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After a long and relatively pointless piece of spectacle in Monaco, the UEFA Champions League groups are set. Some look pretty straightforward... and some -- we're looking at you, Group D -- don't. At all. You've seen what the analysts think of the various groups, but now it's time to get feedback from the fans themselves. We've surveyed the SB Nation blogs involved in the tournament to find out just what they think of their group stage fates. Read on!
Opponents: Schalke 04, Olympiacos, Montpellier.
Ted Harwood: Arsenal's draw is one that looks manageable on paper. Schalke 04 was the Bundesliga team that everyone wanted to draw, hoping to avoid last year's finalist Bayern and league champion BvB Dortmund. Montpellier, while French champions, are probably a weaker side this year than last year, especially since their highest scorer, Olivier Giroud, now plies his trade for Arsenal, strangely enough. Olympiacos are a familiar foe, having been in Arsenal's group for three out of the past four tournaments now, and playing away in Piraeus is never easy, so hopefully that tie won't be a crucial one. Group B is by no means a cakewalk, but one can easily make the case that the draw has been favorable to Arsenal, who managed to avoid the obviously terrifying teams in each pot. The Gunners should have no trouble qualifying out of the group and are probably most people's favorite to take the top spot.
Opponents: Zenit St. Petersburg, Anderlecht, Malaga.
Gianfranco: My wish was to get PSG in the Group Stages, but UEFA, King of the "random" draw and big ticket matchups, didn’t grant my wish. What better way to show Zlatan who the better team was then by beating him not once, but twice, in the single Club tournament that has eluded him for his entire career! Throw in a little payback for Leo, Silva, and our old friend Carlo Ancellotti and you had an epic story line. Sadly my wish will have to come in the knockout phases, assuming PSG makes it that far! As for Group C, Sacha Klestjian’s Anderlecht and the financially distressed Malaga make for interesting matchups, but this is just the sort of group Milan needed to test their progress and ideally build some confidence. While no games are a foregone conclusion in any tournament, Milan should advance from this group and hopefully get some much needed experience for an evolving roster with little to no Champions League experience.
Opponents: Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund.
Gabe Lezra: Well, I don't feel like Madrid got screwed with their pants on exactly, but definitely with their pants somewhere in the vicinity. In all seriousness, it's hard to be thrilled with the draw from a Madrid standpoint, as the reigning champions of Spain were drawn with the reigning champions of England, Germany and Holland. And any time you see your team name next to the word "death" you know good things aren't happening. But it's not like Madrid won't be favored to go through--they're still one of the best two or three teams in the world--and the games should be exciting, at the very least. But for the first time in a few years, Madrid's place in the next round isn't assured--and that's a bit unfortunate for madridistas.
Opponents: Real Madrid, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund.
Danny Pugsley: When City were paired with Real Madrid I tweeted that the key to the group would be who came out of pot 3 and 4. Well, if you thought last years group was tough try this one for size.
I'm not disheartened with the group though. Real are a plum draw (and a trip to the Bernebeau has always been high on my list) and whilst Ajax and Dortmund are tough draws, let's not forgot they wont be keen to face City either and this will be a City side improved from last season.
The schedule is also key for me. City get the Real trip out of the way early before entertaining Dortmund. If they start well, they will be well positioned to then face the back to back games against Ajax.
Still positive though and I take City to go through, although likely in second place.
Opponents: Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, Norsejaelland.
Graham MacAree: It's hard to find yourself that worried about the group stage draw when your team is the one defending the trophy, but I have to admit that I was more than a little anxious when first Shakhtar Donetsk and then Juventus were deposited in Group E. With Borussia Dortmund still on the table, it would have been very easy for a Group of Death situation to arise, and it would be entirely fitting for Chelsea to finally win the Champions League and then fail to qualify from the groups the next year.
Fortunately, that seems unlikely to happen. Juventus are tough opposition and the trip to Ukraine is going to be about as much fun as rolling around in a nest of porcupines, but Chelsea are the best team in the group, and you'd have to expect them to top it.
