The 2015-16 UEFA Champions League Preview

Champions League is up and running again and 32 of Europe’s best teams will battle it out to be called the best team in Europe, so let’s get it going.  Every team will have a pot ranking attributed to them.

Group A

ronaldo real

We have PSG, Real Madrid, Shakhtar and Malmo which ranks at 5th, 1st, 3rd and 5th respectively.

PSG must be about the most over rated team in Europe, it isn’t that they are an awful team; however the fact that some people tip them as outsiders to win it all is ridiculous.  It seems fitting that in the PSG team is also the most over rated footballer in Europe.  Big pay cheques and big transfer fees doesn’t create a good team, and PSG will be doing well to make the quarter finals again this year with their current squad.

Real Madrid are the team most punished by the new rule change, it does seem silly that the team with best coefficient is in pot 2, but alas rules are rules.  Madrid will be indifferent about the draw because unless they make an arse of it (Benitez is in charge, so I guess you never know) they really shouldn’t be worrying about their opponents.  Ultimately I don’t think Real will be good enough to win the Champions League this year, partly because the team seems in a bit of disarray (something which could easily change when it comes down to the hot end of the season) and they have a piss poor excuse for a manager.

Shakhtar will have been hoping for a better draw than this; however they have an outside chance of pipping PSG for 2nd.  It will be hard for them though, still being unable to play at home and having lost their best player in Douglas Costa.  I think it’s a big ask for them to do anything here, and the draw hasn’t been kind to them, which never helps.

Great draw for Malmo, who get the glamour tie of playing Real Madrid and have the homecoming of Ibrahimovic as well.  I think it’s unlikely that they will finish anywhere but fourth but they could cause a couple of upsets in Sweden.

Group B

memphis brugge

We have PSV, Man Utd, CSKA and Wolfsburg which ranks out at 8th, 4th, 6th and 1st respectively.

Everyone wanted to draw PSV because they are by far the weakest pot 1 team.  It isn’t necessarily that PSV are a bad team, however they lost their two best players in the summer and when you consider some of the team seeded below them, they look totally out of place.  Sadly for PSV they were drawn into a really hard group, with a tough 2nd seed team and the worst 4th seed team imaginable, all made worse by the horrible trip to Russia.  Third will be an achievement.

After a year’s hiatus, Man Utd are back into the Champions League.  The draw was going so well for them as well for Utd as well until Wolfsburg came out of the hat, alas not everyone can get the Chelsea draw.  Utd will still be very happy with the draw and will battle it out with Wolfsburg for the top spot, probably just edging it due to Wolfsburg loss of some big players.  Can Utd go on and win it?  Probably not, the squad is big enough, however I doubt that the striking options are good enough and I’d still have doubts of the centre backs when it comes down to the nitty gritty.  Quarter finals would be considered good, anything beyond that would be exceptional.

CSKA are one of those teams which nobody really wants to draw because they don’t want to play in Russia during the winter, however only Wolfsburg will play in Moscow in what would be considered winter conditions this year, a distinct disadvantage for CSKA.  They had a chance of making it to the last 16 before the pot 4 teams came out, however I just don’t see it now and their best case scenario is to finish 3rd.

I was amazed to see that Wolfsburg were a pot 4 team, it doesn’t seem that long ago that they won the Bundesliga.  Everyone wanted to avoid them and they could have created an absolute horrible group, instead they’ve landed in a group where their only real competition will be Man Utd.  The only negative thing I can say about Wolfsburg is that sometimes when a team comes into the Champions League after a long spell away they struggle to make the adjustment, and this is the only reason I think that they may come up short of making it through, that and they’re in the process of selling their best player, which can never help.

Group C

simeone

We have Benfica, Atletico, Galatasaray and Astana which ranks out at 6th, 2nd, 5th and 8th respectively.

Benfica always seem to be a first seed team, but never seem to actually do anything with it, I think this year will make for a change.  They’ve drawn a very favourable group, and although it is unlikely that they will challenge Atletico for the top spot, they are more than good enough to best Galatasaray.  The only negative thing for Benfica is that they will have a hell of a lot of travelling to do for their away ties (especially Astana) and that could have negative consequences, because although they are better than Galatasaray, Galatasaray are no mugs and have a strong home record.

Atletico will be very happy with the draw and will get through comfortably.  I’m not sure they are up to winning it; however they have previous and are a very difficult team to beat so they do have an outside chance.  Atletico had a hangover season last year and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were fully recovered for this season.

Galatasaray are a hard team to read, Turkey is a hard place to go and the team has bundles of Champions League experience, yet I have no faith that they will actually make it through the group.  They have a chance because Benfica aren’t the best of teams, but they will need a good slice of luck and help from elsewhere if they are to finish higher than third.

