The Champions League draw was not tale a of two cities but one unhappy City and one happy United for the Manchester clubs. Chelsea and Arsenal have not been done any favours but with two teams qualifying from each group both London clubs should progress to the knockout stages of the competition. Barcelona are trying to win back-to-back trophies and become the first side to do so in the modern era.
The Holy Grail of European Football
Qualifying to play in this cup is the Holy Grail for clubs all around the continent due to the vast revenues from television money, gate receipts and merchandising. However, the structure of the Champions League is such that the rich get richer and the gap in financial clout between haves and have not’s gets wider. It is almost impossible for clubs outside this group to play in the competition from year to year. The consolation of playing in the Europa League brings vastly reduced revenues.
Clubs that qualify are assured of three home fixtures in the group stages and every match is televised live either by free to view broadcasters or subscription based satellite channels that specialise in sport. The various income streams mean the teams who play in the Champions League can afford to buy the best players and pay the highest wages and thus are more likely to qualify again in a cycle of financial strength. Despite the financial might of a few no side has won the Champions League in successive years.
The major clubs budget for playing in the Champions League and those out of the loop have tried in the past to buy their way into the exclusive club. In England Leeds United invested in top players to get into the competition on a regular basis. They reached the last four once but did not have the resources to be competitive over a sustained period of time. They took out large loans to support the project but could not fund them and financial restraints and relegation followed.
Tough Draw For Manchester City
City have drawn Juventus, Sevilla and Borussia Monchengladbach and are second favourites to win the group, behind Juventus. That club are easily the most successful side in Italian football history, winning Serie A 31 times. In Paul Pogba they have one of the best young midfield players in the game. Sevilla have an excellent record in European football having won the Europa League four times in the last nine years. Borussia have won the UEFA Cup twice but are playing in the Champions League for the first time.
Manchester United Are Smiling
United have been given an easier task in trying to progress from a section that includes PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg. PSV have sold some of their best players to United and in Luuk de Jong have a striker who could move to a bigger club. CSKA’s first choice goalkeeper has been beaten in his last 31 appearances in the Champions League. Wolfsburg best player is Bas Dost who scored 20 goals for them last season.
Chelsea Should Win Group G
Chelsea face home and away meetings with Porto, Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv. Jose Mourinho won the Champions League with Porto and is now the manager of Chelsea. He will be wary of the fixture in Portugal as he has not won either match against his former club. Andriy Yarmolenko has been a prolific scorer for Kiev in the last two seasons. Eran Zahavi has scored 88 goals in 119 matches for Maccabi.
Arsenal Have Demanding Group
Arsenal are looking to be one of the two teams to move on from a group also involving Bayern Munich, Olympiacos and Dinamo Zagreb. Bayern have reached the last four and beyond of the Champions League in five of the last six seasons. Olympiacos have lost all three meetings away at Arsenal. The London club won for the first time at their new stadium against Dinamo in qualification for the 2006-07 Champions League.
Barcelona are the team most likely to win the Champions League according to bookmakers in Europe. In Lionel Messi they field the best player in the world and Neymar and Luis Suarez compliment him in the forward line. Any side containing Cristiano Ronaldo will have a chance but Real Madrid look second best in Spain and Europe. Bayern Munich and Juventus are also in the mix but Manchester United could become for the first English winners since 2011-12 and champions of Europe for the fourth time.
Click here for the Champions League groups.
European odds can be found at British bookmakers William Hill
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