2011/12 Champions League Preview

The eight groups for this season’s Champions League have been drawn and the Group A has already picked up the name “the Group of Death”. Group A consists of debutants Manchester City (who, because of their big transfer activity during summer, were named as this years Champions League  “dark horse”), Villareal, Bayern Munich (whose Allianz Arena will host the final of this edition) and Italian newbies Napoli. So this group matches will definitely set pulses racing!

The groups are as follows:

Group A: Bayern Munich, Villareal, Manchester City, Napoli
Group B: Inter, CSKA Moscow, Lille, Trabzonspor
Group C: Manchester United, Benfica, Basel, Otelul Galati
Group D: Real Madrid, Lyon, Ajax, Dinamo Zagreb
Group E: Chelsea, Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen, Genk
Group F: Arsenal, Marseille, Olympiakos, Borussia Dortmund.
Group G: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit St Petersburg, FC Apoel
Group H: Barcelona, AC Milan, BATE Borisov, Viktoria Plzen

Defending Champions Barcelona will have a testing two legs with Italian Champions and seven time winners AC Milan, but the two other teams of Group H are relatively easier hunting grounds for them, in the form of BATE Borisov and Viktoria Plzen.

Runners up Manchester United will play in an easier group, with Benfica, Basle and Galati (a mystery team and a real surprise among the 32 qualifying teams) in Group C. Arsenal, who had to come through the qualifiers, have been drawn in a tougher group, with German Champions Borussia Dortmund, Marseille and Olympiakos to fight it out in Group F.

2009/10 winners Inter Milan have an easy pass, with French Champions Lille, CSKA Moscow and Trabzonspor forming the rest ofGroup B.

Real Madrid, who got to the semi-final last season after a few years of falling short of even the quarter finals, will be facing Lyon (again!), Ajax and Dinamo Zagreb (Group D). Ajax and Lyon could indeed prove to be a tougher nut to crack than expected.

Chelsea, whose owner Roman Abramovich has been pining for the Champions League since the day he took over the club, are also drawn in an interesting group. Valencia, from whom Chelsea have signed Juan Mata, Bayer Leverkusen and Genk are the other three teams in Group E.

Finally, in Group G, Europa League Champions FC Porto will face off against Zenit Petersburg, Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Apoel. Shakhtar have proven they are a potent team, having caused eventual champions Barcelona trouble in the quarter finals last season. They also knocked out Italian team Roma with ease in the Round of 16 stage during last edition of Champions League.

The first round of the Champions League will commence on September 13, with the first four groups playing on the day. The draw also included recognising the UEFA Best player in Europe Award. No prizes for guessing, it was Lionel Messi who won the award, ahead of teammate Xavi and rival Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

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