Champions League Group Stage – Review and Predictions

by Justin Cormick

At the halfway point in this season’s UEFA Champions League group stage, Justin Cormick takes a look at the action so far and what’s still to come.

Group A

FC Porto have taken an impressive lead in group A with 9 points from 3 wins. It was wondered how far the team could managed after losing their star player Hulk to Zenit, but the Portuguese club should certainly make the round of 16. The return away match to PSG will be a match to watch, Porto only narrowly winning 1-0 at home.

Paris Saint-Germain may have struggled in Portugal, but managed to defeat both Dynamo Kyiv at home (4-1) and Dinamo Zagreb away (0-2). It may take some time for the likes of Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Lavezzi to play together, but PSG promises to be a dangerous team once they get going. The French side will be playing for the win at home to Porto in an attempt to overtake the Portuguese club as group leaders.

With 3 points from 1 win and 2 defeats, Dynamo Kyiv will need more points fast to achieve a round of 16 position. Competing with PSG and Porto may prove too much for the Ukrainians, who may have to settle for a Europa League position.

After suffering their third Champions League defeat of the season at the hands of PSG, Dinamo Zagreb find themselves on the bottom of the group. And with upcoming away matches to PSG and Porto, things are not about to get easier for the Croatians.

Predictions: 1. PSG 2. Port 3. Dynamo Kyiv 4. Dinamo Zagreb

Group B

Schalke find themselves first in Group B with seven points from 2 wins and 1 draw. The Royal Blues suffered a surprise home draw to Montpellier (2-2), expect them to seek retribution in their return away match. Schalke have not done quite enough to guarantee a round of 16 position, but it shouldn’t be far away.

Arsenal may be surprised to find themselves in second position after suffering a home defeated to Schalke (0-2). The Gunners have 6 points from 2 wins and 1 loss. The return away match promises to be impressive with the Gunners looking to win and take control of the group.

Despite defeating Montpellier away from home (1-2) Olympiacos has a poor away record in European competitions. In third position of 3 points the return home match with the French club could prove pivotal if the Greeks are going to make the Europa League, or just go home.

Montpellier may have won the French league, but after losing Giroud to Arsenal they find themselves with 1 point from 3 games and bottom of the group. The French encounter with Schalke will be an important match for Montpellier, who will need points from their last home game of the group stage.

Prediction: 1. Arsenal 2. Schalke 3. Olympiacos 4. Montpellier

Group C

After finishing fourth in last season’s la Liga, Malaga CF made it into the Champions League through the playoffs, where they now find themselves with 9 points from 3 wins, scoring 7 goals and conceding none. The Spanish club have added that element of surprise that always makes the Champions League such an interesting tournament.

The season sees AC Milan with an uncharacteristically boring squad. After the departure of several key players the Rossoneri sought to replace them with youth and not extravagant buys in an attempt to rebuild their team. Suffering an away defeat to Malaga (1-0) and a home draw with Anderlecht (0-0) sees the Italian super club placed in second position on 4 points. They are still expected to progress through, but will need to improve their performances.

Zenit St Petersburg are placed in third, with 3 points from 1 win and 2 loses. The rematch with Milan should be a match to watch after a narrow home defeat (2-1). The Russians should manage a victory over Anderlecht in Belgium and finish the group in a Europa League position.

Anderlecht, who are yet to score a goal, are not likely to achieve much this season in Europe. Although managing an away draw to Milan, they should expect to be pressed by the Italians in the Belgium rematch.

Prediction: 1. Malaga 2. Milan 3. Zenit 4. Anderlecht

Group D

Nicknamed the ‘group of death’, due to the four league winners in it, group D has managed to live up to all expectations. Borussia Dortmund, in first place on 7 points, have learnt from last season’s Champions League where they failed to progress past the group stage. They drew to City in Manchester (1-1) and will look for the victory in the German rematch. BVB should be expected to progress to the round of 16.

Real Madrid have made 12 Champions League/European Cup finals with 9 victories. However, the last was 2002. Jose Mourinho is determined to add another trophy to his collection, but with their current defensive problems los Blancos have some work to do. After a 2-1 away defeat in Dortmund the Spanish side are placed second on 6 points. Madrid will work hard for the three points in the rematch at the Bernabeu.

AFC Ajax have been unlucky to be placed in Real Madrid’s group for the third Champions League in a row. Despite an impressive 3-1 victory over City in the Amsterdam ArenA, Ajax will have their work cut out for them if they are to succeed in Manchester. With their best European days behind them, Frank de Boer and his young squad will attempt to turn back the clock for the Dutch super club.

In fourth place on 2 points from 1 draw and 2 losses, Manchester City will be looking for a win in the rematch with Ajax in England. The home rematch with Madrid will also be important for Mancini and his men after a narrow 3-2 away defeat. The English champions may have to settle with a Europa League position if they let BVB and los Blancos get too far ahead.

Prediction: 1. Real Madrid 2. Borussia Dortmund 3. Manchester City 4. Ajax

Group E

Shakhtar was always going to be a dangerous team in group E, and with seven points from three games they have proven to be just that. With victories at home to Nordsjaelland (2-0) and Chelsea (2-1) they only dropped points in their 1-1 draw in Turin. The replay with Juventus at the Donbass Arena promises to be a match to watch. They will need to carry their fine home form away, or may find themselves dropping down the group.

Chelsea’s European season began with a dismal performance against Atletico Madrid in the Super Cup (lost 4-1). They seem to have picked themselves up well, and are flying high in the Premier League and have 4 solid points in the Champions League, placing them in second. Strengthening well in the off season, the defending champions will need to prove themselves worthy of knockout football. The rematch with Shakhtar at Stamford Bridge will be crucial for Di Matteo and his men, the experience of the defending champions should prevail and lead them to the top of the table.

