Group B promises to be one of the more even and exciting groups, with Internazionale, CSKA Moscow and the French champions, Lille. Lille were the surprising French double winners, playing exciting, open football with Eden Hazard and Gervinho on either side of Moussa Sow. Inter Milan finished second in Serie A last year, finishing the year much better after Leonardo replaced Rafael Benitez. Under new manager Gian Piero Gasperini, Inter have switched to an exciting 3-4-3. CSKA Moscow will also be a dangerous team, with the added geographical bonus: The Russian winter, and the artificial pitch at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Trabzonspor make up the final member of the group. They had been in the Europa League play-off stages, but after Fenerbahce were removed by request for match-fixing, Trabzonspor were pushed up to the Champions League. The problem with that is that Trabzonspor is also being investigated for match-fixing. Right. Like CSKA, they have geography on their side, playing on the Black Sea, meaning a long distance away trip for Lille and Inter. Also, it gives commentators a chance to mention the good old Russian-Turkish rivalry. UEFA: Friends of the Commentator With Nothing to Say
Out before it starts
Trabzonspor. They have very little European history, are in the middle of a match-fixing investigation, and don’t have the quality the other 3 sides have. They’ll make a push for 3rd, but will fail.
Sorry, Europa League for you
CSKA Moscow. They have good players, especially in Keisuke Honda, Vagner Love and Mark Gonzalez and they have the Russian winter. They also play good attacking football while remaining responsible at the back, and lead the Russian Premier League. While it’s likely they finish 3rd, don’t be surprised if they end up second.
Advancing to the Knockout Stage are…
Inter Milan and Lille - Inter, despite losing Samuel Eto’o, still have a majority of the side that won the Champions League two seasons ago. After adding Ricardo Alvarez and keeping Wesley Sneijder, they have enough fire power to cope without Eto’o. Their big question is whether Gasperini has worked out their defensive issues. Their new formation, 3-4-3, can easily become a 5-4-1, and they have the capacity to swamp the midfield if necessary.
Lille lost Yohann Cabaye, Adil Remy and Gervinho, and could lose Eden Hazard. If they do lose Hazard, they’ll finish 3rd. If not, they’ll progress to the round of 16, with Hazard pulling the strings and Moussa Sow scoring the goals. Lille also managed to replace Cabaye and Gervinho, and should be clicking by the time the first European matches are played.