Champions League Draw 2011: Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal
Which English clubs started biting their nails upon seeing their group and which English clubs breathed a sigh of relief knowing they weren't in the position as one of their counterparts?
This article will provide you with in-depth analysis of the groups involving Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
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Two and a half years ago, when José Mourinho was managing his first season at Inter Milan, his team crumbled to a shocking 3-1 loss to a Doni (yes the same Italian serving a three year match fixing ban) inspired Atalanta.
In the aftermath Italian journalists wrongly attributed Mourinho saying,
"You won a Scudetto in the court, the second because there was no competition and the third was one at the last minute. You are all a pile of s**t."
Mourinho never said this, but the quote was a manifestation of the collective opinion regarding former Inter Milan manager Roberto Mancini's achievements.
Yet, in spite of his domestic achievements, consistent failures in the UEFA Champions League bought about his undoing.
Talk about tough luck, Mancini's Manchester City have drawn the hardest group in this season's tournament.
It is make or break, this could lead to Mancini's hastily departure from Etihad Stadium, or be the stepping stone to glory.
Here are the analysis of Manchester City's opponents.
Manchester City vs Bayern Munich
For me, Daniel Van Buyten's time is up, and manager Jupp Heynckes should persist with a Jérôme Boateng - Holger Badstuber partnership.
Badstuber has looked excellent so far, maybe he was inspired by the rise of Mats Hummels.
I guess the question in midfield is should be Gustavo or Anatoliy Tymoshchuk?
It was slightly odd when Bayern Munich bought Gustavo, who performed his best as a defensive midfielder, yet played him mainly as a centre back.
Gustavo is more mobile, more energetic, a stronger tackler then Tymoshchuk and compliments better with Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Arjen Robben was world class last season, unfortunately he only played 17 games.
If Robben is 100 percent fit, then Manchester City have a unenviable task on their hands.
Manchester City vs Villarreal
By the time Manchester City face Villarreal, they could be facing a sinking Yellow Submarine.
The exit of energetic midfielder Santi Cazorla for €21 million to Manchester City lite Málaga, plus the departure of long serving left back Joan Capdevila to Benfica, has left Villarreal bearing afloat.
Left back is a worry with Joan Oriol and José Catalá, both inexperienced at the top level, both unproven, and both fighting for a place.
Marcos Senna and Carlos Marchena are barely holding onto their placement in the team due to tenure rather than form.
Borja Valero will miss the first two UEFA Champions League games due to a straight red card against Odense.
Then combine this with the unyielding rumours linking Giuseppe Rossi to Juventus, and you get a recipe for disaster.
Also manager Juan Carlos Garrido played some weird tactics against Odense, mind you, he got the 3-0 result.
But moving Bruno, one of the best defensive midfielders in the world last season, to centre back and moving Cristián Zapata, who made one bad mistake the game before, to right back was just weird.
Maybe Garrido is in an experimental stage with his team, and perhaps given Senna and Marchena being so-so, I'm predicting him to move away from playing two pivots.
So it will be a classical 4-4-2, with the impressive Pedro Camuñas being a bright spot, assuming he carries his form over from Osasuna.
Manchester City vs Napoli
If you've been following Serie A, you would have cringed when you heard Hugo Campagnaro was involved in a vehicle accident which claimed the lives of three people.
Campagnaro himself has recovered and insisted he is not psychologically damaged—we'll find out this season.
Don't read too much into Napoli's 5-0 drubbing at the hands of a Barcelona in the Joan Gamper trophy.
Manager Walter Mazzarri's 3-5-2 often shifts into a 3-4-2-1, with Marek Hamšík charging forward, with Gökhan İnler dropping deep with Marco Donadel to form a double pivot.
The capture of İnler for €17.5 million is pricey, but worth it, to compensate the departures of Michele Pazienza and Hassan Yebda.
Surprisingly Walter Gargano is still at Napoli, even though he was set to leave, but he'll be in contention for a midfield slot.
What makes this formation work is the wingplay of Christian Maggio and Andrea Dossena (yes the one that flopped so badly at Liverpool).
Edinson Cavani must be marked tightly.
