As always, the Champions League group stage draw produced a group of death, as Group D will feature Real Madrid, Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax, who will be in for a rough couple of months. The European Champions, Chelsea were drawn with Juventus, Shakhtar and Nordsjaelland, while Barcelona and Bayern Munich got rather comfortable teams to deal with.
A group that got a lot of star power thanks to drop of PSG into the third pot, although they haven’t been exactly living up to the expectations in France, meaning we should have a very open group, with Porto and PSG as favorites to come through.
Olivier Giroud will get to play against his former club Montpellier, in a group which does probably satisfy Arsenal, although their scoring problems shouldn’t be limited to England alone. Schalke of Germany will be favorites to join them among in the top two.
Seeing how Milan are at the moment, don’t be surprised to see Zenit, the Russian champions top this group, while it’s hard to see Anderlecht returning to the competition with too much of a bang or the depleted Malaga team causing too much problems.
A very tough group indeed for Real Madrid after a couple of easy ones in previous season. Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund are both sides the legitimately see themselves as possible group winners and intend to go far in the competition this year, while Ajax, again, will be forced to (probably) take out a lot of balls out of their net.
Good or bad for Chelsea? Juventus are a tough nut to crack upon their return to the Champions League, but Chelsea are the defending champions and are enjoying a good start back home, making them the favorites to finish first. Shakhtar should be anything but easy, while the Danes won’t cause anyone too many problems.
Bayern and the rest, simply put. Valencia are a decent side but without the quality and depth to deal with this magnitude, while Lille are simply getting weaker by the season thanks to the market powers.
A very good draw for Barcelona, who’ll be expected to sweep through this group with six wins, while Benfica and Spartak battle for the second spot.
On paper, United should cruise. But they should have cruised through the group stage last season, and we all saw what happened.
Group Stage 1 – 18–19 September 2012
Group Stage 2 – 2–3 October 2012
Group Stage 3 – 23–24 October 2012
Group Stage 4 – 6–7 November 2012
Group Stage 5 – 20–21 November 2012
Group Stage 6 – 4–5 December 2012
Round of 16 – 12–13 & 19–20 February 2013, 5–6 & 12–13 March 2013
Quarterfinals – 2–3 April 2013, 9–10 April 2013
Semifinals – 23–24 April 2013, 30 April – 1 May 2013
Final – 25 May 2013 at Wembley Stadium, London