I guess I should say something about Norsejaelland. They're that team you've barely heard of who probably aren't very good and you're pretty sure you'll beat. That wasn't a metaphor, although I did switch into second person for some reason. Sorry Norsejaelland. Thank you in advance for the six points. This paragraph is going to return to haunt me, I swear.
Opponents: Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk, Norsejaelland.
djp4cal: While Juventus have a couple of tough teams to face in Group E, it could have ended up a lot worse. I like Juve's chances against all three teams in the group. While the hunt for a top striker is still something all Juventini are watching with all of their concentration — and then some — this is still a much-improved squad from the one that didn't lose a game in Serie A. Of course, not having Il Mister, Antonio Conte, on the sidelines during matches isn't the ideal situation as the Bianconeri return to Europe, but if there's any squad that can overcome things going against them, I am pretty sure Juventus have the kind of grinta that is able to fight through it.
Opponents: Valencia, Lille, BATE Borisov.
Pierson: On the whole, FC Bayern's draw was about average, possibly leaning slightly towards the "easy" side of average. Group F will consist of Bayern, Valencia CF, Lille OSC, and BATE Borisov. Valencia is one of Spain's somewhat static "best of the rest" group - a handful clubs that are below the level of Real Madrid and Barcelona, but that are still solid teams that can beat anyone on any given day. They have Roberto Soldado, who I've seen a few times and who can certainly find the net, and I just saw that they have Joao Pereira, the Portuguese wild-man who can give anyone headaches. So, I don't expect an easy win vs. these guys (especially the away match), but we did alright on our trip to Villarreal last season, so I think we have to be favored.
I know rather little about Lille, other than the fact that they somehow picked up Salomon Kalou and that I absolutely love their mascot. I really, really hope that they have an actual Bordeaux wearing a dog-sized Lille kit on the sidelines. If anyone knows, DON'T tell me - I want to be surprised.
As far as BATE Borisov - I've heard their name before, meaning they must have been in the Champions League a few times, but I'd be really, really disappointed if we drop points to these guys. Their stadium seats under 6,000 people, if I'm reading that correctly. I thought UEFA had rules about that kind of thing, but I guess not.
Overall, I think there's enough talent in the group to keep us awake (especially with Valencia), but we should be able to win 4 of the 6 matches outright and come away with at least 13 points. Last year, FC Bayern was in clearly the toughest group, so we were probably due for a medium-to-easy draw. There is a school of thought that says it's better to get drawn into the toughest possible group, to avoid complacency and "get your confidence up" or whatever, but I'm very satisfied with this draw. Excellent chance to advance, very good chance to win the group (and draw a 2d-place finisher from another group), and we can turn it on in February when it really counts. Good luck to all.
I just thought of one more thing. Wouldn't it be awesome if Lille not only had a real, live Bordeaux mascot, but if it broke free and started running around the pitch during the match? Wouldn't that be just the greatest thing ever? I don't think I'd be willing to give up a finger to witness that, but I'd certainly give up a toe.
Opponents: Benfica, Spartak Moscow, Celtic.
Arron Duckling: At this level of competition there is no such thing as an "easy" group, but in every draw there are one or two groups that look less challenging and Barcelona are in one of them. A trip to Russia wouldn’t have been high on Tito Vilanova’s wish-list, especially given the pace of the Spartak frontline and the synthetic pitch at the Luzhniki Stadium, although even the Russian winter is preferable to facing the Serie A champs, Juventus. On the other hand, Culés will be glad to see Benfica again as matches against the Portuguese side are usually a good omen as the Blaugrana went on to lift the trophy after knocking out SLB the last time these two sides met in 2006. And how’s this for a fact: the last time Benfica were drawn into a group with Barcelona was 1991/92 and the Catalans went onto to lift the famous trophy at Wembley. There’s a long way until history has a chance to repeat itself, but with a group like this, Barcelona should at least reach the knock-out stages.
Opponents: Braga, Galatasaray, CFR Cluj.
