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The Road To Berlin…Usual Suspects Expected To Perform Well In Champions League

Thursday 4th September 2014
Jack Kitson looks ahead to the 2014/2015 Champions League following last week's group draw and the first round of matches little over a week away.

The new Champions League campaign is set to kick-off in less than two weeks time, and what a campaign awaits after the group draw plucked out some juicy early fixtures. The eight groups provide a wealth of talking points and intriguing sub-plots, which we delve into in more detail below.

English Perspective

For the first time since way back in the 1995/96 season, Manchester United will not be involved in the Champions League, meaning on this particular occasion, the focus will be on the English quartet of Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool and Arsenal.

Jose Mourinho's men will be the most jubilant of the four Premier League gaffers, having watched in delight as his Chelsea troopers were placed in a very reasonable Group G alongside Schalke, NK Maribor and Sporting Lisbon. The Blues have enjoyed a cracking start to the domestic season, with new boys Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas thriving, and they will now be looking to assert their domination in Europe.

Meanwhile Liverpool will be quietly content with Group B, despite drawing reigning champions Real Madrid. However, FC Basel and Ludogorets Razgrad represent two beatable opponents, although the Merseyside outfit will be wary of the Swiss side, who have been a thorn in the side for many English sides in Europe over the years, and famously drew twice with Liverpool en route to piping them to second spot (Group B) in the 2002/03 competition.

Arsenal have been drawn in the same group as Borussia Dortmund for the second season in succession, although the 2013 runners-up are a significantly weaker side than in previous years. The Gunners shouldn't have too many problems against Galatasaray and Anderlecht, however they will need to remain focused in order to avoid any potential banana skins as they bid to progress through to the knockout stages for the 15th successive season.

In contrast, Premier League champions Man City will once again be cursing their luck…

Group(s) of Death

Of the English contingent, City have once again been handed the toughest draw, with Manuel Pellegrini's men once again drawn alongside 2013 winners Bayern Munich and CSKA Moscow, while Roma also join the party this time around. The Citizens can count themselves desperately unlucky at not only coming up against Bayern for the third time in four years, but drawing Italian giants Roma - the best team in Pot 4 – while they also have to make the tricky trip out to Russia for the second time in as many seasons.

The second "Group of Death" is Group G which contains Barcelona, PSG, Ajax and Apoel Nicosia. The latter are likely to be the group's whipping boys, while Barcelona vs PSG will provide two glamour European fixtures. Elsewhere Ajax, who are always hard done by the draw, will be looking to get involved in the action, and if they can be strong on home soil they may have a chance of sneaking through.

Outright Winners

Real Madrid remain the narrow 7/2 favourites to defend the trophy they won back in May. The Spanish giants have added World Cup stars Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez to their ranks, and it will take some force to stop them going all the way again. However, Real are hindered by the fact that no team has ever successfully defended the famous trophy since its inauguration in 1992, while Angel Di Maria and Xabi Alonso are two big losses.

2013 champions Bayern Munich lead a chasing pack and are a best price of 5/1 with Coral, which also includes the likes of Barcelona (6/1) and the English duo of Chelsea, who can be backed at 15/2 with Ladbrokes and Man City are rated a 14/1 chance across the board. Meanwhile PSG and Atletico Madrid are also in the frame, whereas Liverpool and Arsenal can be found hovering around the 25/1 mark.
Jack Kitson
Massive Southampton fan, loving being back in the Premier League but cannot get enough football to feed my addiction.

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