UEFA Champions League Draw: What Could We See

26 August 2009

With the conclusion of the UEFA Champions League Playoff-Round, all of our attention turns to the draw that will be taking place tomorrow in Monaco at 18:00 CET (12:00 noon Eastern/9:00 Pacific). The draw will be broadcast on both Fox Soccer Channel and Setanta Sports.

Here is how the four pots will look based on UEFA Coefficient
Pot 1: FC Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, AC Milan, Arsenal, Sevilla and Bayern Munich.
Pot 2: Olympique Lyon, Internazionale (Inter Milan), Real Madrid, CSKA Moscow, FC Porto, AZ Alkmaar, Juventus and Glasgow Rangers (Rangers)
Pot 3: Olympiakos Piraeus (Olympiakos), Olympique Marseille (Marseille), Dinamo Kiev, VfB Stuttgart, Fiorentina, Atletico Madrid, Girondins Bordeaux (Bordeaux) and Besiktas.
Pot 4: VfL Wolfsburg, Standard Liege, Maccabi Haifa, FC Zurich, Rubin Kazan, Unirea Urziceni, APOEL Nicosia and DVSC Debrecen.

Looking at each pot, there are obvious wild cards in each.
In pot one, Bayern Munich has started this season looking very poor (poorer than Liverpool) but always do well in the group stages in the Champions League. However, with the system Louis Van Gaal has installed at the German giants, it's not gone down well. If they start out poorly in the first three group games (along with continued bad league form), we could see a shock sacking. Yes, it is doubtful, but it has to be in the discussion.
Ironically enough, pot two has two obvious wild cards in it. Instead of choosing Rangers, I'm picking CSKA Moscow. Right now they are level on points for the final Champions League spot in Russia, and that I feel will put them under alot of pressure. They also don't play all that well away from Russian soil. I have a feeling here CSKA will be more focused on league play than in the Champions League.
This is the tightest pot three I can ever recall. To me, the wild card is Atletico Madrid. Call it just a gut feeling. If you're looking for any other reasons, I just simply cannot provide them.
Pot four has two interesting choices as well. I am going with APOEL Nicosia. Considering the run Anorthosis Famagusta had last season (still being in contention on match day six), I think they will be stronger than most expect. Their football was attractive in the qualifying rounds at home. Away from Cyprus, they have the mentality of playing damage control and it has worked getting them to the group stages.

With all of that said, let's take a look at a few scenarios.
The Ultimate Group of Death: Liverpool, Real Madrid, Bordeaux and Wolfsburg. Any group of death will have to have at least Real Madrid and Wolfsburg in it. Wolfsburg has been playing good football of late (the 4-2 loss to Hamburg aside) and will be looking to prove themselves further in the Champions League. Bordeaux are the class of France right now and the Champions League will be a good test to see how far they have come. Liverpool is an interesting choice. Based on their early start, one would think they should be in a group of death talk. However, they always step it up on European nights. Real Madrid; well they only purchased all the big names in Europe they could find.
Tricky For The Top: Sevilla, Rangers, Dinamo Kiev, Debrecen. I don't think Sevilla or Rangers would want to take a trip into Eastern Europe, let alone two trips.
Just Enough Names To Keep Interested: AC Milan, Lyon, Olympiakos, Standard Liege. All four teams have been around the block a time or two, but despite Lyon's start to the season, I don't see them getting out of the group stages. Standard Liege are just classic group stage fodder.
Quick, Call Our Travel Agent: Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Besiktas, Maccabi Haifa. If anything, all four teams could rack up enough frequent flyer miles to make the third trip less painful on the wallet.
Life in the Big City: Arsenal, Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, FC Zurich. It's a pity this trip would be for business, not pleasure.

Yes those five mythical group scenarios above are just that, myth. We won't know what the group stages will have in store for us until tomorrow. But I'm going to leave it to you. What do you think is the group of death? What groups would you like to see? Let us know in the comments below.

1 comments:

Pedro August 27, 2009 at 10:02 AM  

I watched Standard Liege live a couple of times in the past 2 years and disagree that they will be group stage fodder.

They were admittedly better 2 seasons ago - coached by Michel Preud'Homme and with Fellaini in midfield - but in Steven Defour and Milan Jovanovic they have two very good internationals.

And the atmosphere at the M. Dufrasne stadium is top notch. I am South American, have been to La Bombonera and Maracana, and still was impressed.

Not saying they'll qualify, but depending on who they get from pots 2 and 3 they might sure they might realistically scrape 6 points (i.e. two home wins).

Finally, for me two dream draws would be Man United x Madrid and Barça x Inter Milan, for obvious transfer-related issues...

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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