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A day after ending his long running feud with the BBC, just one of the many media outlets incurring the Scot's rage, Sir Alex Ferguson would have been at peace finding out his UEFA Champions League opponents.
By far the easiest group for a contending Champions League team.
Here are the analysis of Manchester United's opponents.
Manchester United vs Benfica
Maybe Joan Capdevila should have stayed in Villarreal, as he was left out of the Benfica UEFA Champions League squad.
Benfica will be Manchester United's toughest advesary but I don't think they'll pose any problems.
Óscar Cardozo is still chugging along, surprised he's only 28 years old, because he moves like a 40-year-old. Give him space to shoot, and he'll hurt you.
If Manchester United stop Pablo Aimar, they stop Benfica, as simple as that.
I'm interested to see how Axel Witsel will go in a better league; presumably he'll come off the bench.
As polarising as he has become due to that x-rated tackle, he's a good footballer, and a part of the Belgian golden generation.
Nolito, the former Barcelona B player, has really impressed me.
Manchester United vs Basel
I wonder what Aussie Scott Chipperfield is up to; he's been at Basel for 10 years and counting.
Xherdan Shaqiri will be the main threat, but aside from that Basel's best result would be going for a draw.
The Swiss team in the past two tournaments have just made up the numbers; conceding 27 goals in the process.
Manchester United vs Oţelul Galaţi
I was already a bit stretched with Basel, so I'm not going to lie; I don't know anything worth bringing up about Oţelul Galaţi.
Didn't even know there was a team called Oţelul Galaţi; they won their first Romanian championship last season.
When I think of Romanian football, Steaua and Dinamo Bucureşti plus Cluj in recent years come to mind.
I follow a lot of football, but I can't recognise a single player in the Oţelul Galaţi team.
The current Romanian national football team doesn't have a single Oţelul Galaţi member.
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It's a reasonable draw for us, and I think manager André Villas-Boas will be liking his chances.
In Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen, both have lost their best players, and I feel sorry for Genk—it's going to be an uphill battle to even get the Europa League placing.
Here are the analyses of Chelsea's opponents.
Chelsea vs Valencia
So let me get this straight; Éver Banega smoked, partied hard, missed out on training, played at half tempo, wore a Real Madrid jersey—and he's still a Valencia player.
Banega and manager Unai Emery have a disconnect, ever since that bump which can be seen here.
The sad thing is that Banega is one of the world's best passers and I can't recall a player making the game look so easy since Fernando Redondo.
Right back Miguel is no angel either, constantly attracting negative press.
Aside from that, Valencia have quietly recruited some very good players: Adil Rami, Pablo Piatti and Sergio Canales.
Mehmet Topal is one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, too bad most people don't know who he is.
Tino Costa should change his name to Tino Golazo and Jordi Alba is one full season away from being the next big transfer out of Valencia.
Surely Emery knows this and will play Alba on the left wing as opposed to left back.
Also the goalkeeper, Diego Alves, very talented; but I do wonder what will happen to Vicente Guaita who had a marvellous game against Manchester United last season.
My guess is if one goalkeeper makes a mistake, he's out and the other is in.
Valencia will provide a stern challenge for us.
Chelsea vs Bayer Leverkusen
I don't think I've ever seen a club be dealt such an cruel injury streak to their goalkeepers.
Undisputed first choice goalkeeper René Adler is out for the foreseeable future nursing a knee injury.
Newly bought reserve goalkeeper David Yelldell goes down with injury.
Youth goalkeeper Fabian Giefer plays one game and then suffers concussion.
So Bayer Leverkusen were given an emergency loan with Stuggart's 19-year-old goalkeeper Bernd Leno answering the call.
I doubt that Leno would be included in the UEFA Champions League squad because he's a short term solution. I assume Giefer will resume goalkeeping after he recovers from concussion.
The centre back partnership is unusually young and inexperienced.
In midfield, everyone wants to know if former Chelsea player Michael Ballack will start.
I doubt so, because Lars Bender gives you more energy, he gives you more defensive abilities and just more youth.
At the end of the day, it's either Michael Ballack or Simon Rolfes.
