Blancos to a top position as the stability Antonio Conte has brought makes them look unbeatable at times. Galatasaray have many stars like Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder but may still prove insufficient for a qualifying spot.
Members: Benfica, PSG, Olympiacos and Anderlecht. Predictions:
1) Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
2) Olympiacos (GRE)
3) Benfica (POR)
4) Anderlecht (BEL)
PSG look to top this group with relative ease but the second place is definitely up for grabs. Benfica have only qualified for the knockout stages once in the past five years and were chosen as top seed mainly due to their Europa League performances. Olympiacos may cause an upset by qualifying ahead the Portuguese team while Anderlecht may settle for last place.
Members: Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Manchester City and FC Viktoria Plzeň.
1) Bayern Munich (GER)
2) Manchester City (ENG)
3) CSKA Moscow (RUS)
4) FC Viktoria Plzeň (CZE)
The Bavarians are favourites for this competition and will qualify from this group with relative ease. Manchester City will not be far behind while second seeded CSKA Moscow should obtain a Europa League spot ahead of FC Viktoria Plzeň.
Members: Chelsea, Schalke 04, Basel and Steaua București.
1) Chelsea (ENG)
2) Schalke 04 (GER)
3) Basel (SWI)
4) Steaua București (ROM)
Chelsea should breeze past this group as they have been given a very favourable draw while Schalke will battle intensely with a very technically gifted Basel side. Schalke were able to finish above Arsenal last season in the group stage and should be able to over come their Swiss and Romanian oppositions.
Members: Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli
1) Borussia Dortmund (GER)
2) Arsenal (ARS)
3) Napoli (ITA)
4) Marseille (FRA)
The Group of Death and every team in this group have very good chances of qualifying but the last year’s Champions League runners up look favourite to secure top spot.
Arsenal have not failed to qualify from the group stages for more than a decade, although they face heavy competition from a rejuvenated Napoli and an impressive Marseille.
The Gunners experience in this competition should, however, pull them through. Nevertheless, this group should provide the most excitement for the neutrals as not much separates each team in terms of quality. Arsene Wenger; be worried.
Members: Porto, Atletico Madrid, Zenit St. Petersburg and Austria Wien.
1) Atletico Madrid (SPA)
2) Zenit St. Petersburg (RUS)
3) Porto (POR)
4) Austria Wien (AUS)
Austria Wien will definitely face no pressure in qualifying from this group, as they have not had the most favourable teams to compete with. However, for Zenit, Atletico and Porto they have equally good chances of qualifying from this group.
Atletico lost their main striker in Radamel Falcao but acquired veteran David Villa as replacement and the team’s superb organisation should help them through. Zenit have been spending a lot since last summer and look like serious contenders for quarterfinalists.
Meanwhile Porto have lost a handful of players of key players as it happens to them annually and depleted quality may end up costing them a spot in the knockout stages.
Members: Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax Amsterdam and Celtic. Predictions:
1) Barcelona (SPA)
2) AC Milan (ITA)
3) Celtic (SCO)
4) Ajax Amsterdam (HOL)
Many have argued that this is also a very tough group but in fact it looks very simple. Barcelona and AC Milan should advance but the Scottish and Dutch Champions cannot be overlooked easily. The Celts have shown that they are fighters as they overcame Shakhter Karagandy and should secure a Europa League spot as reward.
What are your predictions for the knockout stages? Comment in the box below
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