Its back people.
The reason for our existence, the boon of our lives, the theatre of the gods, the Colosseum of the modern day gladiators – Champions League football is back.
31 top teams from around Europe will give it their all – their blood, sweat, tears, their very last breath to try and get their glory – to make themselves immortal; and Arsenal will amble about trying their best to increase Arsene Wenger’s bank balance.
UEFA changed the seeding rules from this year, so the top 8 seeds were the winners of the English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Dutch and Portuguese leagues – Chelsea, Paris St Germain, Barcelona or as they are more popularly knows UEFAlona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, PSV Eindhoven, Zenit St Petersburg and Benfica.
Spain became the first country in history to have 5 candidates in the torunament. Sevilla got through because of their victory in the Europa League last year; Valencia came through the qualifiers while Real Madrid and Atheletico Madrid came through by virtue of finishing 2nd and 3rd in the Spanish league last season.
Germany has 4 candidates this year. The champions Bayern Munich are joined by Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach, who finished in the top 4 of the Bundesliga. Borussia Monchengladback are most welcome in this league, its their first time in this format of the European competition. They were a powerhouse of the 1970s. Wolfsburg is a dark horse, they finished 2nd last season and just defeated Bayern Munich a couple of weeks ago.
England has 4 teams as well – Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United.
Old Lord Wrigley, the Baconface Sir Alex Ferguson had made a Faustian pact with the powers that be that ensures that Manchester United get the easiest group every year.
And this year was no different – they somehow got CSKA Moscow, Wolfsburg and PSV Eindhoven. Unless they manage to make a dog’s bollocks out of their matches, qualification to second round is guaranteed.
There are a few exotic as fuck teams around this year, which brings a breath of fresh air to the proceedings. We have Malmo of Sweeden, Astana from Kazakhstan, Maccabi Tel Aviv from Israel, Dinamo Zagreb from Croatia, and Bate Borisov from Belarus.
Gent from Belgium are another team competing here for the first time.
So here is what the draw came up with.
Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Malmo
PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Wolfsburg
Benfica, Atlético Madrid, Galatasaray, Astana
Juventus, Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Mönchengladbach
Barcelona, Bayer Leverkusen, Roma, Bate Borisov
Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Olympiakos, Dinamo Zagreb
Chelsea, Porto, Dynamo Kiev, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Zenit Saint Petersburg, Valencia, Lyon, Gent
Real Madrid will win group A. Unless Zlatan gets injured PSG will finish 2nd and Shakhtar will go into Europa. The group also heralds Zlatan’s homecoming to Malmo.
As I already mentioned Manchester United got the easiest draw. They should qualify as champions from Group B. Wolfsburg should come as 2nd. PSV and CSKA will fight it out for the Europa position.
Group C sees the Mongol derby between the Turish and Kazakh champions. The last time that happened, Genghis Khan’s Golden Horde was rampaging all across Europa and Asia. But they will compete for the Europa spot. Atheltico Madrid and Benfica should qualify easily.
Barcelona will win Group E. The other three are evenly matched and its the matches between these teams that will be interesting in this group.
Bayern Munich will win Group F. Arsenal will lose to Bayern, then draw or barely win against Olympiakos and Zagrev. Arsenal fans worldwide will start shouting In Arsene We Rust. Then Arsenal will turn things around and beat Bayern in the 5th or 6th game (when Bayern has already qualified) and then Arsenal fans worldwide will start shouting In Arsene We Trust.
And then Arsenal will lose in the 2nd round.
Group H is the Russian Roulette/Mexican Standoff group. Anyone can beat anyone in that group. The only thing I can predict is that Gent will probably finish bottom – the rest nobody knows.
Chelsea got a relatively easy group. They should qualify along with Porto. But the problem here is the distance that they have to travel. For the 3 away games Chelsea will have to travel around 9500 kilometres. The impact will be on the English Premier league matches in the weekends following these away trips.
And that leaves Manchester City.
What have you ever done to deserve this?
They pent the whole of last year complaining that they always get the toughest group despite being the champions as their co-efficient is low. So UEFA changed the rules and made domestic league winners automatic top seeds.
So naturally City finished second.
And then got Juventus – the champions of Italy, Sevilla – the Europa league winners, and Borussia Monchengladbach – the best defensively organised team from Germany.
How have you managed to piss off the football gods so mightily?
As for Chelsea, we are not going to win this year. But we should reach the Quarter Finals at least.
But win, lose or tie,
Chelsea Till I Die
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High