Champions League Draw 2013: Highlighting Best Matchups of Group Stage
The UEFA Champions League group stage has been drawn, and there are plenty of high-profile matchups.
There has been quite a bit of talk about whether or not a European super league is the best way to go for the top clubs in the world. The complaint is that the UCL doesn't get interesting until the knockout stages, when all of the lesser European sides have been eliminated.
Those critics dismiss the entertainment of the group stage, which still features some great fixtures. Every year, you've got a proverbial Group of Death, followed by what are generally a host of other competitive groups.
Here's the full draw for the Champions League, followed by the best battles you'll see in the group stage. Note the second-place team in each group will also advance to the knockout stages.
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|Manchester United||Real Madrid||Benfica||Bayern Munich|
|Shakhtar Donetsk||Juventus||Paris Saint-Germain||CSKA Moscow|
|Bayer Leverkusen||Galatasaray||Olympiacos||Manchester City|
|Real Sociedad||Copenhagen||Anderlecht||Viktoria Plzen|
|Group E||Group F||Group G||Group H|
|FC Schalke||Marseille||Atletico Madrid||AC Milan|
|FC Basel||Borussia Dortmund||Zenit St. Petersburg||Ajax|
|Steaua Bucharest||Napoli||Austria Wien||Celtic|
Arsenal vs. Borussia Dortmund
You knew it, didn't you, Arsenal fans. When it got down to Ajax and Borussia Dortmund as the third team in Group F, it was always going to be the German club.
It's a tough group in general, and Gunners fan Piers Morgan is already waving the white flag.
Dortmund will be the favorites to win Group F, but Arsenal could give them a great run and even take it in the end. The Gunners have looked good early in the season, and with their style, they can get on the counter and snatch a goal very quickly.
The issue will be whether or not Arsenal will be able to handle Dortmund's attack, which hasn't gotten much worse following the departure of Mario Gotze. Robert Lewandowski and Marco Reus are still there, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has wasted little time in bedding into Dortmund.
Both teams play a very attractive brand of football, so this one will be entertaining for the neutrals.
Real Madrid vs. Juventus
What's not to like about this fixture?
The winner of Group B will almost certainly be either Real Madrid or Juventus, so their meetings will hold that extra bit of importance, along with featuring two European giants. There's a combined 11 European titles between Madrid and Juventus—nine and two, respectively.
There's also Carlo Ancelotti facing off against Juve, a club he's no stranger to from his time as manager from 1999-2001 and subsequent tenure at AC Milan.
Just thinking about the battle in midfield is enough to make your mouth water.
With Madrid, you've got Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric, Mesut Ozil and Isco. Juventus feature Paul Pogba, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal.
There will be a beautiful chess game between Ancelotti and Antonio Conte, as each tries to determine the best strategy for his club.
Cristiano Ronaldo could prove the difference, as the reigning Italian champions lack an attacker who can change a game like Ronaldo can. Juve have gotten better with the additions of Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez, though, and they're much more prepared for a deep European run.
Barcelona vs. Ajax
It's the originator vs. the innovator.
Without Ajax, you don't have the tiki-taka style of Barcelona. Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff were the first to bring "total football" to the Spanish club in 1973, and that started a chain reaction that would continue into the present day with Pep Guardiola.
Surprisingly, this is the first time Barcelona and Ajax will have met in a UEFA tournament (h/t journalist Mohamed Moallim).
Ajax and Barça finally meet in a UEFA sanctioned competition. Another difficult group... #UCL— Mohamed Moallim (@jouracule) August 29, 2013
If you love attacking, possession-based football, this is the match for you. Both teams play similar styles, even with Gerardo Martino taking over at Barcelona. The Catalans will be favored in both matches, but they should provide plenty of entertainment.
Frank de Boer is not going to be afraid to let his Ajax side go right at the Catalan giants. He won't have Ajax bunker in and just defend all game. If Ajax go down, they're going down in style.
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