Good stuff from Astana who became the first Kazakhstani team to make it to the Champions League!  Despite that they weren’t rewarded with glamour ties against the world’s biggest names, which is a bit of a shame.  I don’t really know what to expect from them, I’ve never seen them play which makes it hard to make a judgement, if they get a point I imagine that will be seen as a success.

Group D

pogba dance

This group contains Juventus, Man City, Sevilla and Monchengladbach which ranks at 4th, 3rd, 1st and 2nd respectively.

It really is the group of death and Juventus are the team who have the most to lose from it.  Last year’s finalists almost couldn’t have handpicked a worse draw than this.  Juve have lost Vidal and Tevez from last year’s team, and although they’ve added Mandzukic, Khedira and Cuadrado I’m not sure they’ve actually improved.  I think Juve will get through the groups, however by no means is it a guarantee because this group really could go in the way of any of the four teams.

Feel bad for City (not really) because they’ve had a very hard group almost every single year of their involvement Champions League, and this season is no different.  City have made some very strong additions to the squad this season and that sort of depth should help them tons in the Champions League.  I would say that they are the best team in this group and if their players show up they should win it, however in their previous Champions League campaigns they have done the total opposite.  City are one of the hardest teams to measure when it comes to Europe because despite having a good team the last number of seasons they have vastly under achieved, and after being given a group as hard as this the margin for error will be tiny.

Sevilla couldn’t have asked for a worse draw than this, it is horrific.  The positives for Sevilla is that they have European experience and are the current Europa League champions, so know how to get it done, however it might mean nothing when they’ve been drawn into such a tough group.  I think they will need one of the two bigger teams to have a slip up if they are to go through and they also can’t get caught in a battle with Monchengladbach, again it’s a huge ask and it’ll be really tough.

Monchengladbach are making their Champions League debut (which seems wrong but I don’t see a record) and what a welcome they have been given.  It’s a bit like going to your new job and the owner meets you by giving you a swift kick to the nuts, not pleasant at all.  As I have said previously about Wolfsburg, a team which hasn’t played at this level in a while traditionally struggles to get into the rhythm which is required, for that reason I don’t think Monchengladbach will make it through, however they are a good team and will be a major thorn in the side for the other three teams, an extremely hard fourth seed.

Group E

rakitic final goal

Group E has Barcelona, Leverkusen, Roma and BATE which ranks out at 1st, 6th, 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Barcelona are the champions and the best team in Europe, so they should be being tipped to win the Champions League then?  Well yes, however we all know that the Champions League has never been retained, which is remarkable when you think of all the great team who have won it.  This is a great Barcelona team, who will make it through their group and by the team that the real competition starts will have had their transfer embargo lifted, so shouldn’t really be affected on that side.  They have such a great front three that it is hard to see a team beating them over two legs, however if I were to make a complaint about Barca it would be that they don’t have the best depth in the world.  Barca are good enough to retain but I don’t think they will, they will certainly be in the mix though.

Leverkusen will be really disappointed with the draw, Barca were as bad as it could get in pot 1 and Roma was as bad as it could get in pot 3 (after drawing Barca).  Leverkusen are a good young team and were unlucky in the last 16 last year, me ranking them as the 6th best team in pot 2 should be taken with a pinch of salt because pot 2 is that damn strong.  Leverkusen will battle it out with Roma for 2nd and in my opinion they will just edge it.

Roma have had another tough draw in the Champions League, Leverkusen are beatable and they have genuine chance of finishing second, however after last year where they had second in the palm of their hand and threw it away in humiliating fashion I really have to wonder whether this team has the mental strength to pull through, that’s why I have them coming third.

BATE got a nice glamorous group, which will contain lots of nice trips around Western Europe, sadly for them it’s a pretty bad draw.  If they are able to get 3rd they’d be doing very very well.

Group F

muller

We have Bayern, Arsenal, Olmypiacos and Zagreb which ranks out at 2nd, 5th, 7th and 6th respectively.

I feel like the top three teams seem to get drawn together all the time, and I doubt that Bayern aren’t happy about it.  Bayern should walk the group with relative ease and are a serious threat to winning the Champions League.  The major concern for Bayern will be the age and injury problems of big players like Robben, Ribery and their defence.  If they are able to sort it out (a big if) then Pep could be making it into the pantheon of triple Champions League winners.

Arsenal have found themselves in another group where you can’t see them going out, yet you can’t see them winning.  The problem for Arsenal is that finishing second puts you thoroughly on the back foot for the last 16, where it becomes a very big ask for them to do anything.  Depending on the last 16 draw Arsenal could have a nice run, but they seem to weak defensively and their striking options are limited (similar to Utd), anything better than quarters would be an excellent campaign.

