Champions League Draw 2014: Fixture Dates, Top Matchups and Early Predictions

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2014

Former Real madrid captain Fernando Hierro, shows the name of Manchester City, who will play Group E,  during the UEFA Champions League draw at the Grimaldi Forum, in Monaco, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Claude Paris/Associated Press

The 2014-15 Champions League draw was made on Thursday in Monaco, as 32 of the top football clubs in Europe were anxious to find out who would be blocking their path to the final in Berlin.

The draw was always going to offer at least one or two "Groups of Death," and once again, the lottery balls delivered. Here's the full draw for the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League group stages:

2014-15 Champions League Draw
Group AGroup BGroup CGroup D
Atletico MadridReal MadridBenficaArsenal
JuventusFC BaselZenitBorussia Dortmund
OlympiacosLiverpoolBayer LeverkusenGalatasaray
MalmoLudogoretsAS MonacoAnderlecht
Group EGroup FGroup GGroup H
Bayern MunichBarcelonaChelseaFC Porto
Manchester CityParis Saint-GermainSchalke 04Shakhtar
CSKA MoscowAjaxSporting ClubAthletic Bilbao
RomaAPOELMariborBATE Borisov
UEFA.com

 

The group stages will be played out over six matchdays, starting on the 16 of September and finishing on the 10th of December. The two top clubs in every group will advance to the knockout stages, while the third-placed teams will enter the Europa League.

The full fixture list:

Fixture List Groups A-D
MatchdayDateMatchMatchdayDateMatchMatchdayDateMatch
Matchday 116/9Olympiacos-AtleticoMatchday 322/10Atletico-MalmoMatchday 526/11Atletico-Olympiacos
Matchday 116/9Juventus-MalmoMatchday 322/10Olympiacos-JuventusMatchday 526/11Malmo-Juventus
Matchday 116/9Liverpool-LudogoretsMatchday 322/10Ludogorets-BaselMatchday 526/11Ludogorets-Liverpool
Matchday 116/9Real-BaselMatchday 322/10Liverpool-RealMatchday 526/11Basel-Real
Matchday 116/9Monaco-LeverkusenMatchday 322/10Leverkusen-ZenitMatchday 526/11Leverkusen-Monaco
Matchday 116/9Benfica-ZenitMatchday 322/10Monaco-BenficaMatchday 526/11Zenit-Benfica
Matchday 116/9Galatasaray-AnderlechtMatchday 322/10Anderlecht-ArsenalMatchday 526/11Anderlecht-Galatasaray
Matchday 116/9Dortmund-ArsenalMatchday 322/10Galatasaray-DortmundMatchday 526/11Arsenal-Dortmund
Matchday 21/10Malmo-OlympiacosMatchday 44/11Malmo-AtleticoMatchday 69/12Olympiacos-Malmo
Matchday 21/10Atletico-JuventusMatchday 44/11Juventus-OlympiacosMatchday 69/12Juventus-Atletico
Matchday 21/10Basel-LiverpoolMatchday 44/11Basel-LudogoretsMatchday 69/12Liverpool-Basel
Matchday 21/10Ludogorets-RealMatchday 44/11Real-LiverpoolMatchday 69/12Real-Ludogorets
Matchday 21/10Zenit-MonacoMatchday 44/11Zenit-LeverkusenMatchday 69/12Monaco-Zenit
Matchday 21/10Leverkusen-BenficaMatchday 44/11Benfica-MonacoMatchday 69/12Benfica-Leverkusen
Matchday 21/10Arsenal-GalatasarayMatchday 44/11Arsenal-AnderlechtMatchday 69/12Galatasaray-Arsenal
Matchday 21/10Anderlecht-DortmundMatchday 44/11Dortmund-GalatasarayMatchday 69/12Dortmund-Anderlecht
UEFA.com
Fixture List Groups E-F
MatchdayDateMatchMatchdayDateMatchMatchdayDateMatch
Matchday 117/9Roma-MoscowMatchday 321/10Moscow-CityMatchday 525/11Moscow-Roma
Matchday 117/9Bayern-Man CityMatchday 321/10Roma-BayernMatchday 525/11City-Bayern
Matchday 117/9Barcelona-APOELMatchday 321/10APOEL-PSGMatchday 525/11APOEL-Barcelona
Matchday 117/9Ajax-PSGMatchday 321/10Barcelona-AjaxMatchday 525/11PSG-Ajax
Matchday 117/9Chelsea-SchalkeMatchday 321/10Schalke-SportingMatchday 525/11Schalke-Chelsea
Matchday 117/9Maribor-SportingMatchday 321/10Chelsea-MariborMatchday 525/11Sporting-Maribor
Matchday 117/9Porto-BATEMatchday 321/10BATE-ShakhtarMatchday 525/11BATE-Porto
Matchday 117/9Athletic-ShakhtarMatchday 321/10Porto-AthleticMatchday 525/11Shakhtar-Athletic
Matchday 230/9City-RomaMatchday 45/11City-MoscowMatchday 610/12Roma-City
Matchday 230/9Moscow-BayernMatchday 45/11Bayern-RomaMatchday 610/12Bayern-Moscow
Matchday 230/9PSG-BarcelonaMatchday 45/11PSG-APOELMatchday 610/12Barcelona-PSG
Matchday 230/9APOEL-AjaxMatchday 45/11Ajax-BarcelonaMatchday 610/12Ajax-APOEL
Matchday 230/9Sporting-ChelseaMatchday 45/11Sporting-SchalkeMatchday 610/12Chelsea-Sporting
Matchday 230/9Schalke-MariborMatchday 45/11Maribor-ChelseaMatchday 610/12Maribor-Schalke
Matchday 230/9Shakhtar-PortoMatchday 45/11Shakhtar-BATEMatchday 610/12Porto-Shakhtar
Matchday 230/9BATE-AthleticMatchday 45/11Athletic-PortoMatchday 610/12Athletic-Bate
UEFA.com

