Champions League Fixtures 2014-15: Best Matchups in Group Stage

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2014

MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 25:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates with Gareth Bale after scoring Real's 2nd goal during the La liga match between Real Madrid CF and Cordoba CF at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on August 25, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

The Champions League is one of the truly great things in all of sports. The best clubs from Europe and the top stars in the world all battling for the right to claim supremacy over an entire continent. It's pretty awesome. 

This year's group stage at the tournament features some truly tasty matchups, and below, we'll take a closer look at five of the top battles set to take place. If you love the sport of soccer, well, you won't want to miss these.


The Group of Death

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 25:  Stevan Jovetic of Manchester City celebrates scoring the second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on August 25, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Another year, another brutal group for Manchester City in the Champions League. The English champions will face the German champions, Bayern Munich, the Russian champions, CSKA Moscow, and the Seria A runners-up, Roma, in Group E.

So yes, that's easily the Group of Death.

Manchester City has struggled in this competition in years past, but this is also the deepest and arguably the most talented side they'll be bringing into the competition. The goal will be to take at least eight points from the four matches against Roma and CSKA Moscow so that they don't find themselves needing to rely on a win over Bayern to advance. 

This group is going to be so much fun. With three champions, a Roma side that very well could win Seria A this year and enough superstars to keep us all entertained, Group E should be the most competitive of the groups this year.


Arsenal vs. Borussia Dortmund

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Alexis Sanchez (R) of Arsenal celebrates with team mate Santi Cazorla of Arsenal after scoring during the UEFA Champions League Qualifier 2nd leg match between Arsenal and Besiktas at the Emirates Stadium on August 27, 2014 i
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

A year ago, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal and Napoli all finished tied atop their Champions League group with Dortmund winning the group and Arsenal finishing second due to goal differential. Now, the two teams will meet again in Group D.

As Michael Cox of The Guardian writes, these two clubs are more than a little familiar with one another:

Arsenal and Dortmund must be sick of one another—drawn together for the third time in four seasons, Arsenal have won two, drawn one and lost one against the Bundesliga runners-up, who are still adjusting to the loss of Robert Lewandowski to Bayern. The games have usually been enjoyable, high-tempo battles, however.

Both of these sides are very talented and the football should be open and fast. Both sides also are without their top striker from a year ago, as Lewandowski is gone and Olivier Giroud is out injured for several months.

There are plenty of reasons to watch, however, most notably to see Marco Reus for Dortmund and Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil for Arsenal. These teams should both advance, but watching them battle one another will be a treat.


Barcelona vs. Paris Saint-Germain

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 19:  Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona gives his thumbs up during his presentation as new FC Barcelona player at Camp Nou on August 19, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

It's the Financial Fair Play battle!

There's a ton of star power to see in this one, from Lionel Messi and Neymar (and Luis Suarez for the second leg once his ban is served) to Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to the Camp Nou, where he once played but was essentially cast aside because he didn't fit with that Messi fellow.

These should be excellent matches between two of the top sides in the world. Think of the things we'll learn. In the second leg, we'll learn how the triumvirate of Messi, Neymar and Suarez is coming along atop the attack. We'll learn if David Luiz was indeed worth that ridiculous sum of money. We'll certainly learn if Barca's defensive upgrades were upgrades at all.

It should be fun.


Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 10:  Andrea Pirlo of Juventus looks on during the match between the A-League All Stars and Juventus at ANZ Stadium on August 10, 2014 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Joosep Martinson/Getty Images)
Joosep Martinson/Getty Images

This is a fascinating matchup between two domestic champions who play excellent defense, are extremely dangerous on set pieces and have seen a lot of turnover this summer, with Atletico selling a number of players and Juventus losing their manager, Antonio Conte.

Will Juventus be able to handle the Atletico pressing game? Will Atletico have the attackers to break down the vaunted Juventus defensive system? Will Andrea Pirlo smash another miracle strike from distance, as he is wont to do, and turn a few loaves of bread and some fish into a meal for an entire nation while he's at it?

It's going to be fun to find out.


Real Madrid vs. Liverpool

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 25:  Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on August 25, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Imag
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Brendan Rodgers doesn't seem particularly frightened by the prospect of playing Real Madrid. He probably should be, but in his latest comments to David Anderson of the Mirror, he seems more excited than anything else:

To be back in it again, no matter who we were going to play, was always going to be exciting.

But to have Real Madrid in your group, the champions last season, is going to be special. I'm already thinking of Anfield on that night. I'll be very proud, but more proud for the players and the supporters, for what they have put into us arriving there.

It's going to be a ton of fun watching Mario Balotelli lock horns against Real Madrid. It's going to be a ton of fun watching the Reds, in their return to the Champions League, try to deal with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.

Both teams like to play aggressive, attacking football, so this should be a blast.  

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