Gene Um: There were five bullets I was hoping to dodge (Valencia, Benfica, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, and Borussia Dortmund) and fortunately for Manchester United, they did so in this draw. Despite having tremendous squad depth, this is even more welcoming when considering that the six Premier League fixtures that follow these midweek European nights are difficult weekend ties with Liverpool, Newcastle United, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Queens Park Rangers, and Manchester City -- all of which are away with the exception of QPR. United should be far from complacent though with their draw as they failed to advance last season from a group they were clear favorites to top. If Sir Alex Ferguson's side can earn the maximum points at Old Trafford, they likely will advance as Group H's winners. Away to Galatasaray should be intriguing as many United fans likely remember the 'Welcome to Hell' banners that greeted the club the last time they trekked out there.
Another season, another Champions League draw. Another chance to see UEFA fluttering their eyelashes at the world.
The Champions League was a disaster for Manchester United last year. They were upended on the final matchday of the group stage by Basel and failed to advance to the knockout stages as a result, an embarrassment for the club and the Premier League, which had a tough time calling itself the best league in the world after United and Manchester City exited in the group stage. Luckily for them, they got a cake draw this year that should see them through to the knockout stages no matter how poorly they play.
It doesn't matter what happened last year and it doesn't matter what the fixture list looks like -- United are going through. So their central midfield isn't what you would expect of one of the best teams in the world. Big deal. They don't have to be one of the best teams in the world in this group. With the way that Shinji Kagawa is playing, Wayne Rooney's injury isn't too big of a blow to the Red Devils and Robin van Persie will get settled in before long to make that attacking group of him, Kagawa and any two of United's 4,000 wingers unbelievably dangerous.
There was no doubt who the best team in the Turkish Super Lig was last year. Galatasaray finished the season nine points clear of second place and 21 points ahead of third place. They were the undoubted top team in the league and have added Nordin Amrabat, Burak Yilmaz, Felipe Melo and Hamit Altintop this summer. You can bet that Turk Telekom Arena will be buzzing for all three of their European matches too.
Braga were always going to need a weaker group to advance to the knockout stages and while that is exactly what they got, they are still going to need some help. They were probably they weakest team in Pot Two, but they have a 20-goal scorer from a year ago in Lima and a quality midfielder to lean upon in Ruben Micael. Braga are an older team and while that experience will serve them well in a tournament like this, it's probably not enough to best a good Galatasaray squad.
We've gotten used to seeing Cluj in the Champions League as investment in the club has made it one of Romania's best in recent years. Unfortunately for them, good in Romania does not mean good in Europe. They have finished dead last in both of their two Champions League group stage appearances.
Robin van Persie is actually the best player in this group, or maybe even Nemanja Vidic when he is healthy, but Kagawa is the best player right now. He's off to a flying start at Old Trafford since making the move from Borussia Dortmund and has made it so Wayne Rooney's absence won't even be too much of a setback. That one of the best players from the two-time defending Bundesliga champions is thriving for United isn't a surprise, but it has been mighty impressive how quickly he has settled in with his new club.
At 27 years old, Yilmaz isn't your traditional breakout player. He isn't some teenager who lit it up for some small club in a small league and is finally going to get his chance in the spotlight, but he is a guy that most people don't know about because most people don't watch the Turkish Super Lig. They will know him after the Champions League, though. Yilmaz scored 20 goals for Trabzonspor two years ago and then 34 more last year. Now with Galatasaray, people will finally get a look at him.
It's tough to imagine Cluj doing much to challenge for a spot in the knockout stages and United should run away with the group, meaning that the battles between Galatasaray and Braga should be the matches that determine second place. Moreover, the matches will be in front of a crazy Turkish crowd and at one of the most breathtaking stadiums in Europe, built into a Portuguese rock quarry.
Barcelona will probably be pretty happy with their draw in Group G of the Champions League. Benfica will give them challenge and trips to Moscow are never easy, but they are the clear favorites to win this group.
Barcelona will be looking to rebound from their disappointing exit to Chelsea in the the semifinals of last year's tournament. The only thing that might derail another trip to the knockout round is their defense which has looked extremely shaky at times during their first couple matches this season. Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta will lead the way up front as Tito Vilanova looks to make his mark on the Champions League.
