The 2012-13 Uefa Champions League begins on Tuesday evening, so Sports Pundit has taken a look at all 32 clubs, their star man and who is likely to progress through each group.
PSG Qualified as; French Ligue 1 runners-up Manager; Carlo Ancelotti Star man; Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Dynamo Kiev Qualified as; Ukrainian runners-up Manager; Yuri Syomin Star man; Niko Kranjcar
Big-spending PSG and 2011 Europa League winners Porto are the hot favourites in this group, with the two Dy(i)namos unlikely to be able to cause too many major issues. PSG may have been seen as vulnerable but the draw has been kind to them which should allow their big guns time to settle and gel and ultimately progress while Porto will need to replace Hulk but should be strong enough.
The Gunners are the standout side in this group, however it’s anyone’s guess for the second spot with the French and Greek champions alongside Schalke, who two years ago reached the Champions League semifinals. Newboys Montpellier, without topscorer Olivier Giroud who has gone to Arsenal, have their work cut out for them.
Zenit St Petersburg Qualified as; Russian champions Manager; Luciano Spalletti Star man; Hulk
AC Milan’s early domestic season woes have made this group appear wide open, with big-spenders Malaga and Zenit looming large. Zenit made a huge splash when they landed Hulk and Axel Witsel for huge money earlier this month, while Malaga have purchased a lot of quality players over the past 18 months. Milan won’t want to make a poor start otherwise the pressure will firmly be on.
This season’s ‘Group of Death’ features four champions from four of the top leagues in Europe. Real and City should be favourites, with the Sky Blues sure to want to impress after failing to get through their group last term. Dortmund also didn’t reach the knockout phase last term and will be better for the experience adding spice to this group, with Ajax probably set for a battle to avoid last.
Danish champions Nordsjaelland are up against it here with the European holders, Italian champions and former Europa League winners. Shakhtar have been a big hit in Europe in recent years and shouldn’t be underestimated, while the Blues and Juve are strong as ever.
BATE Borisov Qualified as; Belarussian champions Manager; Viktor Goncharenko Star man; Renan Bressan
Bayern will be determined to dominate this group after losing last season’s final however Los Che loom as a dangerous opponent with Roberto Soldado firing. Lille will continue to aim to succeed in Europe but they’ve got a tough task ahead, while BATE appear to be making up the numbers.
Spartak Moscow Qualified as; Russian runners-up Manager; Unai Emery Star man; Emmanuel Emenike
Barca are the sure-bets to top this group, with Benfica – who have done so well in Europe for the past few seasons – expected to be the runners-up. Spartak shouldn’t be discounted but aren’t the big spenders like fellow Russians Zenit. Celtic will rely on home form to give themselves a chance.
Galatasaray Qualified as; Turkish champions Manager; Fatih Terim Star man; Selcuk Inan
CFR Cluj Qualified as; Romanian champions Manager; Ioan Andone Star man; Pantelis Kapetanos
There’s no ways the Red Devils will want to repeat last season’s failure to reach the final 16 so they will be the hot favourites to brush aside all before them. Galatasaray are back in the Champions League and will fancy their chances against Braga and Cluj who have been around Europe the past few seasons.