The draw for the Champions League group stages has been completed, and English teams will go home relatively happy with the result. Instead of being pitted against teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid, they’ve found themselves in groups that should be easier to get out of – however nothing is clear cut when it comes to this competition…
Chelsea were the only English team to be in Pot 1, ensuring that they would be the highest seeded team in their group – and also ensuring that they couldn’t be drawn against Barcelona or Bayern Munich. They were drawn into Group G, and as the draw progressed they found themselves with Porto, Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel-Aviv. This throws up the mouth-watering prospect of Mourinho returning to Porto, his former club, however the Chelsea squad won’t be relishing long trips to Ukraine and Israel. Still, it’s a group they’ll be confident of winning.
Manchester City have previously been unlucky with their groups in the Champions League, often being drawn against the best opponents possible. This year they escaped this fate though. Although they are in Juventus’ group, they’ll be confident when facing last year’s finalists, as they are seemingly a significantly weaker team this year. Sevilla will perhaps provide a sterner test, however Borussia Monchengladbach will be a team City are confident of beating. It’ll be a tougher group than Chelsea’s, but the stars of Manchester City should have enough to easily escape it.
Next comes Manchester United, and they were perhaps handed the easiest group of the lot. PSV Eindhoven were the seeds in their group, however they are nowhere near as strong as second-seeded United. It’s a match that will see Depay return to Eindhoven and Van Gaal will be confident. United will also have to play CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg – both tricky but winnable. If all goes to plan, United should easily top the group.
The only team from England who will not be entirely happy with their draw is Arsenal. Why? Because they’ve been drawn in the same group as Bayern Munich, one of European football’s current powerhouses. They’ll also face tricky ties against Olympiakos, however Dinamo Zagreb should provide an easier test. Arsenal will be happy with second place, but they’ll have to avoid any slip-ups, otherwise they could find themselves exiting early. They should theoretically finish second though.
In the other groups, PSG and Real Madrid were drawn together, which will provide one of the most exciting contests of the group stages (Shakhtar Donetsk and Malmo are the other teams in their group). Barcelona will find themselves up against Bayer Leverkusen, Roma and BATE Borisov, while Group C contains Benfica, Atletico Madrid, Galatasaray and Astana. Finally, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Valencia, Lyon and Gent make up Group H.