UEFA Champions League

Champions League Draw 2014: Last-16 Lineup Predictions After Group-Stage Draw

NYON, SWITZERLAND - AUGUST 08:  UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino and UEFA Competition Director Giorgio Marchetti proceed to the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League Play-off round draw at the UEFA headquarters, The House of European Football, on August 8, 2014 in Nyon, Switzerland.  (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
Harold Cunningham/Getty Images
Stuart NewmanFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2014

The Champions League is back, and as the group-stage draw played out on Thursday, fans of the 32 elite clubs around Europe were left either jumping for joy or cursing their bad luck.

With so many talented outfits in the competition, there’s no such thing as an easy draw, only a favourable one; and here, we take a look at who could be emerging from each and every group of the 2014/15 Champions League.

2014/15 Champions League Draw: Group Stage
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

 

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiacos, Malmo

MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 19:  Raul Garcia (L) of Atletico de Madrid celebrates scoring the opening goal with teammates Diego Godin (2nd R) and Raul Jimenez (R) during the Supercopa first leg match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Estadio S
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Group A’s script rather writes itself, with the champions of Spain, Atletico Madrid, and the champions of Italy, Juventus, in action.

While Olympiacos and Malmo aren’t the kind of teams to just roll over, the class that Atletico and Juventus have at their disposal means that they will likely be also-rans in the 2014/15 competition.

All that’s left to decide, then, is who’ll be winning Group A, and based on last season’s form, top spot could well be going to the La Liga champions.

Juventus were humbled in last season’s Group B alongside Real Madrid, Galatasaray and Copenhagen, with the Turin club winning just one of their group matches—against the minnows, Copenhagen.

REGGIO NELL'EMILIA, ITALY - AUGUST 23:  Roberto Pereyra with his teammates of FC Juventus celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the TIM Preseason Tournament between US Sassuolo, FC Juventus and AC Milan at Mapei Stadium - Citta' del Tricolore o
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Atletico came within seconds of winning the entire competition, before Sergio Ramos’ last-gasp equaliser in the final kept Real’s dream alive, who then went on to win convincingly in extra time.

Knowing manager Diego Simeone, the Atletico boss’ ambitions will be to go one better this time around, and such is the quality in his setup that it remains a possibility—starting with topping Group A.

To qualify: Atletico Madrid (1st), Juventus (2nd)

 

Group B: Real Madrid, Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets

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
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Starting in Pot 3 for the group-stage draw on Thursday, Liverpool could have been given a real nightmare draw for the 2014/15 competition, but came away relatively unscathed.

Though they’ll face off against the reigning champions, Real Madrid, they couldn’t have asked for a better outcome in the rest of the group.

Former Liverpool star Neil Mellor agrees, too, saying that Liverpool have got off lightly and should relish the chance to play against the best of the best:

While the Reds will be chasing a famous victory against Madrid either home or away, the chances of Carlo Ancelotti’s men dropping points throughout the entire group stage are very slim, and Liverpool must concentrate on their “easier” fixtures.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10:  Daniel Sturridge (C) of Liverpool celebrates with team-mate Philippe Coutinho after he scores the first goal of the game for his side during the Pre Season Friendly match between Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund at Anfield
Clint Hughes/Getty Images

Four good results against Basel and Ludogorets home and away will see Liverpool into the last 16 as runners-up, and from there, who knows what they could achieve?

To qualify: Real Madrid (1st), Liverpool (2nd)

 

Group C: Benfica, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Monaco

LISBON, PORTUGAL - APRIL 24:  Ezequiel Garay of Benfica celebrates his goal during the UEFA Europa League Semi Final between SL Benfica and Juventus at Estadio da Luz on April 24, 2014 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

All four of Group C’s participants will look at their group and think that qualification is a real possibility.

There simply isn’t a standout weak side in the group, and with that in mind, it could be an entertaining one.

That’s something that ESPN’s Tommy Smith agrees with, as he revealed via Twitter:

With three Portuguese managers also in the group, there could be a few tactical stalemates playing out, but Benfica and Monaco’s personnel advantage means that you have to lean towards them going through.

To qualify: Benfica (1st), Monaco (2nd)

 

Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray, Anderlecht

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

Arsenal were handed a tough-looking group for the 2014/15 campaign, with Pot 2’s overlords Borussia Dortmund being drawn into the Gunners’ group.

The 2012/13 runners-up were in Arsenal’s group last season, with both sides recording away victories in the two meetings.

