Champions League Draw 2011: FC Barcelona's Opponents in Group H
Initially, one might feel like this is an easy group for the Blaugrana, but truth is, when you play in Europe every opponent you face is always feistier than originally thought.
Start the slideshow to get to know Barcelona's rivals and the men who lead their lines.
FC Viktoria Plzen (Czezh Republic)
Coach: Pavel Vrba
UCL Team Value Ranking: 30th (€15 million 850 thousand)
Key Player: No. 26 Daniel Kolar (AMF, Czech Republic)
Other Important Players: No. 8 David Limbersky (LB, CZH), No. 11 Milan Ptrzela (RMF, CZH), No. 23 Marek Bakos (CF, SVK)
Against Barcelona: 19 October at Camp Nou, 1 November at Eden Stadium.
Probable Starting XI
Rajtoral Cisovsky Bystron Limbersky
Jiracek Horvath (c)
Petrzela Kolar Pilar
This might be the first time you hear about Czech team Plzen.
Who you might have heard of are the teams they eliminated in the Champions League's qualifying rounds and playoffs.
To start things off they pummeled Armenia's Pyunik 9-1 in the aggregate score on the second qualifying round. But no surprise there, really.
Then, Pavel Vrba's boys eliminated Norway's Rosenborg in the third qualifying round, beating them 0-1 away and then 3-2 at home to make it to the playoff round as underdogs.
There, they seemed more than overmatched against Denmark's FC Kobenhavn, who tied against Barcelona in last year's UCL and advanced to the round of sixteen.
However, Plzen powered through against the Danes with a 1-3 win away and a 2-1 win at home to clinch their Group Stage birth for 2011/12.
If you're keeping up, Plzen won ALL their games in the qualifying stages.
A major factor in these victories was their attacking midfielder Daniel Kolar, the player to watch for the Czechs, who scored 4 goals.
In short, what I'm trying to say is this: don't expect Plzen to be pushovers.
But I wouldn't expect Barcelona to have much trouble against them either.
Difficulty Grade: C- (Tough, but not a powerful team by any means, even for pot 4)
FC BATE Borisov (Belarus)
Coach: Viktor Goncharenko
UCL Team Value Ranking: 32nd (€13 million)
Key Player: No. 10 Renan Bressan (AMF, Brazil/Belarus)
Other Important Players: No. 13 Pavel Nekhajchik (LMF, BLR), No. 7 Artem Kontsevoy (CF, BLR), No. 22 Marco Simic (CB, SRB)
Against Barcelona: 28 September at Dinamo Stadium, 6 December at Cam Nou.
Probable Starting XI
Yurevich Filipenko M. Simic Bordachyov
Patotskiy Renan Bressan Nekhajchik
BATE Borisov's qualifying wasn't nearly as impressive, tying three and winning another three, while facing much worse opposition (Linfield, Ekranas, and Sturm Graz).
They're a one man team, and if Brazilian turned Belarusian playmaker Renan Bressan isn't having a good day, BATE is much worse.
Truth is, they will have a very tough time winning a single point in the group stage, and even Plzen should top them easily for the Europa League spot.
Difficulty Grade: D- (As easy as they come for the UCL's pot 3)
AC Milan (Italy)
Coach: Massimo Allegri
UCL Team Value Ranking: 8th
Key Player: No. 11 Zlatan Ibrahimovic (FW, Sweden)
Other Important Players: 7. Alexandre Pato (FW, BRA), No. 33 Thiago Silva (CB, BRA), No. 4 Mark van Bommel (DMF, NTH)
Against Barcelona: 13 September at Camp Nou, 23 November at San Siro.
Probable Starting XI
Abate Nesta T. Silva Zambrotta
Gattuso van Bommel Seedorf
If you think Zlatan has a chip on his shoulder and will try his hardest to beat Barcelona, raise your hand.
The Sweden International would love to prove Pep Guardiola wrong and is surely licking his fingers already.
Getting away from Ibrahimovic for a second, as I've pointed out before Milan are always tough to beat in Europe. For me they're the fourth toughest opponent Barca could face this season, and while Barcelona were lucky to draw BATE and Plzen from the two bottom pots, they certainly got the toughest one in pot 2.
Just imagine this is the season Zlatan finally makes his mark in Europe.
And what better way to do that than beating the reigning champions and your former club?
It will be very interesting indeed to see him back in Camp Nou come September the 13th.
Difficulty Grade: A+ (No tougher team in pot 2)
Barcelona were lucky in their BATE and Plzen draws, but they got a Pot 1 opponent in Milan on the second spot.
Even so, Barcelona should have no problem qualifying to the round of sixteen, or even winning the group outright for that matter.
Expect very intense match-ups with Milan both home and away for Barça, though.
Overall Difficulty Grade: D
Probablilty of going through for Barcelona: 99%
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