Breaking Down Bayern Munich's Champions League Group Stage Opponents
Jubilation was in order Thursday for Bayern Munich fans across the world, as their star winger Franck Ribery overtook Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to be crowned the greatest European player of the previous season.
Yet all the cork popping wasn't just for the Frenchman, as Bayern also learned their fate in the forthcoming Champions League group stages.
As a Pot 1 side, Bayern were fortunate enough to miss out on the big names of European football, while riding their luck in avoiding some of the bigger sides throughout the other three divisions of clubs. The second team to join them in Group D were Russian side CSKA Moscow, while former English champions Manchester City and Czech side Viktoria Plzen were the third and fourth.
On the face of it, the group looks rather welcoming to most Bayern fans, who will of course be expecting new coach Pep Guardiola to at least challenge for world football's greatest prize in the hope of retaining the famous trophy.
Despite being the Pot 2 side in this group, it's rather evident that the capital side should not be considered as Bayern's second-toughest opponents. UEFA's coefficients system was kind to the Russian side due to their surprise run to the Champions League quarter-finals in 2010, but since then we've seen very little of Leonid Slutsky's team in Europe.
If the current Russian champions have any hopes of qualifying for the next round, they will be hoping to take at least something from Bayern when they travel to Moscow.
Seydou Doumbia, the Ivorian forward, is a tricky striker who's likely to lead the line for CSKA, while adequate support from goalscoring winger Ahmed Musa and Alan Dzagoev, the highly coveted Russian playmaker, should give Guardiola plenty to think about when this unknown quantity come up against his defending champions.
A side that should appear a little easier to grasp is English Premier League side Manchester City, who entered the group in the third pot, but will undoubtedly pose the greatest threat to Bayern's hopes of winning the group.
Yet the side that completely capitulated to fellow Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund in last season's tournament seems to be long gone, as new coach Manuel Pellegrini has arrived along with a host of new stars.
While Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea have kicked a fuss in the transfer market this season, City have quietly gone about their business, making smart buys in the form of Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic, Fernandinho and Jesus Navas—four players with big market values and even bigger hopes of lifting the Champions League.
FC Viktoria Plzen
The final side in Group D are Czech Republic champions Viktoria Plzen who join this company of clubs as something of a minnow. Yet despite the odds that will be firmly stacked against them, Viktoria will be able to attack each game with a whimsical lack of pressure and truly throw everything they have at each game.
Such an attitude seems to be already in good use as the side have already played six games in the Champions League qualifying round, winning every single won, whilst also remaining unbeaten in their first six games of the domestic season.
Bayern Munich vs. CSKA Moscow
Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich vs. Viktoria Plzen
Viktoria Plzen vs. Bayern Munich
CSKA Moscow vs. Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich vs. Manchester City
The manner in which the fixtures have been drawn offer an interesting insight as to how Guardiola and his squad will attempt to win the group. The home games against CSKA and Plzen offer a strong opportunity to pick up an easy six points. The away game in Manchester, although the trickiest of the six matches, suits Bayern early on in the group battle, allowing the side to wrap things up at the Allianz Arena on the final matchday against their English rivals if necessary.
Equally, if Bayern are able to to pick up seven points from their first three games, it means Guardiola can apply less of an emphasis on the two tricky away games in the Czech Republic and Russia and possibly rest a few of his star players.
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