1 September 2012

Premiership Sides Get Mixed Fortunes In The Champions League Draw

The 2012/13 Champions League group stages are in place and the draw provided mixed fortunes for the English sides. Defending European champions Chelsea were given a tough assignment of Shakhtar Donetsk, Italian champions Juventus and Denmark's FC Nordsjaelland. Premier League champions Manchester City find themselves with match-ups against La Liga champions Real Madrid, Eredivisie winners Ajax and Bundesliga victors Borussia Dortmund. Three-time Champions League winners Manchester United have drawn a fairly comfortable group in the form of Braga, Galatasaray and CFR Cluj. Arsenal face Schalke, Olympiakos and French Ligue 1 winners Montpellier. 

Group E (Chelsea)

Last year's winners Chelsea only qualified for the competition as a result of their win over Bayern Munich after finishing down in sixth place in England's top flight. New manager Roberto Di Matteo's first European game was the Last 16 second leg against Napoli at Stamford Bridge, facing a 3-1 deficit. Chelsea won a dramatic game 4-1 after extra time and went on to beat Benfica, Barcelona and Bayern Munich to lift the trophy. This season they face a tough group featuring Serie A winners Juventus, who went last season's league campaign unbeaten. Those two matches will be very tough for Chelsea, although they have started the new season on excellent form, winning their first three Premiership games. They have spent heavily in the transfer window, bringing in the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Marko Marin and Victor Moses to boost their squad. 

Juventus won their first league match of the campaign in Serie A while Chelsea also face the prospect of a tricky away tie against Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine. Danish outfit FC Nordsjaelland are an unknown quantity as this is their first Champions League group-stage appearance after winning the Superliga last year. Chelsea should not have too many problems against them, and should qualify unless they drop points against Juventus and Shakhtar. 


1. Chelsea
2. Juventus
3. Shakhtar Donetsk
4. FC Nordsjaelland

Group D (Manchester City)

This time last year City were given a really difficult draw in what was immediately dubbed the 'Group of Death'. They lost to both Bayern Munich and Napoli as they finished third and could only get a Europa League spot. This time around they face an even tougher task as they have been drawn against the Spanish, Dutch and German champions. Real Madrid will be the most difficult assignment, but Mancini's men will fancy their chances against last year's losing semi-finalists with the strike-force of Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and David Silva raring to get at Pepe and co. 

Ajax will also test City to their limits after performing excellently only to be narrowly beaten by the Sky Blues' city rivals United in the Europa League. City will be confident of collecting six points from the Dutch side but will struggle to do that against German champions Borussia Dortmund, who finished bottom of their group last season. City will find it tough but including their deadline day signings of Javi Garcia, Maicon, and the departure of calamitous Stefan Savic, they should be able to progress from this tough group.


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

Group H (Manchester United)

Sir Alex Ferguson will be very pleased with his side's draw and will be looking forward to writing the wrongs  of last year's dismal exit, despite also being given a seemingly simple group. The Champions League journey ended with a shock 2-1 defeat in Basle and they will be hoping to ensure that there will be no such hiccup this time. Braga may prove to be United's toughest away trip but they will feel confident of getting through unbeaten and in top spot. They might even be able to rest players for the last couple of games. However, as is always the case, Europe's top competition is never a walk in the park.


1. Manchester United
2. Braga
3. Galatasary
4. CFR Cluj

Group B (Arsenal)

Arsenal have been nearly men for far too long now and will be desperate for a trophy after seven barren years. It is unlikely to come in the form of the Champions League, but there have been bigger shocks in the last ten years. They have a decent looking squad, although may struggle for goals without talismanic striker and former captain Robin Van Persie. Despite this they have brought in experienced German forward Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud from Montpellier; a player who scored 21 goals in a Ligue 1 winning campaign last season.

The Gunners should reach the knock-out stages without too many problems, but it is there were they could struggle. Having said that, they do have the potential to spring a few surprises and it is about time they made another meaningful run in Europe's top competition. All the teams in their group will provide attacking threat, especially at home, with Montpellier maybe dark horses to make do well in this year's tournament.


1. Arsenal
2. Montpellier
3. Olympiakos
4. Schalke

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