Tuesday, September 16. For many, this is just another work day. But for football fanatics around the world, this is the beginning of the group stages in UEFA Champions League. Football fans live to watch the greatest tournament in the world (in my opinion). To start off the group stage, groups A and B will have the luxury to fire up our emotions for the next 8 months.
Although they have lost important players (such as Costa and Courtois) the Spanish club remain disciplined in their style of play and positions. My concern falls onto Atletico’s defensive left side. Felipe Luis is a huge loss, since his replacement– Siqueira– looks like the obvious weak link in the team. He simply does not have the same strong qualities Luis offered. Even though Chelsea picked them apart during the summer transfer, Simeone’s club is sure to make it out of the group stage in first place.The second place winners of last season’s Champions League competition will continue to threaten the strongest of the European clubs.
To be fair, I see Juventus surviving the group stage simply because of the class of players the club possess and the level of competitions from the other two squads. However, my confidence on Massimiliano Allegri is low. I do not highly rate him tactically. Allegri brought a few moments of success for A.C. Milan, but that quickly disappeared. And for whatever reasons, I see Juventus struggling this season in Champions League and Serie A.
In Greece, Olympiacos is one of the strongest clubs in the league. For the fourth consecutive season, Olympiacos won the Superleague Greece. Unfortunately, that translates to nothing in the European cup. The level of competition gives the Greek club trouble. Last season– a bit surprisingly— they made it to the round of 16. After putting up a strong fight in the first leg, Olympiacos were not able to stand their ground against Manchester United. It is difficult to see them emerging from this group.
Not much can be said about the the challenge Malmo FF will face. In the time, when football clubs were better balanced around the world, Malmo FF reached a European Cup final in 1979 (against Nottingham Forest). But that is all that will impress. Malmo FF will be lucky enough to come out with a point.
The 2014 Champions League winners will be looking for a consecutive Champions League trophy. But are they better this season? I believe the club’s intentions to get better through the transfer window did not develop well. In came James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos, and Javier Hernandez. Individually, the players are talented. But when compared to the players Perez chose to release, things do not make sense. Losing Alonso and Di Maria can hurt the club. It is still early in the season to really make a judgement, but the match against Real Sociedad paints a great picture of what can be expected. Nonetheless, this is Real Madrid: a rich and strong club that continuously threaten in all competitions.
This is a club I would not underestimate in this group. Basel may not be one of the strongest clubs, but they have some of hardest work players. You can expect Basel and Liverpool to battle for second. Even Real Madrid should be careful with this club. I realize Basel we pulled from one of the weakest pot; yet let’s not forget the struggles Chelsea put up last season when they faced this club.
Welcome back to Champions League football, Liverpool! I do not know how you guys feel. But a new English club, in this European competitions, brings a bit of excitement. Seeing the same competition almost every year can bore.
Liverpool can be happy with the group they sit in. As previously stated, Basel can possibly cause trouble; however, Liverpool not advancing to the knockout stages will be a laughing matter. And after losing Suarez to Barcelona, Liverpool need to make a strong statement in this competition. Second place is not a far reach for the English side.
I find this club interesting because of how young the club is. You can bet this club will come out with less than 3 points. Yet, the fact Ludogorets Razgrad was founded in 2001 impresses. This is the third time the Bulgarian club will play in the Champions League. Not too bad. Last season, Ludogorets Razgrad made it to the round of 16 in the Euro League. I do not think highly of the Euro League, but for a club this new, that’s quite an accomplishment.
Any thoughts on these two groups?