The Portuguese club surprisingly topped their group last year, helping to knock perennial contender Manchester United to the Europa League. After a Round of 16 victory over Zenit St. Petersburg, they fell to eventual champions Chelsea. Advancing is no doubt expected, but finishing above Barca would a tremendous accomplishment for Jorge Jesus and his team if they can pull it off.
Spartak are back in the Champions League after missing out in 2011-12. Getting out of this group would be a big deal and whenever you get to play three matches in Moscow, that's an advantage. Whether or not they have enough firepower to get results away from home will have to be seen.
The Scottish giants may have an easy time of it in the SPL this season, but their chances of making it out of this group seem pretty slim.
Is there anything left to say about Messi? He's the best player in the world and the better he plays, the better chance Barcelona have of reaching Wembley.
The 23-year-old Belgian midfielder with the big hair (what is it with Belgian midfielders and big hair?) enters his second season with Benica after joining in 2011 from Standard Liege. He's already been linked with Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, so a big performance on Europe's biggest stage for club football could rocket this guy's stock even higher.
I doubt this match-up will be very entertaining but there's something fascinating about the idea of Messi and company traveling to Celtic Park. We may never get the chance to find out if Messi can get it done on a cold, wet night in Stoke, but we might just get the chance to see if he can get it done on a cold, wet night in Glasgow.
Bayern Munich are the kings of Group F. There's really not a whole lot else going on here.
Last year's runners up have got even better, with Mario Mandzukic and Athletic Bilbao's Javi Martinez coming into the side. There's absolutely no way that this team isn't favourites to go through -- they might be the bet side in Europe outside of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Easy winners of the special La Liga table that doesn't feature the best teams in the world. Don't expect them to end up in third place again. They're not good enough to play against Bayern, but the rest of the group should be easy enough.
The Belarusians are probably going to be underrated because of where they're from, but there are plenty of good prospects playing for BATE Borisov. If you followed Belarus during the 2012 Olympics or last summer's under-21 European Championships, you should be fairly familiar with their squad. They managed a home draw against Milan last season, but they could better that with a third-place finish this time around.
Lille are nothing like the side they used to be. When they won Ligue 1 in the 2010/11 season, they featured Eden Hazard, Moussa Sow and Gervinho. All three have now moved onto greener pastures. Their performance in last year's edition of the Champions League was pretty weak, and they barely managed to get through their playoff against Copenhagen on Wednesday.
If healthy, the answer is quite clearly Bastian Schweinsteiger. Unfortunately, nobody knows when the Germany international's going to be healthy again. The best all-around midfielder in the game today, Schweinsteiger offers complete control of a match from a box to box role.
Well, kind of. Anyone who costs €40 million has emerged pretty well already. But the Spain midfielder never really gotten a chance to shine on the biggest international stage yet, and if he starts alongside Schweinsteiger int he Bayern Munich double pivot this could be his coming out party.
Probably the only mostly-competitive match in this group. Valencia will need at least a point from Bayern at the Mestalla to be comfortable about advancing. They're probably not quite good enough to manage it, but at least the match itself should be interesting.
Chelsea begin their defense of the UEFA Champions League final in a group that presents challenges, but that they will be expected to get out of. They're facing Juventus in the Old Lady's return to Europe's biggest club competition, and it's difficult to predict exactly how they'll perform outside of Italy. Shakhtar Donetsk should be a threat as always, while FC Nordjaelland is probably just happy to be here.
Juventus might have a deeper side than Chelsea and they're coming off an impressive Scudetto campaign, but the Blues are a known quantity in Europe. Didier Drogba is gone, but their entire first choice starting XI has played at this level, either with Chelsea or some other club. The Blues have looked excellent in league play thus far and Eden Hazard looks like a legitimate superstar player.
Even if Juventus don't have much Champions League experience in their squad, they're still a stronger and more proven side than Shakhtar Donetsk. New acquisitions Kwadwo Asamoah, Mauricio Isla and Sebastian Giovinco all give Juventus big upgrades in both quality and depth, and they might have been the difference between the Old Lady getting to the knockout rounds and bowing out early.
