Champions League Draw Throws Up Some Tough Groups

Although there are no easy games at this level of the Champions League some of the seeded teams will be decidedly happier than others with the way the draw panned out.  Of the five remaining British representatives Manchester United and Chelsea will be quietly confident of progressing as group winners, while Arsenal barring a major form collapse should at least qualify. Sadly the same cant be said for both Spurs and Glasgow Rangers, both of whom would have been hoping for a kinder draw.

Tottenham have been placed in what looks like the second toughest of the groups, with the fourth seed being Dutch Champions FC Twente who are still to conceed a goal in the Dutch league this season. Whether they will remain a force without managed Steve McClaren in charge remains to be seen, but they should prove tough to beat. The other group members are Inter Milan who are current holders and German side Werder Bremen. This is going to be a struggle but Tottenham look good enough to scrape through as runners up probably at Werder Bremen’s expense.

Group A forecast finishing positions

Inter Milan
Tottenham
Werder Bremen
FC Twente

Group B  looks a lot easier and the favourites Benfica & Lyon should come out of this group without too much fuss and the seedings look pretty accurate and we expect the finishing positions to be 
   
Lyon
Benfica
Schalke 04
Hapoel Tel-Aviv
Group C also looks pretty clear cut with Manchester United strong favourites to win the group while the Spaniards will almost certainly join them. The big question will be if Rangers are good enough to snatch third place. For the sake of Scottish football lets hope its a yes.  Forecast finish

Man Utd
Valencia 
Glasgow Rangers
Bursaspor
 
 
Group D is Barcelona and any one from the other three to join them. How they got such an easy group is a mystery but whereever they were drawn they would have been expected to go through so it probably doesnt matter too much. The other three teams are all capable enough but not in Barcelona’s class and this could be a nice competative battle for the 2nd place. Ruben Kazan as reigning Russian Champions are worthy of respect and they could snatch that covered second place. The expected finishing order is:

Barcelona
Rubin Kazan
Panathinaikos
FC Copenhagen 

Group E is another easier looking group and last years beaten finalists Bayern Munich will be expected to win this one The race for second place could again be close though with Roma having plenty of experience and both Basle and Cluj looking capable of improvement. Overall the Swiss side look the best placed to grab the second spot and the Romanians Cluj might just edge Roma into the wooden spoon position. Forecast finishing positions.

Bayern Munich
Basle 
CFR Cluj
Roma 

Chelsea will be very pleased with their opening group draw in Group F. Slovakians MSK Zilina are playing in the Champions League group stages for the 1st time and to be fair look well out of their depth here and although Marseille were French Champions last season it is hard to see them matching up to Chelsea. They might manage second place though as Spartak Moscow are struggling slightly this season in the Russian Premier league. Forecast finishing places

Chelsea
Marseille
Spartak Moscow
MSK Zilina 
 

Group G is the real group of death this season with one big name sure to go out and with Auxerre showing themselves to be no mugs when beating Zenit St Petersburg in a bad tempered match. If there is to be a surprise in the group stages it could come here and although its hard to see Real Madrid not advancing AC Milan could struggle and the race for second place could be close. This group will be watched with some anticipation by the other competitors and no one will fancy playiing the qualifiers from this one. The forecast finishing places are

Real Madrid 
AC Milan 
Ajax 
Auxerre
 

Group H should be Arsenal’s although they will have to be at their best as their opponents are all dangerous on their day. The race for second could be very close here but if Braga can sort out their goalkeeping errors they have the weapons going forward to snatch second and possibly even win the group.  Forecast finishing order:

Arsenal
Braga
Shakhtar Donetsk
Partizan Belgrade 

 Ginen some of these groups look like being close its worth checking on how the placings will be decided if the teams finish level on points:

1) Head to head and if still tied, by aggregate score and then by away goals counting double.

2) Goal difference in all group games.

3) Most goals scored.

4) Highest UEFA ranking over the previous five seasons.

That should be enough to keep the most intense of football statisticians happy.

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