A couple of years ago UEFA made the Champions League fairer by seeding clubs based on who were actually champions of their country. That avoided the bizarre scenario of the likes of Man City winning their domestic title but then being in pot 4 based on not having the European history of their rivals.
In truth we were one of the sides to benefit the most, always top seeded due to our consistent participation in the competition, even when only the 4th best in the Premiership. With the same established names no longer in the top two pots, in theory it makes the group stages more competitive. This has a domino effect, ensuring decent teams will be relegated to the Europa League, in turn making that more difficult to win. It was that formula that cost us winning silverware last year with Atletico Madrid the marquee name to drop down from Europe’s premiere competition. It shows how far we have fallen that for once I care who finishes where in their CL groups, it could impact our future. Observing from afar, we might be a bit more lucky.
Group A- Club Bruges
We won’t have to worry about Atletico Madrid this time as they are group winners. We should have nothing to fear with the Belgians, just a shame Monaco are guaranteed to finish bottom no matter what they do in their final fixture. The romantic in me wanted to see an Arsenal vs Thierry Henry final.
Group B- Spurs or Inter Milan
Spurs will be hoping that Barcelona rest some of their key players with top spot assured. The Catalans might be smart and see this as a chance to eliminate a possible dangerous opponent that they wouldn’t maybe want to face in the knockout stages. I don’t think inter are great and wouldn’t assume they will cope with the must win pressure against PSV. Do we want the agony of a NLD in Europe?
Group C- Napoli, PSG or Liverpool
Despite currently topping their group Napoli are the favourites to finish
third. You always back Liverpool in a must win European night at Anfield, one of the few stadiums in the world whose atmosphere can impact a result. You wouldn’t want to face any of these, but would the Reds or PSG play their strongest teams if they dropped down?
Group D- Galatasaray or L. Moscow
The Turks start one point ahead the Russians with both facing the group leaders, Porto and Schalke. Both would provide intimidating away days but over two legs are more then beatable. Neither travel very well
Group E- Benfica
Portuguese clubs take this competition seriously. Over two legs we would be favourites but this would be a potential banana skin
Group – F- Lyon,Shakhtar or Hoffenheim
How have Lyon taken 4 points off Man City yet got themselves in a position where they are knocked out if they lose in midweek? It highlights their inconsistency, but if the Frenchmen can beat the champions of England, they could cause us problems. The Ukrainian’s away record is poor in Europe. The German’s need to win at the Etihad and hope Lyon win to carry on their European adventure.
Group G- Viktoria Plzen/CSKA Moscow
Unlike most teams relegated to UEFA’s second tier Plzen will be delighted to be in Europe post Xmas. That was perhaps all they could ask for when the draw was made. They will hope CSKA take nothing at Real Madrid, meaning it won’t matter what they do at home to Roma.
Group H- Valencia
Man United’s late goal against Young Boys means they avoid any pressure being on a tricky trip to Spain. They are currently 13th in La Liga so like us will view this competition as a golden chance to get back into the CL, but you wouldn’t fear them like Atletico.