UEFA Champions League 2015/16 Group Stage Preview
It’s all about the road to Milan this season, the prestigious San Siro is to host the final in May next year, and the fight for glory begins. Berlin gave us an excellent show about 5 months ago, where Barcelona FC beat Juventus to lift their 5th Champions’ League trophy. With new seeding systems this season, we take a look at the teams/groups; Groups D and E are the groups to keep an eye on, interesting match ups
This group involves two top ten teams in the world, Paris St Germain and Real Madrid, both teams haven’t faced each other in recent times and I expect a great show. Both teams would want to move past their disappointing exits last term, Madrid lost on away goals to Juventus in the semis while PSG were knocked out by the later champions in the quarters but it is a long way to go. Malmo FF and Shakhtar Donetsk are the other two teams in the group, this is the 2nd season in a row for Malmo in the UCL, an achievement for the Swedish side and seeing the way they qualified on both occasions, they are grinders for sure. Both teams will fight for the Europa league place for sure but they will give us good energy and competition.
This group involves three returnees to the elite: Manchester United, PSV Eindhoven and Vfl Wolfsburg, and also the chance to return home for Memphis Depay. This group is a tough one because anybody can actually win the group, without Kevin De Bruyne, it will take a while for the German side to reach the same level they were last season but they have a good side. CSKA did it the hard way against Sporting Lisbon to qualify for the group stages, they haven’t pa$$ed the group stages in the last 3 years and I just wonder if the bad run won’t continue. The UCL anthem at the Theatre of Dreams, a feeling that has eluded Manchester for a whole year and its back again, not an easy group but they should go through, experience playing at the top level will be key.
The 1st ever Kazakhstani side to play in the UEFA Champions’ League, FC Astana, playing among the best sides in the world is an achievement in its own, sold out crowds for sure. They are paired against Benfica, Galatasaray and new European power house Atletico Madrid, an easy group for the Spaniards, Diego Simeone and his boys have made a name for themselves, a final and a quarterfinal appearance in the last two seasons, they might have a go again this season, maximum points is achievable.
The group of death, Juventus, Sevilla, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach. Juventus were excellent last term, reaching the UCL final in Berlin after a decade was quite some achievement, looking to replicate such performances will be tough but getting past the group shouldn’t be tough even though their league form is bad. Manchester City have never made it past the second round and this is the season they will be looking to end that jinx. Sevilla, the back to back winners of the Europa league, return to the elite after some 7years, even after their summer business, they still don’t look good enough for the UCL (3rd place again). Playing in the UCl is achievement enough for the German side, they took part in the playoffs in 2012 but were knocked out by Dynamo Kiev. They are a young side but the group stages is all for them.
This is another group to keep an eye on, Barcelona FC, Bayer Leverkusen, AS Roma and BATE Borisov. The Belarusians and Italians are familiar faces in the champions league, both sides will need to bring something special to get past the group, that also involves the defending champions, I am a strong believer of “no club can win the UCL twice in a roll” and I think it’s safe to say that we will have new champions this season, Barcelona were on another planet last season, exceptional, and matching that this season is almost impossible. The Germans have not made a quarter final appearance in a decade and will want to achieve that, watched them in the playoffs, they are a good side, Hakan Calhanoglu is a player for the future.
Familiar foes in this group, Olympiakos and Arsenal have met a few times in recent years with Arsenal coming out on top in most of those matches while Bayern Munich and Arsenal, major foes in knockout phases in the UCL and Bayern winners in all ties, so some redemption for the sides. Arsenal had a relatively easy draw in the round of 16 last term against Monaco but as always not good enough to do through, it’s this season or never for the Gunners, Bayern Munich crashed out in the semis last season and will want to get a step or two further, Dinamo Zagreb played in the group stages in 2012 and will hope not to make up numbers again this year.
New enemies, new territories and a point to prove. All sides have played at this level of European football before but have never faced each other. 2012 champions Chelsea FC have never faced Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv but have faced Porto in recent years not just with Jose Mourinho as coach. Chelsea should finish top, interesting match ups also.
This group involves three returnees also, AA Gent, Valencia FC and OLympique Lyon. Zenit are regulars in the elite, quite an easy group for all, home advantage will be key. Valencia are a side to watch, Nuno has done an excellent job since taking over.