Thoughts and Predictions for the 2013/14 Champions League Group Stages
After a frantic wait following the qualifying phase that took place in the beginning of the season, the 32 teams that were to feature in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League campaign had all their representatives in the venue and the show was anchored by CNN sport’s correspondent, Pedro Pinto. Notable football figureheads like Michael Owen, Luis Figo and Johan Cruyff assumed some admin roles on the pots and it was a pretty much exciting event from start to finish.
The leading European football clubs, Arsenal included, were seeded in the first pot which ensured that these sides were going to avoid each other till the latter stages of the competition which traditionally kicks off in February. Here are my thoughts on yesterday’s draws.
This group had a very interesting twist as three-time winners and finalists in recent seasons, Manchester United, were paired against Ukrainian juggernauts, Shakhtar Donetsk, German superpowers, Bayer Leverkusen and newbies, Real Sociedad. One would have thought that Carlos Vela’s employers would be odds on to go home early but many minds would have been turned following their brilliant playoff performances of the course of two legs against Olympique Lyonnais.
Nonetheless, this would be a very interesting group and everybody would be keen to see what David Moyes has to offer in his maiden Champions League campaign.
Teams to qualify from the group: Manchester United and Shakhtar Donetsk.
Europa League candidate: Bayer Leverkusen
Team going home with nothing: Real Sociedad
This group sees two football heavyweights clash as the Real Madrid vs. Juventus encounter would be one the highlights of the 2013/14 Champions League group stages. These sides have also been paired with Turkish giants, Galatasaray, that gave Real Madrid a run for their money in the quarterfinals of last season’s Champions League.
It would seem as if Nicklas Bendtner’s former side, F.C. Kobenhavn, would be there to complete the numbers but they could spring a surprise or two.
Teams to qualify from the group: Real Madrid and Juventus
Europa League candidate: Galatasaray
Team going home with nothing: FC Kobenhavn
In this group, many would expect big spenders, Paris St. Germain, to ease through the teams paired with them but they will definitely be mindful about the threat SL Benfica would pose, as the Portuguese team are just fresh from going into the finals of last season’s Europa League.
Olympiakos and Anderlecht would have their work cut out for them but in my honest opinion, I don’t see both sides going beyond this group stage.
Teams to qualify from the group: PSG and SL Benfica
Europa League candidate: Olympiakos
Team going home with nothing: Anderlecht
For the first time in three seasons, it seems as if luck has finally shone on Manchester City, as the English outfit hasn’t been paired in a “Group of Death” like the past two seasons. However, they are set to begin their Champions League campaign alongside the defending champions, Bayern Munich, a club tipped to retain the title.
CSKA Moscow will definitely want to show that they are no pushovers and the teams in this group would ignore Viktoria Plzen in their own peril.
Teams to qualify from the group: Bayern Munich and Man City.
Europa League candidate: CSKA Moscow
Team going home with nothing: Viktoria Plzen
Following a back to back campaign that saw Chelsea win the Champions League and Europa League, Roman Abramovich will be on the lookout as he hopes to win the title yet again – a trophy that eluded Jose Mourinho in his first stint at the club. However, Chelsea could be in for a stroll in the park as they have been paired with Schalke 04, FC Basel and Steaua Bucharest.
Teams to qualify from the group: Chelsea and Schalke 04
Europa League candidate: FC Basel
Team going home with nothing: Steaua Bucharest
When I saw the draws for the group that features my dear Arsenal, I must say that my stomach churned a couple of times. The Gunners have been paired with last season’s Champions League finalists and emerging German superpower, Borussia Dortmund, Emirates Cup participant, SSC Napoli and French figureheads, Olympique Marseille.
This has been dubbed as the Group of Death but with strong performances at the Emirates coupled with some great results away from home, I’m tipping the Gunners to qualify to the knockout stages, but it won’t be an easy feat. The teams in this group are very strong and in the end, the teams that qualify will be the teams that deserve to qualify.
Teams to qualify from the group: Arsenal and Dortmund
Europa League candidate: Napoli
Team going home with nothing: Marseille
This group has an exciting twist as FC Porto and Atletico Madrid are set tp lock horns yet again. The clash would have seen Radamel Falcao return to a place he once called home but as we all know, the Colombian predator is basking the sun in the principality of Monaco.
Zenit St. Petersburg would offer a great threat and with the talent in their disposal, I see them going very far in the competition but I can’t say the same for the least seeded team in the group, Austria Wien.
Teams to qualify from the group: Zenit and FC Porto
Europa League candidate: Atletico Madrid
Team going home with nothing: Austria Wien.
In recent times, this is afixture football fans have become accustomed to seeing in the Champions League – a clash between Barcelona and AC Milan. Down the years, both sides have put up great outings but they also have the threat of AFC Ajax and Celtic to contend with. The Scots have had their fair share of history with both sides and I know that they are not relishing playing in the Nou Camp and San Siro.
Ajax has changed from the side that swept other teams off their feet in the past to a new look team that has a penchant for selling its best talent to the predators of European football. With the likes of Barcelona and AC Milan in this group, I see Ajax getting only a Europa League berth.
Teams to qualify from the group: Barcelona and AC Milan.
Europa League candidate: Ajax
Team going home with nothing: Celtic
I’ve just shared my thoughts and predictions for the 2013/14 Champions League group stages. Feel free to share yours with your comments.
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