Champions League Match Day Review


The Champions League

The second matches of the UEFA Champions League have wrapped up. With the haves and the have nots being separated, we take a look at the news and notes of the previous two matches along with what lies ahead for those clubs looking to put themselves in prime position for the knockout rounds.

Group A

The first group seen by many when checking Champions League stats does not disappoint. The defending Seria A Champion and two time Champions League Champion Juventus share the group with the club that shocked the world last year when they won La Liga and finished runner up in the Champions League, Atletico Madrid. Also making Group A their home is the 41-time Greek Superleague Champions Olympiacos FC and the current Swedish Allsvenskan Leaders and defending Champions Malmo FF.

Atletico Madrid and Juventus have to be the favorites to advance to the knockout rounds and with Madrid’s win over Juventus, Madrid will be favorites to take the group in the end. Currently though, anything can happen with all three clubs sitting even in the table thanks to Malmo FF’s unlikely victory over the Greek Champions Olympiacos FC 2-0. With all the sides tied at three points each so far, anything can happen. I still see Atletico and Juventus making it through to the knockout rounds due to their advantage and skill over the other two clubs.

Group B

The group with the most Champions League titles to its name. The ten time Champions League Champion, including last seasons title, Real Madrid share the group with the five time Champions League Champion Liverpool. Two of the most famous clubs in the world share the group, both with ambitions not only to win the group but to win another Champions League title. The two powerhouses are joined by the 17-time, including the last five straight, Swiss Super League Champions FC Basel and the Three time defending Bulgarian A Group Champions Ludogorets Razgrad who appear to be severely outmatched in the group.

After their opening match 5-1 drubbing from Real Madrid in their first match, Basel bounced back to defeat a struggling Liverpool side. Liverpool who has struggled at both their continental and domestic campaigns so far sit third in the group. Though Liverpool did defeat Razgard in the opening match, they have struggled so far and will need to improve if they wish to overtake Basel and advance to the knockout rounds. Real Madrid, even with their early slip up at Razgard, took the match thanks to a late Karim Benzema goal and look set to cruise through group play and make a run at back-to-back Champions League titles.

Group C

Possibly the most open group in terms of all four clubs skill. The group is headed by last seasons Ligue 1 runner up AS Monaco FC. The club who spent the most in the 2013 summer transfer market is determined to make a deep run in the Champions League and should be able to lead the group throughout. Also joining them is the four time Russian Premier League Champions FC Zenit, the 2001 Champions League runner up and five time Bundesliga Champion Bayer Leverkusen and two time Champions League and defending Europa League Champion SL Benfica.

AS Monaco look set to take the group with their opening 1-0 win against Leverkusen. Even with the clubs 0-0 draw at Zenit, Monaco should have the strength to take the group and proceed to the knockout rounds which should mark a major achievement for the club who two seasons ago played in the French second division. Zenit and Leverkusen should battle it out for the final qualifying spot in the group. Zenit currently holds the advantage after their opening match win at Benfica while Leverkusen who also defeated Benfica lost in their first match at Monaco. Leverkusen should have the advantage as they host Zenit in the next match which will put the winner in the driver seat for the final spot.

Group D

Group D is headed by the 1997 Champions League Champion Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund clearly leads the group over its fellow group mates, but should find some competition for the top spot from the 13-time English Premier League Champions Arsenal. The two clubs should most definitely finish top two in the group ahead of both the defending Turkish Super Lig Champions Galatasaray and the back-to-back-to-back Belgian First Division Champions RSC Anderlecht who will struggle against the skill of both Dortmund and Arsenal.

The two giants of the group both won in their second matches after Dortmund defeated a struggling Arsenal side in their opening match 2-0. Dortmund visited a clearly lower quality side in Anderlecht, defeating them 3-0 and moving three points clear of Arsenal in the table. Arsenal also dominated their opponent when they hosted Galatasaray defeating them 4-1. A point of interest though from the match will be Wojciech Szczęsny’s red card banning him from Arsenal’s next match when they visit Anderlecht. The match is a must win for Arsenal if they have any hope of topping the group against the currently unstoppable Borussia Dortmund.

