Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Champions League Preview

The Special One, Jose Mourinho, declared that only Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, AC Milan, Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich have a chance of winning the Champions League, but here is a preview of all the groups to help you decide for yourself and note the games that can’t be missed. The top two teams proceed to the knockout stage, while the third spot continues its European adventure in the UEFA Europa League.

Group A: Internazionale – Werder Bremen – Tottenham Hotspur – FC Twente… Last year’s title holder Inter has a lot to prove under new coach Rafa Benitez and will certainly have a very difficult time retaining the title, especially with a very energetic and ambitious Tottenham side. Look for them to be a surprise team that will go far in this tournament. Tab Tottenham to win the group, with Bremen and Inter vying for second and third place, respectively. Expect Dutch champions Twente to finish in fourth.

Group B: Olympique Lyonnais – Benfica – FC Schalke 04 – Hapoel Tel Aviv… This year’s competition is another great chance to witness the acrobatics of Lyon’s Hugo Lloris, who single-handedly carried the team in last season’s tournament. The acquisition of Yoann Gourcuff should bolster the team, but there will be competition for the group leaders from Portuguese champions Benfica, led by Argentine goal poacher Saviola and fellow striker and World Cup standout Oscar Cardozo. Also, Bundesliga runner-up Schalke will compete for the top spot, headlined by perennial Champions League goal scorer Raul. Hapoel Tel Aviv would like to impress in their Champions League debut, but their lack of experience will be their undoing.

Group C: Manchester United – Valencia – Rangers – Bursaspor… This group should be the most exciting group of the tournament with United’s history of underperforming against inferior competition (Bursaspor) and Scottish teams. Valencia has been significantly weakened by the departure of David Villa and David Silva and will struggle to claim a third spot behind either Rangers or Bursaspor. The real competition for the top spot will be between Man U and Rangers. This could be managers Sir Alex Ferguson and Walter Smith’s final showdown before either of the two close friends retire. Even more incendiary is Bursaspor’s green and white hoops away jerseys, which they plan to wear away against Rangers.

Group D: Barcelona – Panathinaikos – FC Kobenhavn – FC Rubin Kazan. Barcelona has always been the team to beat, and this season is no different, as the Spanish champions have further strengthened their squad with the acquisitions of David Villa and Javier Mascherano. Barca should, however, be cautious against lowly Rubin Kazan, who clipped them last year. Barring any surprising runs from the Russian champions, Barcelona will top the group and qualify, with the Greek champions Panathinaikos finishing in second.

Group E: Bayern Munich – AS Roma – FC Basel – CFR Cluj. This should be an easy draw for Bayern and Roma as they will not struggle to take the first two spots. The Swiss and Romanian champions will fight for the third spot to continue in the Europa Cup, but with more experience and quality, FC Basel definitely has the edge over Cluj. Cluj will look for a shocking home win or a couple of points in this group, and they will most likely do it against Basel at home. Regardless, Roma and Bayern should have easy paths to the knockout stage.

Group F: Chelsea – Olympique de Marseille – Spartak Moscow – MSK Zilina. Chelsea and Marseille supporters are probably happy after this draw. Spartak will be tough to beat, especially when they are playing at home in the cold weather, and on an icy, artificial pitch. However, they are not strong enough to challenge English and French giants on their way to the next round. Slovakian debutants Zilina will just be happy to feel the Champions League atmosphere.

Group G: AC Milan – Real Madrid – Ajax Amsterdam – AJ Auxerre. Probably the toughest group in this draw, we expect to watch the best soccer in this group stage. Get ready for some attractive soccer. Ajax’s games will be especially fun to watch. Auxerre of France is a tough team even though they enter with a low seed, so it makes this group even more competitive. Real Madrid should win the group, followed by Milan with Ajax winning the Europa League spot.

Group H: Arsenal – FC Shakhtar Donetsk – SC Braga – Partizan Belgrade. Despite their decline during the past couple of years, English powerhouse Arsenal should be more than happy after this draw given the weak competition. The team’s decision to keep its superstar captain Cesc Fabregas sets them up for the tournament even better. After Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk has an advantage for the second spot, as they have more European experience and can rely on their notorious home field advantage. Braga, who shocked the European soccer world by eliminating Sevilla in the qualification round, is most likely to take the third spot over the young and inexperienced Partizan squad.

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