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Champions League Draw – Chelsea Draw Barcelona For the Third Season Running
For the third consecutive season Chelsea played against the current European champions, Barcelona in group A. Werder Bremen and Levski Sofia make up the quartet and it would be a big surprise if either team move on.
In group B Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Sporting Lisbon and Spartak Moscow will battle it out. Bayern have been weakened by the loss of Ballack to Chelsea, but should still be good enough to get through. Inter Milan have strengthened at the expense of their rivals who have hit a scandal in Italy and will be hard to beat.
Group C sees Liverpool, winners in 2005, return to the scene of their victory in Istanbul to play Galatasaray. Turkish football seems to have gone off the boil and Gala could struggle against PSV Eindhoven and Bordeaux.
Group D places Valencia, Roma, Olympiakos and the dangerous Shaktar Donetsk, and the first two should reach the last sixteen.
Group E sees the most successful European team of all time, Real Madrid against Lyon, Steau Bucharest and Dynamo Kiev. Real begin the campaign under the returning Fabio Capello and should improve on last season’s dismal performance. Lyon under Gerard Houllier are still improving and should qualify.
Group F sparks Anglo-Scottish conflict. Manchester United drove a reserve team to Glasgow just before the start of the season and beat the Scottish champions 3-0. Not much gives Celtic much of a chance against United’s first XI who have started the season on fire. Benfica looking dangerous again. They knocked United and Liverpool out last season and will need to be respected. FC Copenhagen is part of the quartet and it might surprise some people.
Group G includes last year’s finalists Arsenal and they face Porto, CSKA Moscow and Hamburg, not an easy group on paper for any of them and Arsenal will have to recover from poor early results in their brand new stadium. But expect them to qualify. No team from London has ever won the European Cup/Champions League and Arsenal are desperate to beat their rivals Chelsea and Spurs (they are in the UEFA cup this time) to that special honour. But Arsenal have lost several notable players such as Pires, Campbell and Bergkamp and although they have young players who are improving quickly such as Van Persie and Walcott, it is difficult to foresee them taking the trophy this time.
Group H sees suspended but reinstated qualifiers AC Milan, Lille, AEK Athens and Anderlecht. Expect AC to win the group comfortably, with all the others taking points from each other.
For those who like a bet, here are the early odds quoted: favorite Barca 4/1, Chelsea 5/1, Real 9/1, AC Milan 10/1, Man Utd 11/1, Inter 13/1 , Arsenal and Liverpool 18/1 and 20/1 and more on all the others. You can still get a $30 free bet at betfair.com by entering the code 6CHE3VPWJ when required.
So who will land this year’s Champions League pot of gold? Barca have added Thuram and Zambrotta from Italy, but were surprisingly beaten 3-0 by compatriots Sevilla in the Super Cup, the match between the Champions League and UEFA cup winners. Barça showed a surprising weakness in the middle of their defense and John Terry and his friends at Stamford Bridge are sure to note that. The best of the outside is the rapidly improving Lyon.
Chelsea have added Ballack and the brilliant Shevchenko, and it might be Ashley Cole too. As I have written elsewhere, I think Chelsea can do it this time. They would surely trade the Premier League title for the Champions League. But what do I know? I still work for a living. Make up your own mind. Good viewing.
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