Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Money League: Group Phase Thoughts

The Champions League 2011-2012 edition has begun. The groups were drawn last week, so it is prediction time:

Group A: Bayern Munich, Villarreal, Manchester City, Napoli

This is the group of death -- Manchester City and Bayern Munich are the most likely to advance. Villareal traded Santi Cazorla over the summer, but kept Rossi. Still, they are weaker and will struggle to get to the knock-out round. Napoli are no pushover, though, and might give Bayern or Man City a run for their money.

Group B: Inter Milan, CSKA Moscow, Lille, Trabzonspor

This is the snooze group. Inter and CSKA advance, methinks.

Group C: Manchester United, Benfica, Basel, Otelul Galati

This is too easy for Man United. Benfica should also advance. Swiss side Basel are familiar faces in the Champions League, but have not yet made it out of the group stage. Otelul Galati are a Romanian side I know nothing about. Good for them for making it this far!

Group D: Real Madrid, Lyon, Ajax, Dinamo Zagreb

Such is my loathing for RM that I am hoping for a miracle here in the shape of Ajax or Dinamo. Alas, it is extremely unlikely that either of those will make it through.

Group E: Chelsea, Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen,Genk

Genk is such a great name for a football club. They will be the whipping boys here. Should be interesting to see who between Valencia and Leverkusen make it through (along side of Chelsea, of course). My hopes are that Valencia can do the job -- they could use the money to keep up with Barca and RM.

Group F: Arsenal, Marseille, Olympiakos, Borussia Dortmund

With the crap Arsenal have been playing lately, it is hard to imagine them making it through. Their new signings might just provide the necessary spark, however. I expect some hard fought matches in this group, and it should get very entertaining. Dortmund were incredible last year in the Bundesliga -- they are my tip to win this group.

Group G: FC Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit, Apoel FC

I bet this will be closely fought group, but I don't expect any of these teams to make it past the first knock out round.

Group H: Barcelona, AC Milan, BATE Borisov, Viktoria Plzen

BATE Borisov play their European games at the Minsk Stadium in Belorussia. I am glad Barca plays them in September, rather in December as the temperature must drop brutally. Good to BATE for making it into the CL - I hope they enjoy the experience. Barca's game against Viktoria Plzen in the Czech Republic should be interesting, but I assume they have both the quality and the depth to get the points from those fixtures. The Milan games should determine who finishes first and second in the group, and they (Milan) are bound to run us close.

Visca el Barca!

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