Group E

The group of Death for many. Five time Champions League Champions Bayern Munich, defending English Premier League Champions Manchester City, Italian Seria A contender A.S. Roma and back to back Russian Premier League Champions CSKA Moscow call the group home. Bayern Munich has so far led the proceedings with two one nil wins to start including a win in their first match at home against Manchester City. Bayern also defeated a strong and overlooked CSKA Moscow team that has a total of twelve Russian Premier League titles including the last two. Moscow did struggle in their opening match at Roma, losing 5-1 thanks to a brace from Ivory Coast International Gervinho.

Manchester City has failed to live up to expectations this season at both their domestic and continental campaigns. After losing in their opening match to Bayern Munich, City failed to capitalize on their dominance against Roma, conceding an equalizer in the 23rd minute and never being able to regain the lead. Manchester City sits third in the table, three points adrift of Roma and five behind the group leader Bayern. With their next match at CSKA Moscow, a win is not required but needed to keep the club in contention for the knockout rounds. At the same time, Bayern Munich will head south to Italy and take on Roma in a match that could help decide the winner of the group at the end of this stage.

Group F

The home of European Giants Barcelona, Group F also contains French Juggernaut Paris Saint-Germain, the 33-time, including the last four, Dutch Eredivisie Champions and four time UEFA Champions League Champions AFC Ajax and the Cyprus Cypriot Champions APOEL FC. To start, APOEL can easily be dismissed of finishing in the top two of Group F, especially with like of Barcelona and PSG joining them. While PSG defeated Barcelona in a five goal thriller, propelling them to the top of the group, the group is far from finished with the three teams all within a win of each other meaning a single slip-up could cost the team from winning the group and even qualifying for the knockout round.

AFC Ajax have to be the wildcard in the group though. Having been Champions in the past and having won four straight Dutch Eredivisie titles, Ajax could play spoiler for one of the two giants of the group. Ajax opened with a home draw against group leaders PSG, controlling possession and coming from behind to take a draw from the superior attacking side. Ajax also went on to draw APOEL in Cyprus after controlling most of the match, giving up their only goal from the penalty spot. Ajax has the ability, should either Barcelona or PSG play poorly to defeat them and find their way into the Knockout rounds.

Group G

The class of Group G is easily Chelsea. With a draw at Stamford Bridge in their opening match against Schalke 04 and the clubs close 1-0 victory over Sporting (Portugal), the current Premier League Leader has yet to show their class. Should the club continue to struggle in its Champions League matches, questions will begin to grow over the strength of this Chelsea side. The other main contender in the group who could capitalize on Chelsea’s current form is the seven time Bundesliga Champions Schalke 04. In one of the most clear cut groups in the Champions League this year, Schalke is clearly the second best team in the group. Drawing at Chelsea was a major accomplishment for the side, their home draw to Slovenian Champions NK Maribor should disappoint them.

The other two sides, Sporting and NK Maribor should not pose a threat to both Chelsea and Schalke in the final matches of the group. Both will be fighting for third place and a spot in the EURO League knockout rounds while the match at Veltins-Arena between host Schalke and visiting Chelsea should determine who will come out on top of the group with Chelsea having an edge due to their current standing over Schalke.

Group H

Quiet possibly the most underwhelming group in this years Champions League. The two time Champions League Champion and 27 time Primeira Liga Champions FC Porto head the group in both the current table and past success. Also in the group is the ten time, including the previous eight, Belarusian Premier League Champions FC BATE Borisov, the winner of the last five Ukrainian Premier League titles and the 2009 UEFA Europa League Champion FC Shakhtar Donetsk. The last team in the group is the two time UEFA Europa League Champion Athletic Bilbao from La Liga.

Looking at the group so far, Porto opened with a very impressive 6-0 home thrashing of BATE Borisov and then followed it up with a 2-2 draw at Shakhtar. Porto with their skill should easily win the group and at the minimum advance to the knockout rounds. The competition behind them is much more equal though with Shakhtar and Athletic expected to fight it out for the final Champions League knockout place. BATE Borisov though clearly outmatched in the competition, showed fight in their 2-1 home win against Athletic and will be looking to play spoiler in the group and make it farther than just the group Stage.