If Shakhtar hold onto Willian and play their best football, there's no reason to believe that they can't challenge Chelsea and Juventus. Many of the players on their team were part of the UEFA Cup winning side, as well as the team that beat Roma in the knockout stages of Champions League. Willian, Alex Texeira, Dentinho and Henrikh Mkhitaryan aren't youngsters anymore. This is a strong and experienced side, but they will need to improve on last season's performances. Shakhtar was extremely disappointing in a very winnable group in 2011.
The draw didn't fall too kindly to Nordsjaelland. The good news for them is that they haven't drawn any of the teams that possess the talent and style of football to crush them 6-0. They're going to struggle to get any points, but they're more likely to be on the wrong end of 2-0 losses that are not as close as the score indicates than they are to get outright whooped.
With all apologies to the large group of very solid players on Juventus, Hazard is the best player in this group without a doubt. He's been dominant in his first three games in a Chelsea shirt, and based on his spectacular performances for Lille over the past couple of years, this probably isn't an anomaly. Arturo Vidal of Juventus is going to have his hands full attempting to keep him in check, since Andrea Pirlo won't be chasing him around.
Last season, Juventus went through a carousel of forwards and didn't have much in the way of creativity in an advanced position. Giovinco returned to the team from Parma during the summer, and he's a perfect fit for the second striker role in Juventus' 3-5-2 and should be the focal point of most of their attacks.
If Juventus can nick all three points off of Chelsea at home, this group will be very interesting.
People love a "Group of Death" and this year's UEFA Champions League Group D is the "Group of Death". Four champions from four major European leagues will battle it out for two spots in the Round of 16. This group is going to be a lot of fun for the neutrals and may lead to supporters of the involved clubs chewing on a lot of antacids.
At the top are the Spanish champions Real Madrid, always a formidable opponent in the Champions League. With a La Liga and Copa de Rey title under Jose Mourinho's belt with Madrid, you can bet Los Blancos will be focused on reaching the final at Wembley and trying to claim their 10th European title. This team is loaded with stars and anything less than winning the group would be a massive shock.
The German champions were way down in the last pot due to a low co-efficient, but that doesn't mean they aren't still a team to be reckoned with in this group. Despite losing Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United, Dortmund are led by captain Sebastian Kehl and loaded with several young stars like Mario Götze, Matt Hummels and Marco Reus.
City are making their second straight appearance in the group stages and will look to improve upon last season's disappointing run that saw them finish third in their group behind Bayern Munich and Napoli. That was last season's "group of death" and there's an argument to be made that they are once again in one of the toughest groups. City will need to defend consistently and get production up front from the likes of Mario Balotelli, David Silva and Kun Aguero (when healthy) if they want to reach the group stages.
The four-time European champions are not a bad team, but when you're faced with a group that includes the other three heavyweights, your chances are slim.
Love him or hate him, he's amazing and one of the best players in the world. He's shaken off the label of a player that fails to show up in big matches and could be on the way to a massive season. If Ronaldo is able to be as brilliant as we all know he can be, Madrid will only be that much harder to beat.
The 23-year-old German striker will get a chance to shine on another European stage in his first season with Dortmund. Reus impressed with the German national team at Euro 2012 and is expected to be a big part of Dortmund's attack.
City will be in the mix but the meetings between these two teams should be both entertaining and key in determining who advances from this group. Madrid are the favorites but Dortmund won't be intimidated by Madrid's attacking prowess. The Germans may not beat Madrid, but I suspect they'll give us 180 minutes of fabulous play.
The world's longest draw ceremony has drawn to a close, and now it's time to bring you previews of each of the Champions League groups. Without any further ado, here's Group C:
Ok, they might not be anyone's favorites but my own, but Zenit are tough and this is...not the toughest group. Indisputably the best in Russia, Zenit made it to the knockout stages of the tournament last season. Of course, their group included APOEL (who took top) Braga, and Shakhtar Donetsk, but that's nothing really weaker than what they've been handed this time around. They were then eliminated by Benfica, 4-3 on aggregate. The squad has remained strong and steady into this season -- why shouldn't they emerge on top?
