UCL Group Stage Report: Champions Barca draw Inter

by Kevin Coleman

Kevin Coleman gives his view on this season’s Champions League Group Stage draw as champions Barcelona meet Internazionale, runners-up Manchester Utd draw Wolfsburg and Real Madrid clash with AC Milan.

Manchester United vs FC Barcelona

Group A: Bayern Munchen (GER), Juventus (ITA), Bordeaux (FRA), Maccabi Haifa (ISR)

German giants Bayern Munchen meet Italian side Juventus in the opening group of this season’s competition. Both these sides have won the European Cup in the past, and join French champions Bordeaux as well as Israel’s Maccabi Haifa in Group A. The top seeds Bayern have had a disappointing start to the new season, while Juventus have strenghtened well in Felipe Melo and Diego. Bordeaux have some fantastic players, while Maccabi shouldn’t post much of a threat to the others.

Prediction: Bayern Munich and Juventus to progress.

Group B: Manchester United (ENG), CSKA Moscow (RUS), Besiktas (TUR), Wolfsburg (GER)

Manchester United are facing the long haul flights to Russia and Turkey in order to progress in Group B. Last season’s runners-up also face the imposing task of playing German giants Wolfsburg, the team everyone wanted to avoid out of Pot 4. CSKA Moscow will be a tough tie, with players like Daniel Carvalho and Vagner Love, while Besiktas should be the most winnable out of all the games. Wolfsburg won Bundesliga last season, so it’ll be no easy task to overcome the side that includes Grafite and Edin Dzeko.

Prediction: Manchester United to progress, while Wolfsburg narrowly pip CSKA to the second spot.

Manchester United vs FC Barcelona

Group C: AC Milan (ITA), Real Madrid (SPA), Marseille (FRA), FC Zurich (SWI)

Kaká will be making a quicker return to the San Siro than he had originally thought as AC Milan have drawn Real Madrid in Group C. The Spaniards have spent a lot of money this summer, including over £60million on AC Milan’s start player Kaka. The Italians should have enough quality to progress past French side Marseille and Switzerland’s FC Zurich, boasting players such as Alexandre Pato and Andrea Pirlo. Marseille – the only French team ever to win the competition – have strenghtened well this summer, adding to the quality already in the side, so could prove tricky to the big two.

Prediction: Real Madrid and AC Milan to go through, but not without one of them faulting against Marseille.

Group D: Chelsea (ENG), Porto (POR), Atletico Madrid (SPA), APOEL Nicosia (CYP)

Chelsea will be pleased in their ambitions to win their first Champions League trophy. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have met previous champions Porto before, who have sold a number of the their big players this summer. Atletico Madrid will be the toughest of them all, against attacking quality that includes Diego Forlan, Sergio Aguero and Simao Sabrosa. Cyprus side APOEL should struggle against the other three.

Prediction: Chelsea to finish top comfortably, with Atletico in second.

Group E: Liverpool (ENG), Olympique Lyonnais (FRA), ACF Fiorentina (ITA), Debrecen (HUN)

Five time winners Liverpool must face French giants Lyon and Italians Fiorentina in the group stage. Lyon have strenghtened well this summer, bringing in Lisandro Lopez for £24million as well as Aly Cissokho, while Fiorentina include talent like Adrian Mutu and Alberto Gilardinho. Hungarian side Debrecen will be a tough away tie for all involved, but all are capable of beating the 4th seeded team.

Prediction: Liverpool to finish top but now without a stutter, with Lyon in 2nd.

Manchester United vs FC Barcelona

Group F: Barcelona (SPA), Internazionale (ITA), Dinamo Kyiv (UKR), Rubin Kazan (RUS)

Barcelona and Inter Milan will undoubtedly be the tie of the Group Stage after drawing each other in Group F. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will face his old side shortly after leaving them, as will Samuel Eto’o. Both champions should be more than capable of beating Dinamo Kyiv and Russian Champions Rubin Kazan who complete the group.

Prediction: Barcelona and Inter Milan to progress comfortably, in which order will depend on who can beat who at the Nou Camp and San Siro.

Group G: Sevilla (SPA), Rangers (SCO), VfB Stuttgart (GER), Unirea Urziceni (ROM)

Scottish champions Rangers will be delighted with their draw in Group G. Spanish side, and recent UEFA Cup winners Sevilla will be tough to beat while German side Stuttgart will also be difficult. Romanian club Urziceni are pretty unknown, so could surprise in this particular even group.

Prediction: Sevilla to qualify, while Stuttgart finish 2nd.

Group H: Arsenal (ENG), AZ Alkmaar (NLD), Olympiakos (GRE), Standard Liege (BEL)

Arsenal fans will be delighted with their draw to complete the Group Stage. Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar may hold a potential threat, while Olympiakos in Greece will be a tough away trip, but the Gunners are more than capable of beating both sides home and away. Belgian side Standard Liege will be a tricky tie, but aren’t unknown having met Liverpool and Everton in European competition in the past. Arsenal’s quality shall get them through comfortably.

Prediction: Arsenal easily, Liege to surprise and finish 2nd.

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