After winning the Serie A, Juventus was expected to perform well this season in the Champions League, but with 3 points from 3 draws it appears they may have to settle for Europa League. Only managing the one point from their meeting with Nordsjaelland in Denmark, Juve will need to prove themselves at home in the rematch. The rematch with Chelsea in Turin will also prove crucial, after their away draw in London the bianconeri could receive some important points for their campaign.

Not much was expected of Nordsjaelland in this season’s Champions League, and unfortunately the Danish Champions have lived up to this expectation.  With just 1 goal and 1 point it seems very likely the Danes will finish the group off in fourth.

Prediction: 1. Chelsea 2. Shakhtar 3. Juventus 4.  Nordsjaelland

Group F

With the exception of Lille, Group F is very close with Bayern, BATE and Valencia all on 6 points. Thanks to their impressive 3-1 victory over the Bavarians, BATE Borisov find themselves toping the group after three games. However, with upcoming away matches in Spain and Germany, it is not expected they stay there long. It looks like the Belarusians’ performance will earn them a European League place.

Bayern Munich have been in great form, impressive in both the Bundesliga and the Champions League. Despite a shock defeat to BATE, the Bavarians were victorious at home to Valencia (2-1) and away to Lille (0-1). They will look to continue their form and put the defeat behind them with an impressive performance against BATE at the Allianz Arena. With no major trophy since 2010 and an unlucky number of second places in recent competitions, Bayern Munich will be more determined this season and should be expected to do well.

Valencia will be expected to make the round of 16, probably by placing second in this group. With comfortable victories at home to Lille (2-0) and away to BATE (0-3), the Spaniards only defeat came at the Allianz Arena by one goal. The rematch with Bayern in Spain promises to be a thrilling match with Valencia looking for the three points.

With 3 defeats and no points, LOSC Lille is all set for a fourth place finish. Loosing Gervinho to Arsenal in 2011 and Hazard to Chelsea this season have dramatically reduced their potency, and their European campaign is suffering as a result.

Prediction: 1. Bayern 2. Valencia 3. BATE 4. Lille

Group G

Barcelona sit on top in group G with 9 points from 3 matches. In their two home games, however, Barca had to come back from goals down to win the match, 3-2 against Spartak and 2-1 against Celtic. Early signs of defensive woes are beginning to appear in their game, but this should not affect their chances of topping the group. They may no longer be the team to beat, but Barcelona are still one of the favourites for the Champions League trophy.

Celtic’s fairy-tale Champions League began with a 3-2 away victory over Spartak, their first victory from an away match in the Champions League. Their only previous away point was from a 1-1 draw with Barcelona in 2004. The fairy-tale continued when the Scots scored the opening goal at the Neu Camp, unfortunately for Celtic, Barcelona scored two more to win the match 2-1. If Celtic are not careful this is where their fairy-tale will end. Rematches with Spartak and Benfica will prove crucial to Celtic’s chances, who will hope to at least secure a Europa League place.

Spartak Moscow began their European campaign well, leading Barcelona by two goals. Unfortunately for the Muscovites they couldn’t maintain their lead. A narrow home defeat to Celtic (2-3) and a home win over Benfica (2-1) sees them place third with 3 points. Despite some good performances and good results, Spartak may not be consistent enough to achieve a Champions League position in the ladder.

Last season’s quarter finalists Benfica will need some points in their last three matches to keep their European season alive. With 1 point from 3 games, the Eagles find themselves placed fourth in the group. The home matches against Celtic (drew 0-0 away) and Spartak (lost 2-1 away) will be pivotal to Benfica’s European campaign. The Portuguese giants would be expected to at least make the Europa League, but with their Champions League experiences they may even make the round of 16.

Prediction: 1. Barcelona 2. Benfica 3. Celtic 4. Spartak

Group H

Group H appeared to be a relatively easy group for Manchester United after their dismal European campaign last season. After the Red Devils failed to make the round of 16 in 2011 they are not expected to lift this season’s trophy, but should make it out of the group. And with 9 points from 3 wins United is on track to do just that.

With 1 win, 1 draw and 1 loss CFR Cluj find themselves sitting in second place in group H with 4 points. The Romanian’s home matches against Braga (won 0-2 away) and Galatassarary (drew 1-1 away) will be crucial for their chances to place second behind United and continue through to the round of 16.

Braga has no Champions League experience and not much was expected of them this season. The Portuguese managed to knock 2 past United, before the English giants came back with 3 goals for the win. They also suffered a 0-2 home defeat to Cluj. With 3 points from their 2 losses and 1 win, Braga could manage to secure a place in the Europa League.

Galatassaray have been disappointing this far into the Champions League. With only the 1 point from three matches, the Turks are not expected to achieve much more. Often so dangerous at home, Galatassary only managed a draw with Cluj (1-1) and a loss to Braga (0-2). They are not expected to travel well, nor will they be expecting any favours when they host United in Turkey, their final home match.

Prediction: 1. Manchester United 2. Cluj 3. Braga 4. Galatassaray

What do you think: do you agree or disagree with these predictions? Who do you think can win the Champions League this season? Share your comments below.

1 Response

  1. Vinny says:

    A detailed and well written article. Although, imo i would have to say that for me Dortmund will finish top with Madrid second and Shakhtar to go on and top their group with Chelsea and Juve fighting it out for the second place. I think Chelsea will just get through. I like the look of Malaga and i think they’ll be one of the surprise packets. Amother exciting battle this season.

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