Saturday, August 30, 2008

Champions League 2008-09 group draw

The draw for the 2008-09 UEFA Champions Legaue took place last night with the foolowing groups:

Group A: Chelsea is likely to win, and no tips on the runner-up. The Romanians will be interesting to watch.
  • Chelsea (England): Last season's finalists enter the tournament as big favourites under a new coach. Will be exciting to watch them, and they are certainly contenders again as well as favourites in the group.
  • AS Roma (Italy): The Italians are always strong, and AS Roma is an example of it. They won't get my support though...
  • Bordeaux (France): The team coached by former French super-star Laurent Blanc will be interesting to watch, since they are relatively unwritten at CL level.
  • CFR Cluj (Romania): These are the Romanian and should thus not be underestimated. Still, without knowing much about them, they are a completely unwritten team.
Group B: Inter Milan, as a serious contender to the title, is by far the favourite. The surprising Cypriots will be interesting to watch as well.
  • Inter Milan (Italy): Under the new coach José Mourinho, and an already star-filled team, they should this season be even more serious contenders for the title.
  • Werder Bremen (Germany): Not as strong as in previous years, but I still is the safest bet to follow Inter to the next round.
  • Panathinaikos (Greece): Will have to hold up the flag for Greek football after Olympiakos sensational elimination against Famagusta.
  • Anorthosis Famagusta (Cyprus): The surprising Cypriot team is in after a sensational win against the Greek champions of Olympiakos, but will have their hands full!
Group C: Barcelona is by far the favourite, and could get a flying start to the tournament. I think the other three teams will be fighting for the crumbs...
  • FC Barcelona (Spain): A renewed Barcelona under Pep Guardiola will be interesting to watch, now without Deco and Ronaldinho, but with Messi playing a much more important role.
  • Sporting Lisbon (Portugal): Portuguese teams are always hard to play against and so will Sporting (don't check their web-site though: it is crap!).
  • FC Basel (Switzerland): Their second CL appearance, the Swiss will be interesting, but I don't think they will make it far.
  • Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine): The defending Ukrainian champions are becoming a common team in the CL. Last season they finished last in their group, let us see what they can do this time!
Group D: This group has some of the most interesting encounters in the group stages! Liverpool-PSV is a classic encounter, and Fernando Torres facing his old club Atlético will surely also cause talk!
  • Liverpool (England): Always better at European level than in the Premier League, they will probably be hard to beat again, although the group surely looks difficult!
  • PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands): Dutch champions doesn't that say it all?
  • Olympique Marseille (France): Good to have the southern French giants back in the CL!
  • Atlético Madrid (Spain): Hungry for European success, they will be hard to beat, as well as good to have them back in the CL!
Group E: Manchester and Villarreal usually have some good clashes, and the Scots always put up an entertaining fight. However, Manchester United should be considered the favourites by far.
  • Mancherster United (England): Defending champions, they will surely be the team to beat, and will have to fight very hard to win again.
  • Villarreal (Spain): The "yellow submarine", siilver winners in Spain last season, are in the second CL; in their first one, two years ago, they tied Manchester United twice and reached the semi-finals...
  • Celtic (Scotland): Awesome champions of the Scottish league, Gordon Strachan's team will as always be liked in Europe, but will have to fight much more for the points!
  • Aalborg B (Denmark): The Danish champions are in their second CL ever, but will probably have an early exit.
Group F: Olympique Lyon and Bayern should be fighting for the top-spot in this group, and I would give the Germans the edge. Nevertheless, the two other teams are strong outsiders and may tease the other two.
  • Olympique Lyon (France): Continuing as the most awesome team in French football (seven titles in a row now), and having played well in the previous CL's, success has nevertheless eluded them. Will this be their year...?
  • Bayern Munich (Germany): Good to have the Germans back after their notable absence last season. They are German champions, and under Jurgen Klinsmann, I would consider them a contender for the title.
  • Steaua Bucharest (Romania): The most traditional Romanian club has been in the CL many times, and won highest European honours in 1986. The participate as Romanian runners-up this season, but should nevertheless not be discounted (and an addition here: great for Romanian football!)
  • Fiorentina (Italy): Hard to beat, boring to watch... Farewell!
Group G: Difficult group where all have an option, perhaps with FC Porto and Arsenal with a slight edge. I tip the Portuguese to go on top.
  • Arsenal (England): Arsene Wenger's team came closest to European success when they reached the final two years ago. This season the team looks less strong, and I doubt they can reach that far, although they can never be discounted.
  • FC Porto (Portugal): Portuguese champions and two-times winners of the CL/Champions Cup (1987 and 2004) they are again a potential outsider for the title.
  • Fenerbahce (Turkey): Turkish runners-up last season, but managed to qualify for the CL with an experienced and capable side which surely will be hard to defeat.
  • Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine): The traditional Ukrainian side ended second in Ukraine last season, but qualified to the CL after destroying Spartak Moscow in a Soviet-era traditional clash.
Group H: Probably the hardest group as both Real Madrid, Juventus and Zenit St. Petersburg must be considered some of the best teams in Europe. Every match will be interesting. Borisov will be facing some expensive first-hand training....
  • Real Madrid (Spain): Spanish champions and as always, serious contenders for the title.
  • Juventus (Italy): "The old lady" is back in Europe after their forced relegation in 2006, and they are very welcome! They will be interesting to watch, and will surely want to show they belong in the CL top! A serious outsider for the title.
  • Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia): The defending UEFA Cup champions and Russian champions are playing their first CL, and will be a team to count on, and will give everyone a serious fight. Another outsider for the title!
  • BATE Borisov (Bielorussia): I know nothing about these Bielorussian champions besides the fact that they are sensationally in the CL after defeating Levski Sofia.

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