Every time I hear the song, I get chills. "THE CHAMP-IONS!" the chorus sings as a Champions League game gets set to begin.
There's nothing better. The Champions League is upon us!
With qualifying and the playoff round now through, Thursday saw the draw set for this year's Champions' League. Fans of 32 clubs eagerly awaited as the group stages were set.
Which clubs would defending champion Chelsea draw? Who would draw the dreaded "Group of Death," with teams like Manchester City in Pot 2, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain in Pot 3 and Borussia Dortmund in Pot 4?
Everything you need to prep for this year's tournament—the teams, the draw, the schedule and yes, even my predictions—are below. It's time for "THE CHAMP-IONS!"
One team from each pot makes up each group. Teams from the same country cannot be in the same group. Per UEFA's club coefficient scores, the pots for the seedings were drawn up as follows:
Chelsea, Barcelona, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Porto, AC Milan
Valencia, Benfica, Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit St. Petersburg, Schalke, Manchester City, Braga, Dynamo Kiev
Olympiacos, Anderlecht, Ajax, Juventus, Spartak Moscow, Paris Saint-Germain, Galatasaray, Lille
Celtic, Borussia Dortmund, BATE Borisov, Dinamo Zagreb, CFR Cluj, Montpellier, Malaga, Nordsjaelland
Group A: Porto, Dynamo Kiev, Paris Saint-Germain, GNK Dinamo
Predicted Winner and Runner-up: Paris Saint-Germain and Porto
Group B: Arsenal, Schalke 04, Olympiacos, Montpellier
Predicted Winner and Runner-up: Arsenal and Schalke 04
Group C: AC Milan, Zenit St. Petersburg, Anderlecht, Malaga
Predicted Winner and Runner-up: AC Milan and Zenit St. Petersburg
Group D: Real Madrid, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund
Predicted Winner and Runner-up: Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund
Group E: Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, Nordsjaelland
Predicted Winner and Runner-up: Juventus and Chelsea
Group F: Bayern Munich, Valencia, Lille, BATE Borisov
Predicted Winner and Runner-up: Bayern Munich and Lille
Group G: Barcelona, SL Benfica, Spartak Moskva, Celtic
Predicted Winner and Runner-up: Barcelona and SL Benfica
Group H: Manchester United, Braga, Galatasaray, CFR Cluj
Predicted Winner and Runner-up: Manchester United and Braga
Each team plays every other team in the group twice, once at home and once away. Each group match will take place on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
- Matchday 1: September 18-19
- Matchday 2: October 2-3
- Matchday 3: October 23-24
- Matchday 4: November 6-7
- Matchday 5: November 20-21
- Matchday 6: December 4-5
- Round of 16 (first leg): February 12-13 and February 19-20
- Round of 16 (second leg): March 5-6 and March 12-13
- Quarterfinals (first leg): April 2-3
- Quarterfinals (second leg): April 9-10
- Semifinals (first leg): April 23-24
- Semifinals (second leg): May 1 and May 3-4
- Final: May 13
Thoughts and Overall Tournament Predictions
If you wanted a Group of Death, you got it. Four league champions comprise Group D (how appropriate is that), with Real Madrid, Manchester City, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund set to battle it out. There will be heartbreak for one of these sides, and I think the German and Spanish champions will advance.
Bayern Munich also drew a tricky group, with Valencia, Lille and BATE Borisov all capable of advancing to the Round of 16. Manchester United should win Group H easily, while Group B (Arsenal, Schalke 04, Olympiacos, Montpellier) could go any way.
It's hard to bet against Barcelona in this tournament. Already arguably the deepest side in the world, the additions of Jordi Alba and Alex Song and the return of David Villa make the Catalans even more formidable. Same with Real Madrid, who just knocked off Barca in the Spanish Supercopa and added Luka Modric this summer.
Both Manchester squads are intriguing, especially United now that they have Robin van Persie, though City may not escape the group. Chelsea and new wonder-kid Eden Hazard are not to be ignored. Juventus and PSG are sure to make noise.
But I like Bayern Munich this year, especially after the addition of Javi Martinez. After losing the championship to Chelsea in Munich a year ago, what could be better than winning this year's tournament at Wembley?
Look for the Bavarians to be this year's champions of Europe.
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