 

Top Matchups

Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

Matchday 1: Bayern Munich v Manchester City

Matchday 2: Paris Saint-Germain v Barcelona

Matchday 3: Liverpool v Real Madrid

Matchday 4: Zenit St. Petersburg v Bayer Leverkusen

Matchday 5: Arsenal v Borussia Dortmund

Matchday 6: Juventus v Atletico Madrid

 

Balance Makes for Great Storylines

Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

Groups C, E and H all feature at least three teams who will feel like they have an excellent chance of making it to the knockout stages, and realistically speaking, all four teams in Groups C and H have the talent required to make a deep run in the tournament.

The UEFA Champions League usually features one "Group of Death," a couple of interesting groups and a handful of one-sided affairs. This year, the latter are limited to Group G and maybe Group F, unless Ajax can make good on their potential and surprise one of Barcelona or Paris Saint-Germain.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Sure, every group has favourites, but sleeping on the likes of Olympiakos, Basel or Galatasaray is asking for trouble. Some of these groups are going to come down to the final matchday, and fans will be on the edge of their seats throughout the campaign.

UEFA often take criticism for their method of seeding (with Arsenal having to qualify through the play-offs only to end up in Pot 1), but this year, the system proved its value. For neutral fans, the groups couldn't have been laid out much better.

 

Pot 1 to Live to the Expectations

Gabriel Pecot/Associated Press

For all of the parity, it's very likely all eight teams from Pot 1 will make it to the knockout stages. Benfica and Porto will have a battle on their hands and Bayern Munich need to survive a treacherous Group D, but on paper at least, the top eight teams should qualify.

Porto will benefit from the current situation in Donetsk and the uncertainty surrounding their current squad, and as shared by ESPN Stats' Paul Carr, their compatriots were rightfully given the best odds to make it out of their group:

Other top clubs like Arsenal, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona will be tested fiercely in the group stages, but overall, the teams that came from Pot 1 all have a clear path to the next round.

 

Small Clubs Are Ever Growing

Petros Karadjias/Associated Press

The Champions League has seen an increase of little-known clubs doing well on the biggest stage in recent years, and expect that trend to continue. For clubs like BATE, Ludogorets, Malmo and APOEL, home-field advantage is one of their biggest weapons.

Top clubs' travel schedules are already packed, and a late-fall match in Belarus or Scandinavia truly breaks with everything these squads are used to. The fans are out in full force for the biggest night in club history, the pitches aren't usually up to standards and the weather can truly make an impact on proceedings.

It seems every year fans are treated to a new Cinderella story, and looking at the collection of less-heralded teams from the outskirts of Europe, there's no reason to believe 2014 will be any different.

These clubs have come a long way in the past few years, and their training staff and preparation for matches has quickly caught up with how the top teams handle their business. There used to be a time fans could make fun of these football minnows, but that time is long gone.