Following on from yesterday’s article on the Champions League draw and the predictions for Groups A to D (read here), here is the second part of this article for Groups E-H.
GROUP E—BAYERN MUNICH, MANCHESTER CITY, CSKA MOSCOW, ROMA
Bayern Munich, Manchester City and CSKA Moscow all clash once again in the group stages of the Champions League. Remove Czech Republic side Viktoria Plzen for Roma and effectively it is the same group as last year but only tougher. But that’s stating the obvious.
Another thing that is obvious is the fact that while CSKA Moscow and Roma will undoubtedly provide tough challenges for both Bayern Munich and Manchester City, neither one of these sides will be good enough to get through the next round. Both Bayern and City have tremendous quality in their starting XI’s and on their benches too. Just today saw Bayern Munich sign Spanish veteran Xabi Alonso from Real Madrid.
Therefore it’s merely a discussion on who tops the group and who finishes third and proceeds to the Europa League. Bayern Munich clearly have a better squad than Manchester City, especially in midfield and in defence too. However If Mangala turns out to be a star signing, City’s new defensive partnership could see them finish on top. Moreover, they did beat Bayern at their stomping ground in an impressive fashion.
Roma are a team on the rise once again and should just do enough to beat out a tough CSKA Moscow to third spot. Roma’s midfield of De Rossi, Strootman and Pjanic should be interesting to watch. Although, CSKA should not be discounted, since they do have experience of doing well in this competition and they have some very experienced players in their lineup.
PREDICTION: 1ST Bayern Munich 2nd Manchester City 3rd Roma 4th CSKA Moscow
GROUP F—BARCELONA, PARIS SAINT GERMAIN, AJAX, APOEL NICOSIA
Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain will both qualify from the group. Ajax is an exciting young side that is sadly destined to go into the Europa League, while former quarter-finalists APOEL Nicosia are doomed to be the cannon fodder of the group.
Like Group E, the question that remains is who will top the group. If this were a couple of years ago, it would be hard to imagine Barcelona failing to finish anywhere other than first place. Unfortunately, for the Catalan side, they have been handed the toughest team from pot two—PSG.
Barcelona have invested heavily over the summer. Barcelona have signed Thomas Vermaelen, Jeremy Mathieu, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez. And they will be grateful that their transfer ban was overturned, because without this much needed investment, Barcelona would definitely finish second.
It’s too hard to determine which team is better. If PSG’s new signing David Luiz performs then their defence is better than Barcelona’s. If Neymar steps up and Suarez fits in nicely and can take a backseat role to what is Lionel Messi’s show, then Barcelona has a superior attack. Based on experience and past performances, Barcelona should just pinch top spot. Just.
PREDICTION: 1st Barcelona 2nd Paris Saint Germain 3rd Ajax 4TH Apoel Nicosia
GROUP G—CHELSEA, SCHALKE, SPORTING LISBON, MARIBOR
The pot order is the same as the prediction here. Chelsea have yet another easy draw and Mourinho’s men should qualify with at least four wins here. Their team is too good across the board for them to actually mess up here.
Schalke have experience at this level unlike their Portugese counterparts Sporting Lisbon. The Gelsenkirchen based side has plenty of class… or should I say Klaas Jun Huntelaar (pun was definitely needed here) with the likes of Julian Draxler, Sidney Sam and Kevin-Prince Boateng as support. Joel Matip and Benedict Howedes are a decent defensive partnership too and should keep a couple of clean sheets for Schalke.
Sporting Lisbon have a young and exciting side, led by talismanic midfielder William Carvalho (providing they can keep him by the end of the transfer window). Not one of their players are over the age of 30, and they could very well be a breath of fresh air in this tournament. They should not be ruled out completely, but the experience of Schalke is likely to deny them a place in the next round. Maribor are ecstatic to get this far after their triumphant victory over a lacklustre Celtic, but these three teams will be a step too far
PREDICTION: 1st Chelsea 2nd Schalke 3rd Sporting Lisbon 4th Maribor
GROUP H—PORTO, SHAKHTAR DONETSK, ATHLETIC BILBAO, BATE BORISOV
Group H is going to feature a three way battle for qualification to the next stage. Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Athletic Bilbao all have the potential of making the first knockout round.
Porto have been a revolving door this summer with a remarkable 16 new recruits on their roster with Mikel, Bruno Martins Indi and Cristian Tello just some of the names they have taken on. Their team has the potential to make the quarter finals, but this team will take time to gel and that could prove costly in some games. With the talent they have, they have to be considered favourites to top the group, but they could easily end up in the Europa League too.
Shakhtar Donetsk have the ability of causing upsets—they helped put then European champions Chelsea out of the group stage two seasons ago. The Ukranian side has lost some of those key players from that campaign but still have a few talents like Wellington and Douglas Costa on their books. Their defence might have the potential to be leaky and other than the two players mentioned above, they may lack creativity too.
Athletic Bilbao are a club of tradition. And that is what will always hold them back in terms of developing in the rigorous modern game. They have done pretty well to qualify for the Champions League over other Spanish teams and they have some good young talent in their squad— forward Iker Muniain could be destined for great things. BATE Borisov are a decent side and may cause an upset or two throughout this part of the competition, but they look unlikely to progress to either European competition.
PREDICTIONS: 1ST Porto 2nd Athletic Bilbao 3rd Shakhtar Donetsk 4th Bate Borisov
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