A hip injury to noted midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta is also unfortunate, plus will he leave in the next few days?
Watch out for André Schürrle.
Chelsea vs Genk
Due to my fascination with the Belgian golden generation, I've forced myself to get acquainted with Belgian football.
Not that it's a bad thing, I've come to enjoy it whilst trying to figure out what inspired them to use an American style play-off system.
I loved watching Genk, and I feel very sad for Belgian football that they've been drawn in such a difficult group.
The optimistic view would be, well this is a litmus test for Genk, but we all know the outcome.
With Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen, Genk may not even qualify for the Europa League.
Three players stand out: Kevin De Bruyne, Jelle Vossen and Elyaniv Barda.
The first two are part of the Belgian golden generation.
De Bruyne is a great talent, and he's trying to force a move to Chelsea. If I was advising him, I'd tell him to play one more season, at least he gets guaranteed football and UEFA Champions League football.
If he does stay, let's see how good he is against us.
Vossen has brilliant composure and his finishing is commendable. At one point, he scored 13 goals in 11 games. If he has a clear sight on goal, he'll score.
Barda is a smart nimble footed and efficient Israeli forward.
I don't think Genk will be trouble for us, we should dispatch them quite easily.
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Arsenal Club Secretary David Miles said,
"We'll be quietly pleased with the draw."
It's not an easy group, nor is it a hard group, I think the word reasonable fits the bill quite nicely.
Arsenal shouldn't have an issue qualifying, the issue will be in which place; first or second?
My guess would be second, because I can see them being overrun by the attacking, beautiful and fluid football of Borussia Dortmund.
Arsenal vs Marseille
Remember the name Loïc Rémy.
Chances are he'll score against Arsenal.
I wonder what the odds are of him scoring a headed goal, because not since I guess Wayne Rooney went on that remarkable streak of headed goals, have I seen a player keep scoring with his head.
At one point, Rémy scored eight headers in 12 games.
A seasoned professional, Lucho González always has solid games.
André Ayew will be one to watch out for, because it was his FIFA World Cup performances which saw him finally break into the Marseille team.
I'm a bit hesitant about Marseille's full backs.
Marseille shouldn't beat Arsenal, but don't be surprised if they do.
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund lost not only their best player but also the best player in the Bundesliga, Nuri Şahin for a paltry and pathetic €10 million.
İlkay Gündoğan has been given the hard task to replace Şahin; it will take time, there's no doubt if Gündoğan can better his performances at Nuremberg, he'll become an important member of the team.
How are Arsenal going to get past Mats Hummels and Neven Subotić? If they use Marouane Chamakh, forget about it.
It's up to Robin van Persie to show his class.
Hummels for me is the best young centre back in the world, and Subotić compliments him well.
Borussia Dortmund has to rank as my favourite team to watch right now.
Their football is so fluid, everyone is on cue and the link up play between Mario Götze and Shinji Kagawa is a joy to watch.
Sven Bender will clean up anything, his work ethic, tough tackling is so underrated.
I'm quietly confident that this Borussia Dortmund team will teach Arsenal a football lesson.
This Borussia Dortmund team has all the makings of a dark horse.
Potentially they can replicate the golden era of the mid 1990s where they won a UEFA Champions League, an Intercontinental Cup, a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, and were finalists in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup.
Arsenal vs Olympiakos
It's a turbulent period in Greece to say the least.
From a football perspective, hooliganism and match-fixing have tainted the league, which will be delayed by postponement... again.
Two Premier League links with Olof Mellberg and Albert Riera.
A good young Belgian in Kevin Mirallas, who should be playing in a better league.
Oh and a crazy goalkeeper called Franco Costanzo, trust him to do something remarkably brilliant or stupid to capture headlines.
One of favourite players of yesteryear in Francisco Yeste has returned to European football.
An elegant player to watch at Athletic Bilbao who took a detour to the United Arab Emirates for a massive payday; he's one to watch out for.
Olympiakos won't pose a problem for Arsenal. Well I hope they don't pose a problem for Arsenal, because if they do, that means Arsenal's season will be headed downwards.
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