So many groups such little time, so why bother with a snarky introduction where I take a shot at the fall of English football and the massive gap between the top three teams and the rest? Exactly there isn’t one, so I’m just going to jump straight in.
What can only be called a fairly straight forward group, Real and PSG walked it. Real are rightfully one of the favourites, but with Benitez as manager I really can’t see them winning this. PSG are one of those teams that everyone seems to be tipping and I have to say I don’t really understand why, because they are the definition of over rated. Don’t get me wrong if the draw falls their way, who knows where they could go, but I feel that says more about the quality of depth in the competition than it does about how good they are.
Shakhtar were pretty damn terrible and scraped a Europa League place above Malmo, who did better than I thought they may, even though they had the worst defence in the competition.
Oddly enough group B turned out to be the most competitive group of the competition, with an exhilarating final day which saw table changes across the board, however in the end it was Wolfsburg and PSV which prevailed.
If you’re wondering what the difference was between the teams who went through and those who went out, it was that Wolfsburg and PSV both achieved full points at home, and the other two didn’t. As great a feat as it is for these two teams to actually go through (PSV were the first seed everyone wanted after all) I can’t see them going any further unless the draw is incredibly favourable. Wolfsburg obviously has the best chance having finished top of the group, but more or less they’ll be the team all the second seeds will be hoping for.
The real shock in this group is that Manchester United somehow didn’t go through. I just couldn’t see them not qualifying out of what was a piss easy group. Before the 5th match day it felt Utd were guaranteed to qualify, but after another lacklustre display they found themselves scrambling in their final and most difficult match of the group stage almost certainly needing a win to qualify. You can blame the home draw against PSV, but in all reality Utd only picked up a solitary point away from home, which quite frankly isn’t enough to qualify for the knockout round. To only score six goals in six matches is quite frankly not good enough, and generally the entire campaign was a bit of a disaster (you can throw the Bruges games in there too). Utd now have to put up with the shitiness of the Europa League, which is apt punishment for being such fannies and not qualifying for the big boy’s tournament.
CSKA were also in this group…
What can only be described as a pretty shit group. Atletico and Benfica strolled it and Galatasaray didn’t show up whatsoever. The most shocking thing about this group was Astana getting 4 points, and only losing twice, which is quite a feat in your first Champions League appearance.
Atletico have an outside chance of winning the title, but in all honesty I highly doubt it will happen. They’re in the same boat as the English teams, PSG and Juventus, that rung down from the top three, who if the draw falls their way they might just get lucky but chance is a fine thing. Benfica will get the chance to play one of Barca, Real, Chelsea, Bayern, Wolfsburg, Zenit and Man City, so they’re pretty much fucked.
The group with the best teams overall in the competition was a bit of a let-down to be honest. City and Juve ended up getting through without much bother and Sevilla and Monchengladbach didn’t seem capable of stepping up to the higher level.
The weird thing about this group is that City were finally able to finish top of a group and were very fortunate to do so. Last minute winning goals in their first two games against Sevilla and Monchengladbach (two games in which they were outplayed) made it look a lot more comfortable than it actually was, made to look even more comfortable by more late goals against Monchengladbach in the final game. City are one of those teams where if the draw falls for them they may be able to do something, however the scraping by results and the convincing defeats against Juventus says that in all likelihood they won’t be winning it.
Juventus are an odd team, because they did the hard bit in the group (getting the double over City) and then shat the bed in the other games. They will need the draw to fall kindly for them, otherwise it could mean curtains for the Italian champs, either way they need to buck up their ideas because they just weren’t good enough.
Sevilla and Monchengladbach both suffered from the age old tradition of naivety, which teams who don’t consistently play in the Champions League suffer from. At least Sevilla will get the chance to make it a Europa League hat trick, which would be quite some feat.
Barcelona are one of the two favourites to win this competition and despite being in a fairly tricky group, they absolutely walked it. Barca look good and they have the best attacking trio in the world, as well as quality midfielders behind, quite unstoppable really. The issue is still that they can’t defend for shit, and if you watch the end of the Leverkusen game you can really see where the issues lies. I know it wasn’t really first team, but they are way too open and their away performances weren’t as good as you would have expected. I’m being picky, because they are that damn good, but no team has ever retained the Champions League…
Roma somehow managed to progress through the group, despite looking so underwhelming. The fact that they have went through with a -5 goal difference tells you everything, this is not a knockout stage football team. I’d be shocked if they made it beyond the last 16.
