Champions League: Valencia and Four Other Teams That Can't Afford a Slow Start

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Champions League: Valencia and Four Other Teams That Can't Afford a Slow Start
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
This is the straw that broke the camel's back for Manchester City.

Group play in the 2012 Champions League features Valencia and numerous other teams that bowed out in the same stage last season. There are also several teams that made it into the quarterfinals and beyond, including Bayern Munich who lost to Chelsea in the final.

Aside from Valencia, the squads in the former bracket include Shakhtar Donetsk, Ajax Amsterdam, FC Porto and Manchester United, among others. They would love nothing more than to assert themselves beyond where they fell last year.

Man U is a prime example of a proud historical franchise craving an opportunity to showcase its might at least into the Round of 16.

In general, the teams that lost in 2011 group play cannot afford a slow start again this year. It would reflect quite badly on the strength of these franchises moving forward, not to mention helping facilitate a similar fate as last year.

With that in mind, let’s highlight five specific clubs who fall into that category.

 

Valencia

Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Bayern Munich had a similar celebration as Chelsea against Valencia CF.

Here’s one squad who is looking to avoid a repeat Champions League performance.

Valencia played in Group E in 2011 and became a casualty in its final match of the round.

It opened group play by drawing 0-0 with Racing Genk, then splitting its home-and-away with Bayer Leverkusen. Los Che also drew even with Chelsea 1-1 and crushed their former Belgian opponent 7-nil.

But Valencia found itself in enemy territory for a deciding match with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Both clubs accumulated eight points. Bayer Leverkusen was already in with nine. Whichever team earned the victory would advance alongside the German squad.

Unfortunately for the Spanish giant, it was a day for Didier Drogba and Peter Cech, as the attacking forward and goalkeeper fueled the Blues victory.

Now in the current Champions League season, Valencia is once again looking out from underneath. It suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of German juggernaut Bayern Munich. Los Che mustered just five shots in a lopsided affair which the score did not necessarily indicate.

Playing last year’s finalist or not, this was an awfully slow a start for the La Liga members.

The next match in the confines of Estadio Mestalla against Lille could not come soon enough.

 

Manchester City

Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
Real Madrid vs. Manchester City.

Manchester City was one of the four teams comprising Group A in 2011.

It compiled a record of 3-1-2, with its 10 points falling just one behind Napoli and three fewer than runner-up Bayern Munich, falling far short of the Round of 16.

This year, Man City finds itself in Group D with Borussia Dortmund, Ajax Amsterdam and Real Madrid. The Spanish powerhouse advanced to the semifinals last year and recently took down City 3-2 in its opening match on Tuesday as Cristiano Ronaldo scored the heartbreaking game-winner in the 90th minute.

After falling into that unfortunate position, Man City must right the ship Wednesday, Oct. 3 against Borussia Dortmund.

The German club took down Ajax Amsterdam 1-0 on Tuesday.

Roberto Mancini’s team will look to match its Champions League play with that of its Premier League standing on the back of Carlos Tevez and other Man City front men.

 

Olympiakos

Milos Bicanski/Getty Images
Olympiakos couldn't quite hold off Schalke 04.

Olympiakos also did not fare well in its opening match of 2012.

The Greek club lost to Schalke 04 by the score of 1-2 when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar knocked in a goal just one minute after Djamel Abdoun tied it up.

Belonging to Group B this year, Olympiakos fell into Group F in 2011 with Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and Marseilles.

It finds itself in the same group as Marseilles and Arsenal for the second year in a row. The Reds travel to the Emirates Stadium next Wednesday.

This team cannot afford a déjà vu experience of last season when it fell just two points behind Arsenal for a chance to advance, which was all the more gut wrenching because Olympiakos handled the Gunners 3-1 in its home matchup.

Based off its closely fought match on Tuesday, it should find ample momentum heading into next week.

 

Manchester United

Michael Regan/Getty Images
Michael Carrick scored the game-winner for Man U.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s club sits one point behind Chelsea in the Premier League standings. He’d really like to replicate that success in this year’s Champions League to erase the embarrassing memories of last season’s performance.

Manchester United won its only two matches against a lowly Otelul Galati squad that went 0-6 in group play. It couldn’t seal the deal three other times in draws to Benfica (twice) and FC Basel, its remaining Group C foes. What’s worse, the Red Devils had a chance to move on, but fell 2-1 to FCB in its final match.

Man U landed in Group H in 2012 with Galatasaray, Braga and CFR Cluj-Napoca.

It certainly got off to the start it wanted with a 1-nil defeat of Galatasaray at Old Trafford. Michael Carrick scored within the opening 10 minutes for the game’s only goal.

The Red Devils next match is on Tuesday, Oct. 2 against their Romanian group mates. Expect a much more resounding victory from Robin Van Persie and Co.—at least more so than the 1-0 variety.

 

Ajax Amsterdam

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Borussia Dortmund took down Ajax on Tuesday.

This powerful Dutch force of years past fell into a slight hole after its first group match in the 2012 Champions League.

Ajax lost to Borussia Dortmund in shutout fashion (1-0). This came courtesy of Robert Lewandowski’s goal in the 87th minute and goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller’s stifling efforts.

Last season, AFC Ajax experienced some curious and unfortunate developments in Group D.

It dominated Dinamo Zagreb 6-0 through two games. Yet, it played to two nil-nil draws against Lyon and was shutout 3-0 twice by Real Madrid.

Besides seemingly enjoying duplicate scores, it could not produce near the consistent scoring necessary to advance. Both Ajax and Lyon accrued eight points, but the former scored just six goals to the latter’s nine.

Moving forward to 2012, Ajax must regroup against its nemesis Real Madrid.

These boys must overcome their awful lack-thereof scoring tendencies if they want to avoid succumbing to the Spanish club that knocked them out the year prior.

They’ll have a chance to accomplish that on their home turf next Wednesday.

 

Follow on Twitter @jlevitt16

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