Thrown into Pot One by virtue of past performance in Europe, the rossoneri are one of the weakest teams to be seeded at the top. Over the summer, Milan cleaned house, jettisoning themselves of players familiar to Champions League viewers: Clarence Seedorf, Mark Van Bommel, Gennaro Gattuso, Filippo Inzaghi, and more. Paris Saint-Germain wooed away Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva -- but the real issue is that Milan have not come close to replacing their top scorer and one of the world's best defenders. Just one match has been played in Serie A, but the rossoneri managed to start their season by losing to Sampdoria, freshly promoted from Serie B. But the group is not tough and they'll likely make it out alive.
Málaga couldn't even manage 3rd in one of the continent's most skewed leagues. They were 4th in La Liga last season, and currently sit 8th, although considering there've only been two matches, that's not much of an indicator of Málaga's success. Besides, the draw with Mallorca was most likely a result of being sandwiched between their Champions League qualifier with Panathinaikos, which Málaga won 2-0 on aggregate. But even if La Liga is skewed, Málaga are likely facing tougher competition than Anderlecht each week, which is why I'm putting them third. Let's be honest, though, it's just a guess.
Anderlecht won their 31st Belgian Pro League trophy last season, and made it to the knockout round of the Europa League...uh, it's a bit hard to talk up this club (sorry, Anderlecht supporters). To find their way to the group stages, Anderlecht already smashed Ekranas, of Lithuania, and beat Greek club Limassol in the playoffs. The last time they made it this far in the Champions League was 2006-2007, when they finished bottom of their group, after eventual winners Milan, Lille, and AEK Athens. Not seeing a reason they'll do much better this time around, but I'm no expert on Belgian teams.
Kevin-Prince Boateng. Because who else? If the Milan midfielder can stay healthy, he'll make a certain impression on this group. And hopefully bring us some amazing goals -- it's not like there's anyone else in a rossoneri kit that will be providing them.
Lucas Biglia. Yes, our emerging star comes from the squad we say will end up dead last. Really, just throw the cards in the air and see how they land in Group C. The defensive midfielder has settled in well at Anderlecht, having been there since 2006, and has recently been rewarded with callups to the Argentine national squad.
Umm, any of them? This group doesn't lend itself well to amazing match-ups, but most of them should, at least, be interesting.
Group A of the UEFA Champions League wasn't particularly impressive; Group B isn't either. Arsenal are one of the weakest Pot One teams, but instead of getting paired up with a strong set of lower seeds, they've mostly wound up with a whole lot of 'meh'. Schalke, Olympiacos and Montpellier aren't bad sides -- there aren't really poor teams in this competition -- but none of them have the firepower to unseat the Gunners at the top of the group.
Arsenal never seem to have a problem with getting out of the group stages and it's difficult to see them struggling here. Although they're no longer serious threats for the title in the English Premier League, they're still a strong team, with the losses of Robin van Persie and Alex Song offset by the acquisitions of Santi Cazorla from Malaga as well as both Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. Expect them to cruise through this one.
Schalke were semifinalists in this competition just two years ago, but nobody's expecting them to go that far this time around. They do have the group's top striker in Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, but that's all that really separates them from the likes of Olypiacos and Montpellier. Also, Teemu Pukki has a cool name. Cool names are important.
Olympiacos made some noise in the group stages last season before eventually finishing third, and that's probably about right this time. The departure of their best player, Kevin Miralles, to Everton makes it difficult to see the Greeks in the knockouts this year.
Montpellier were surprise Ligue 1 champions last season, but the quality of their squad doesn't suggest a repeat. Having lost Giroud to Arsenal (storyline!), their squad no longer has the sort of cutting edge that they'd like. It's difficult to see them anything but fourth. They will console themselves with the 'photos' section of John Utaka's website.
Arsenal's best buy of the summer was Santi Cazorla, picked up for relatively cheap from struggling Malaga. Perhaps the best player in La Liga who wasn't on one of the top two sides, Cazorla is an intelligent, incisive passer who can rule the roost in attacking midfield. He's already settled into this Arsenal side, and expect him to tear the other defences in this group apart.
The 22-year-old Morrocan was instrumental in Montpellier's implausible run to the Ligue 1 title, grabbing 13 goals and five assists in the 2011/12 season. After a summer of having his name thrown around in transfer rumours, it looks like he'll be staying in France, and any team up against him has to be very wary of his playmaking abilities.