Leverkusen will be kicking themselves as well, getting put out by a team on 6 points is inexcusable for a solid outfit like Bayer, but if you don’t get the job done at home and put in meh performances away from home then this is what happens.
BATE will never get a better chance to make the last 16 than they did in this group, sadly it’s easier said than done.
Bayern are my favourites to win the competition, they look imperious. My one concern in regards to Bayern is that they have this bad tendency to have games where they dominate a team yet for some reason cannot convert (similarly the German national team have this problem too). The perfect example of this is the game they lost against Arsenal in which they annihilated them for the entire match yet came out with a 2-0 defeat. It will be interesting to see if they have the cutting edge when it gets down to the nitty gritty this year, because the last two years under Guardiola they have come up short when it really matters.
Could you get more lucky than Arsenal? They lose their first two games against easy opposition, somehow scrape a win against Bayern, lose the fourth game, need to win their next two by a certain amount and have Olympiakos lose both of theirs to get through, and yet they got exactly that. To be honest I always thought they would got through after they beat Bayern, because it would take Olympiakos getting something off of Arsenal or Bayern and to be honest they just aren’t that good a team. I doubt Arsenal will go far, they almost certainly are going to get a hard draw and as their ties against Bayern showed; they clearly aren’t equipped to win against the best teams.
Olympiakos will be disappointed that they went into the last game knowing that a loss would still put them through and ended up getting beat fairly comfortably. Again they just aren’t that good a team and the fact they went out isn’t really a surprise whatsoever. They’ll be kicking themselves but it is what it is. Zagreb were shit but got a result against Arsenal so not all bad I guess.
A very weird group, it contained the worst team in the competition in Maccabi Tel Aviv, a surprisingly good Dynamo Kiev team and two underwhelming performances from what you’d call the big boys (being generous to Porto there).
Chelsea were lucky they were drawn in such an easy group, because despite having a pish campaign they still managed to finish top. The thing about Chelsea is that they have been terrible this year, yet have an outside chance of winning the Champions League in my opinion. I can’t see them finishing top four, so the only way they are back in this competition is if they win it, and this team is good enough to do that. There are better teams in the competition, but there is no doubting that this Chelsea team is woefully underperforming and will eventually come good. They also have arguably the best manager in the world in Mourinho. Just remember that the last time Chelsea finished outside the top four and looked like pure shit they somehow managed to win the Champions League…stranger things have happened than a more talented Chelsea team with a good manager doing exactly that. I think they have the best chance of all the English teams, I’d currently put them as my fourth favourites.
I don’t know what to say about Kiev, I’m shocked they performed so well and good for them for doing so. They took advantage of the underperforming of the bigger teams and made them pay for it. I doubt they will do anything, but nobody wants to go to Kiev in February. Porto were shit but they could do something in the Europa League, as is tradition.
I called this the worst group when the draw was made and yeah…it was a pretty shit group. It was also the only group which I got totally wrong when I made my predictions, which tells its own story. It says a lot when Zenit stroll to 5/5 wins, when I had them ranked as the 7th best first seed team prior to the start of the tournament.
Chances are Zenit won’t do anything and are one of the teams the second seeds will be looking to draw, however nobody wants to go to Russia and they did ace their group. I can’t believe Gent got through, quite remarkable, an amazing performance. I thought they would have been one of the teams who would have been just happy to be there and they managed to deservedly go through to the next round, they will however be the team who everyone wants to draw (it’s always nice to be wanted!). The performance of the other two teams was pathetic, neither deserved a Europa League place, but Valencia got it.
If you’re counting I got 11/16 going through and 8/16 in their right positions. Not too great but to be fair it was quite a surprising Champions League group stage. You can read my Champions League preview right here!
I actually think this was a very good Champions League group stage, yes it maybe didn’t have the glamour ties which we are used to, but it had plenty of shocks and upsets. From Utd going out to Gent going through there was interest right up to the last kick of the ball, and that isn’t always the case.
For me Bayern and Barca look in a class of their own, with Real the next step down. If one of those three doesn’t do it then it could really be anyone’s, with the other teams either being no hopers or much of a muchness.
So what did you think of the group stages? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. You can also ask me to expand on any of the teams or groups which were featured and I can yammer or endlessly with a response.