Looking at Group D on paper, you’d expect Galatasaray and Anderlecht to be mere spectators in Arsenal and Dortmund’s race for top spot, and that’s exactly what journalist Jack Rathborn believes:

As Rathborn says, as long as Arsenal record a victory at home against their Turkish opponents, the rest of the results will take care of themselves, but it’s winning the group that will be at the top of manager Arsene Wenger’s agenda.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22:   Borussia Dortmund players celebrate victory at the final whistle with his team mates during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Arsenal and  Borussia Dortmund at Emirates Stadium on October 22, 2013 in London, E
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The Gunners overcame Dortmund 1-0 at Westfalenstadion last season courtesy of an Aaron Ramsey goal, and if they can do the same while keeping things solid at home, then they should emerge through Group D on top spot.

To qualify: Arsenal (1st), Borussia Dortmund (2nd)

 

Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, Roma

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

In every Champions League, there’s a group of death, and this year that’s Group E.

The German champions, English champions, Russian champions and Serie A’s runners-up make up the group, and it’s safe to say that it’s going to be fiercely contested—and Gary Lineker thinks that Manchester City will have a tough time finding their way through it:

Premier League champions Manchester City have had it rough in the Champions League over the last few seasons in terms of the difficulty of their group, and this season sees them drawn against Bayern Munich for the second consecutive year.

Opening the 2013/14 campaign, City were taught a footballing lesson at the hands of Bayern, as they completely outplayed them at the Etihad, winning 3-1.

The reverse leg saw City win 3-2, but with group places already confirmed, Bayern will say that their focus was elsewhere as Manuel Pellegrini’s side visited the Allianz Arena.

MUNICH, GERMANY - AUGUST 22:  The players of Muenchen celebrate during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and VfL Wolfsburg at Allianz Arena on August 22, 2014 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images For MAN)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

That being said, City come into this season’s competition in a better position to make a charge for the trophy than ever, and while Group E will give them a lot to think about, their talented squad should be able to negotiate their way through it.

Roma and CSKA Moscow can certainly play good football, but their inferior squads will see City and Bayern emerge victorious, with the Germans progressing as champions.

To qualify: Bayern Munich (1st), Manchester City (2nd)

 

Group F: Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Ajax, APOEL

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 12:  (EDITORS NOTE: This image was processed using digital filters) Marquinhos of Paris Saint-Germain #5 celebrates with team mates as he scores their first goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between P
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Group F is another that rather writes itself in terms of who’ll be progressing to the last 16, but there could be a surprise in the group’s victor.

Barcelona will be favourites, naturally, but PSG have enough talent in their squad to pose the La Liga outfit a real problem both home and away.

The Parisians showed just how solid they can be at the Parc des Princes last season, most notably as they disposed of Chelsea in the quarter-finals at home with minimal fuss.

The Blues went on the reverse the tie, but when Barcelona travel to Paris, they could be in for the same treatment.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 24:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates scoring  his team's opening goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Elche FC at Camp Nou stadium on August 24, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Ima
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Group E could come down to goal difference, and if PSG can better Barca’s scores against Ajax and APOEL, then they could be going through as group winners—giving one unlucky group champion the task of facing Barcelona in the last 16.

To qualify: PSG (1st), Barcelona (2nd)

 

Group G: Chelsea, Schalke, Sporting Lisbon, Maribor

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23:  Diego Costa of Chelsea celebrates after scoring their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on August 23, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Get
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Chelsea have done it again in the Champions League—another friendly looking group for them to negotiate their way through.

The Blues emerging through as Group G champions is looking more than likely, and Lineker was one of many that commented on just how easy Jose Mourinho’s men have it:

Schalke could give Chelsea a bit of problem, but when the teams met in last year’s competition, the Blues eased to 3-0 victories both home and away.

That being said, the German side have spent wisely in the transfer window without losing some of their prize assets, meaning that they come into the competition in a strong position.

Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Sporting Lisbon and Maribor will undoubtedly put up a good fight, but progressing to the knockout stage could just be one hurdle too much for both sides.

To qualify: Chelsea (1st), Schalke (2nd)

 

Group H: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao, BATE Borisov

Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

Similar to Group C, Group H has the makings of a group that could go all the way to the wire, with four evenly matched sides facing off.

While Porto will be favourites, there could be another shock on the cards in Group H, as Shakhtar Donetsk and Bilbao are two sides that have proved that they can mix it with Europe’s elite.

Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

Bilbao in particular, who emerged through a tough-looking play-off tie against Napoli with consummate ease to book their place in the group.

The Spanish side and Shakhtar have risen from strength to strength over the years, and while Porto and BATE will undoubtedly have points on the board, the former duo could well be heading through.

To qualify: Athletic Bilbao (1st), Shakhtar Donetsk (2nd)

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