Champions League Draw 2013: Group-by-Group Results and Predictions
The business stage of the Champions League has arrived. No more playoffs, just 32 of the top sides in Europe battling to progress to the knockout rounds.
This year's final will be played at the Estadio da Luz in Portugal, where Bayern Munich will hope to defend their crown. Will a British side join them?
We provide all eight groups and predict the fortunes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Celtic below.
|Zenit St. Petersburg|
Manchester United's group may well prove more difficult than it initially appears. Shakhtar Donetsk are the obvious threat for top spot in Group A and have started the season well, winning six of seven games so far in their domestic league. Former Arsenal man Eduardo, captain Darijo Srna and Brazilian trio Douglas Costa, Luiz Adriano and Bernard all provide ample threat, and Shakhtar are the joint top scorers in Ukraine with 16 goals so far this campaign.
Bayer Leverkusen are also in form, though, winning three out of three in the Bundesliga. Germany international Sidney Sam has already registered three goals this season, while in Spain Real Sociedad are yet to be beaten in two outings.
PREDICTION: United qualify but lose at least twice.
Manchester City have had a hard time since entering Champions League competition a couple of years ago, failing to get out of their group two seasons on the spin. This year may not get any easier, with reigning champions Bayern the clear favourites to top Group D.
CSKA Moscow are the other chief threat to Manuel Pellegrini's side, currently topping the Russian domestic league after six games, with Ahmed Musa top-scoring with four goals.
PREDICTION: City fail once again.
A European breeze for Jose Mourinho on his return to Chelsea. Schalke came out of Pot 2 and should typically be the Blues' greatest challenge, but the German outfit are currently in the relegation zone and without a win this season.
Basel will always provide a technical threat but should struggle to cope with Chelsea's physical prowess, while Steaua boast a more intimidating atmosphere than actual starting XI.
PREDICTION: Chelsea qualify with games to spare.
This could barely have been more difficult for Arsenal. Dortmund were the team to avoid in Pot 3 and Napoli likewise in Pot 4. Three wins from three, and only one goal conceded, testifies to another strong Dortmund outfit this year, driven by their loss in last season's final to Bayern.
Marseille have an almost identical record at the top of Ligue 1, while Rafael Benitez's Napoli sit atop Serie A—albeit after one game. And if one man knows European football, it's Benitez. Arsene Wenger will hope Gonzalo Higuain doesn't haunt his side after a failed attempt to sign him, although Marek Hamsik remains a chief threat.
PREDICTION: Agony for Arsenal.
Celtic may have taken four points off Barcelona last term, but this is almost a no-hoper for them. For a start, they will this time face a Barcelona side with a point to prove after last season's heroics from Neil Lennon's men.
Added to that task is a daunting trip to Italian giants Milan, although they were actually beaten on the opening day of the Serie A campaign. And completing the lineup are Ajax, making a total of 15 European Cups won between Celtic's three Group H rivals.
PREDICTION: Europa League at best.
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