Olympiacos will be happy with the group because they get two big games against Bayern and Arsenal and are almost guaranteed third where they can then have a real go at the Europa League.  They have almost no chance of making it through here but then they rarely do.

Zagreb are making up the numbers sadly, however similarly to Olympiacos they have nice games to treat their fans to.

Group G

chelsea pile

We have Chelsea, Porto, Kiev and Maccabi which ranks out at 3rd, 8th, 8th and 7th respectively.

Every.  Single.  Year.  It really is quite incredible how Chelsea always manage to find themselves in the most piss easy group, and honestly they couldn’t have handpicked it better.  If they don’t win this the manager should be sacked.  Despite Chelsea’s piss poor start to the season I do think they are a threat to win the Champions League.  What would concern me in regards to Chelsea however is that I don’t think that they have adequate squad depth to fight on two fronts.  There is no doubting that the first team is good enough and the style of Chelsea is perfectly suited for succeeding in cup competitions, however they are one or two injuries away from not being anywhere close and that says a hell of a lot about their current state.

Porto aren’t really that good, however they have fallen into a group which will have them laughing.  The only thing they won’t like is the long trips to Kiev and Tel Aviv, but I’m sure teams like City and Leverkusen would like that to be their only problem too.  Porto are another team who always manage to pull themselves an easy group, so it does seem apt that they’ve been drawn alongside Chelsea.

Dynamo Kiev are an interesting team this year because winning the Ukrainian league is decent, however I have major doubts whether they will be good enough to actually do something.  Luckily for them they have been given an uncompetitive fourth seed team and the weakest second seed team, so they’ll never have a better chance of making the knockout stages, still can’t see it happening.

Maccabi Tel Aviv are sadly just making up the numbers, just making it to this stage is their real prize.

Group H

andre villas boad

Group H consists of Zenit, Valencia, Lyon and Gent which ranks out at 7th, 7th, 4th and 4th respectively.

This for me is the worst group in the draw because none of the teams are in my opinion capable of making the quarter finals.  On the flipside of that, Group H is rather competitive due to the top two seeds being some of the worst in their pots.  Zenit are a decent team, but they aren’t really a knockout team.  Despite that they’ve been handed a fairly easy group which they will be disappointed to not get out of.  I don’t imagine that they will win it, but they will be battling it out with Lyon for second.

Valencia won’t have been able to hide their smiles when the draw was made, they’ve got incredibly lucky.  Quite easily the best team in the group, they’ll be looking to make the quarters, however I imagine that every second place team will be hoping to draw in the last 16.

Lyon will be happy with the draw because it gives them a legitimate chance of making the last 16.  I don’t see much between them and Zenit and similarly to Zenit they will be disappointed if they are unable to make it to the last 16, it should be interesting however I doubt anyone will really care because the names in the group don’t really make the headlines.

Gent will also be happy with the group (4/4!!!) because they might believe they have a slight chance of making it through, they probably won’t but they have a better chance than if they were in most other groups.  The question for Gent is would they rather be in this group where they have a slight chance of progressing or be in a glamour group where they get to play against some of the biggest teams in Europe?  I’d probably want the former, although the latter would be much more memorable and spectacular.

Going Through

Group A- Real & PSG, Group B- Utd & Wolfsburg, Group C- Atletico & Benfica, Group D- Juve & City, Group E- Barca & Leverkusen, Group F- Bayern & Arsenal, Group G- Chelsea & Porto and Group H- Valencia & Lyon

Conclusion

There really is no point in making predictions on who I think will win the tournament because everything is dependent on the draws and form which is near to impossible to predict at this stage.  As things currently stand I feel that only Bayern (my pick right now) and Barca really look good enough to win, with teams like Chelsea, City, Real and maybe Atletico as outsiders.

I do feel that the Champions League is lacking in quality teams this year, and my thinking that only two teams are really good enough to win sort of follows that.  I think there is really only one group in there which could go anyway and it would cause the competition to lose a biggish team, which is rather disappointing.  I like the group stages and I understand that the point of it is to give extra matches to smaller teams, however it has become a bit of a procession and I wonder if they’d be better off scrapping the Europa League and making it a 64 team tournament which was knockout the entire way.  I’m just not that excited about the Champions League groups right now, hopefully that will change when match day one roles along and the music kicks in.

So leave a comment about what you thought about the draw and who you think could win it this year.  Are my points valid or am I just a massive vagina who doesn’t know what he’s talking about?  There’s only one way to let me know and seeing as you’ve made it this far you might as well take the final step and jump over to my Facebook and Twitter pages and join the bm23reviews page, I’d greatly appreciate it.  Thanks for the read.

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Author: bm23reviews

I watch TV and sports then write stuff.....that's about it.

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