Following the draw for the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League, we analyse the groups that could prove the toughest. With a number of huge European teams spread across the competition, we were odds-on to experience a number of exciting power clashes.
Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray, Anderlecht
Arsenal and Dortmund have been drawn together for the third year in a row, and though they have easier opposition than last year, Galatasaray can make life extremely difficult at the Turk Telekom Arena.
Arsenal have spent big again this summer to bring Alexis Sanchez, and they now have a squad that is not far away from being able to properly challenge for every trophy they enter. They’re missing a defensive midfielder and a world-class striker, but even with that they are a strong outfit. Aaron Ramsey scored the winner at the Westfalenstadion in 13/14 and he’s started the new season in similar goalscoring fashion. They haven’t been firing on all cylinders quite yet this season, but they should have that sorted by the first match.
Dortmund lost Lewandowski to arch-rivals Bayern at the end of last season, and it was always going to be difficult a player who is amongst the very best in his position. They’ve brought in Adrian Ramos and Ciro Immobile, but, while it is early days, they haven’t looked like they can contribute to Dortmund’s all round game like Lewandowski did. That said, they are still a very strong team with one of the best players in the world in Marco Reus. They are very solid defensively with Hummels and Subotic and thanks to Klopp’s style they will always be difficult to beat.
Galatasary did very well to get out of a group containing Real Madrid and Juventus last season. They’ve lost Didier Drogba, but in Burak Yilmaz have a striker who scores a lot of goals. Wesley Sneijder is a year older and had a poor World Cup, but he still possesses technical quality that makes set pieces dangerous for Galatasaray’s opponents.
Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, Roma
This is the unquestionable group of death. In Bayern, City, and CSKA they have three domestic champions from last season, and Roma are a side that has strengthened well in the summer window and are the most likely team capable of breaking Juventus’ stranglehold on Serie A.
Bayern’s dismal two legs against Real Madrid made it easy to undermine Guardiola and his side last season, but they dominated the Bundesliga and won the DFB-Pokal easily. Whilst he hasn’t been totally convincing, his Bayern won as many games as Jupp Heynckes’ champions. The team is full of elite players, many of whom are now World Cup winners as well. They were weak at centre-back at times last term, and have now added Mehdi Benatia who was massively impressive at Roma. In Lewandowski they have a striker who will not only score goals but also help the team’s general play much more than previous players. If Guardiola can fine-tune his system to his current squad they have a major chance of winning the Champions League.
Manchester City came second in their group with Bayern last year, and were a goal away from coming top. They were 3-2 up against Bayern in the final match after going 2-nil down, but it appeared Pellegrini didn’t realise another goal would put them above Bayern and he failed to bring on Sergio Aguero and push for the goal. This was a fatal error, as they then drew Barcelona in the first knock-out stage and were beaten comfortably. They possess a squad of unbelievable quality and can definitely challenge any European team. One feels that they aren’t far away from becoming challengers in Europe, and another season’s experience and learning could prove decisive in changing their fortunes.
CSKA were also in Bayern and City’s group last season and were a little unlucky not to at least draw with City at home. Seydou Doumbia is a fine goalscorer, and in Alan Dzagoev and Ahmed Musa (who had a great World Cup) they have attacking players who are dangerous. CSKA will probably come last in this group, but the difficulties of a winter visit to Russia are obvious and thus they shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Rudi Garcia’s Roma were brilliant last season, and kept more clean sheets than Juventus. They’ve lost Benatia, but Garcia’s system is so strong defensively that his loss shouldn’t hurt them too badly. They’ve brought in some very good prospects in Iturbe, Manolas, Sanabria, and Ucan, as well as great European experience in Ashley Cole and Seydou Keita. Their squad is one of the most exciting in Europe and they will be extremely tough to beat.
Group F: Barcelona, PSG, Ajax, Apoel
This group consists of three teams that will all have ambitions of getting out of the group. PSG and Barcelona are obviously the two big dogs who have world-class squads, but Ajax are a very capable outfit and on their day could easily cause an upset.
Barcelona are, of course, one of the perennial favourites for the competition and are one of the three widely regarded ‘super teams’, along with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. They have added to their squad pretty well this summer, and should prove to have a sterner defence as well as a much more unpredictable and lively attack, in part thanks to the acquisition of Luis Suarez.
PSG are a club looking to become one of Europe’s elite thanks to massive investment from foreign owners. So far they haven’t got past the quarter-final stage, but they have been fairly unlucky in drawing Barcelona and Chelsea at that stage in the last two years. They have added Serge Aurier and David Luiz, and with a squad that has had another year to gel they will be extremely tough opponents.
Ajax will have been disappointed last year to go lose out to a very poor AC Milan side in advancing from group H. They have lost Siem De Jong, but they do have a couple of very bright talents and if they can click they can cause both PSG and Barcelona problems.