After some disappointing seasons for English Premier clubs, this year’s UEFA Champions League draw is promising. All four clubs should come through the Group stage, although there are one or two stiff hurdles in prospect.
The UEFA Champions League draw always has a familiar look about it and you hear the complaints that “it’s the same teams over and over again”. Certainly, the actual draw creates more excitement than some of the group games, especially the “dead rubbers” when two teams have nought to play for. The top teams should emerge as the winners – that’s the idea – but closer examination of the 32 teams in the group stage of the competition reveals that ever presents over the past decade are rare. Only Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea and Real Madrid have featured in every group stage draw since 2005-06. One thing the Champions League doesn’t provide is “giant-killing” – it is incredibly rare.
So what of the English clubs’ hopes for 2015-16?
Chelsea will clock-up air miles but should come through a group containing Jose Mourinho’s former club, Porto, Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Manchester City, once more, have a tough draw, although their current form, should it be maintained, may be enough to get past Juventus, Borrusia Moenchengladbach and Sevilla. Juventus, last season’s finalists, have changed their team this season and they got off to a shaky start in Serie A, losing 0-1 at home to Udinese. Watch Sevilla, though. They could really upset this group.
Arsenal will be up against Bayern Munich once more, but they will fancy finishing second with Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb in their group. Arsenal need to get past that last 16 obstacle, they have ended their European hopes at that point in each of the past five years.
Manchester United, glad to be back in the Champions League, will have their work cut out against PSV Eindhoven, Wolfsburg and CSKA Moscow but if they can find some more firepower, they need not worry too much.
How do the teams shape up? – their records so far this season
The below table outlines the current 32 teams with their records in the competition over the past 10 years.
W – Winners, F – Finalists, SF – Semi-Final, QF – Quarter Final, 16 – Round of 16, G – Group stage, PO – Play-off round, 3Q – Third qualifying round, 2Q – Second qualifying round. Season guide – 15 = 2014-15.
|Paris St. Germain||QF||QF||QF|
|Zenit St. Peter.||G||16||G||16||PO||G|