Just how much stuff is Giroud going to get thrown at him in Montpellier? Enquiring minds wish to know! Also, with both teams espousing a fun attack-first philosophy and Montpellier having the advantage in France, this could end up as something of a shootout.
Group A was almost a crime against humanity before Paris Saint-Germain came to the rescue. Many fans dreamed of a group of death involving PSG before the UEFA Champions League draw, but the draw was extremely kind to the Ligue 1 runners-up. They will be heavy favorites to win their group and progress to the knockout stages of the competition. The race for second place behind them should be interesting, while Dinamo Zagreb probably won't put up much of a fight.
Carlo Ancelotti's boys are off to a rough start with three draws from three matches in Ligue 1, but it's hard to believe that they won't figure out how to win matches shortly. Ancelotti is too good of a coach and the squad has too much talent for them to not turn things around shortly.
PSG probably expected to come up against one massive footballing giant, but the draw worked out perfectly for them. They're clearly the best team in Group A, even if the Pot 1 and Pot 2 teams are no slouches.
Porto could still lose Hulk and Joao Moutinho over the next two games, but they should still enter the group stage with a stronger side than Dynamo Kiev. Lucho Gonzalez has been excellent since re-joining the side and Jackson Martinez is off to a good start. They could potentially nick points off PSG, but the biggest games in this group will be the matches between Porto and Dynamo Kiev.
Dynamo Kiev are loaded with new arrivals, and might have the strongest squad that they've fielded in the last five years. Unfortunately, they've been handed a very tough draw and probably don't have the top-end talent to hang with Porto and PSG. Taye Taiwo, Miguel Veloso and Niko Kranjcar already starting and will have plenty of time to settle in with their teammates before Champions League rolls around.
Dinamo Zagreb struggled in last year's Champions League and they're probably going to struggle again. Their star central midfielder, Milan Badelj, has been linked to a move away from Dinamo and could be plying his trade in the Bundesliga by this time next week. They'll do well to grab a home draw or two. Don't expect them to remain remotely competitive.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is always the best player, everywhere, no matter what. What Lionel Messi can do with a ball, he can do with an orange. He is Zlatan.
Porto picked up Jackson Martinez from Jaguares de Chiapas in Mexico and he's already looking comfortable at center forward. He scored his first league goal for the club last week and his finishing could be crucial to Porto's chances to go through.
PSG is going to stop drawing games soon, and they have the talent to dominate Dynamo and Porto. The real fight in Group A should be for second place and Porto is certainly the favorite, so it will be important for Dynamo Kiev to take three points from Porto at home.
It's UEFA Champions League draw time. Imagine the song. Sing it out loud (I'm pretty sure it's just 'the Champions' repeated over and over again). Also imagine some Heineken bottles. Singing the song. If anyone asks what you're doing, tell them you had a seizure.
The pots are all seeded and now we're just waiting for teams to be drawn. Remember that teams in the same pot cannot be drawn together, and nor can teams in the same league (so no Manchester derbies or Clasicos just yet). The group stages are by no means a formality -- several big names were eliminated before February last year -- and there are some seriously worrying-looking names in the lower pots. Here's the complete list:
Fun! And here are the groups themselves. Refresh for the latest updates.
Group A: Porto, Dynamo Kiev, Paris Saint-Germain, Dinamo Zagreb.
Group B: Arsenal, Schalke 04, Olympiacos, Montpellier.
Group C: AC Milan, Zenit St. Petersburg, Anderlecht, Malaga.
Group D: Real Madrid, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund.
Group E: Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, Norsjaelland.
Group F: Bayern Munich, Valencia, Lille, BATE Borisov.
Group G: Barcelona, Benfica, Spartak Moscow, Celtic.
Group H: Manchester United, Braga, Galatasaray, CFR Cluj.
Wow Group D.
All the information on where to watch and follow along with Thursday's UEFA Champions League group stage draw.
The UEFA Champions League is ready for the group stage and that round begins with the draw, which will take place on Thursday in Monaco.
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