Group A: Bayer Leverkusen, Manchester United, Real Socieded, Shakhtar Donetsk
I have to admit that I am still not sure how United will be under David Moyes. Because of their pedigree, I want to say they’ll beat everyone except I don’t know how the team will respond or if their team is already set. It is definitely not an easy draw for United as there’s quality in every side here.
You can say that Leverkusen are flying under the radar as they are 3-0-0 in the Bundesliga under Liverpool legend Sami Hyypia (who, in spite of being very competitive, is a picture of an iceberg when it comes to coolness). Despite losing Andre Schurrle and defensive rock Dani Carvajal, they still look good with an renewed attack behind Stefan Kiessling, Sidney Sam and Heung Min Son. They’ve got a core of young and talented players who are hungry for some silverware.
Off to Europa: Shaktar Donestsk
Group B: Copenhagen, Galatasaray, Juventus, Real Madrid
Three-way battle between the Turks, Italians and the Spanish that will prove to be very tough. The onus is on Madrid and Juventus to win this. They got talent, veteran leadership and experience. Galatasaray, on the other hand, will attempt to upset one team here and there. But…
Off to Europa: Galatasaray
Group C: Anderlecht, Benfica, Olympiakos, Paris Saint-Germain
PSG must be happy with this draw. They’ve improved their team from last season despite being at 1-2 in the Ligue 1 this early.
I like Benfica and Olympiakos to battle for that second slot. Benfica really hasn’t done well in UCL play but with the finals to be played in Lisbon, nothing like a massive home-field advantage to back them up as incentive.
Off to Europa: Olympiakos
Group D: Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Manchester City, Viktoria Pizen
Bayern Munich’s UEFA Super Cup win shows they are not yet done winning. So the Pep Guardiola era is off to a smashing start. They’ll top this group with City trying not to disappoint.
Off to Europa: CSKA Moscow
Group E: Basel, Chelsea, Schalke 04, Steaua Bucharest
Like Manchester United, do I seed Chelsea on reputation alone? Yes, they have Jose Mourinho back and they picked up a few key additions here. I don’t think that Chelsea will find everyone else slim pickings. I am not really sure if this is the tough English side that gave everyone fits in years past.
I’m looking at Schalke, that has always played well in Europe, to top this group. Basel is always a tough grind, while Steaua Bucharest doesn’t have enough quality in them to make that push out of this stage.
Off to Europa: Steaua Bucharest
Group F: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Marseille, Napoli
This is a tough tough group. You cannot discount what Rafa Benitez might come up with in Napoli (these guys are aching to prove something to a great many people) but Arsenal and Dortmund are the favorites here although Marseille might be the spoiler.
I like Dortmund to top this group with Napoli a surprise second finisher. What does that mean for Arsene Wenger’s side?
Off to Europa: Arsenal
Group G: Atletico Madrid, Austria Vienna, Porto, Zenit St. Petersburg
Wide-open race here and probably the most interesting. David Villa (who really wasn’t a fit with Barcelona) is a worthy replacement for Falcao in Atletico and I figure he will be rejuvenated for this season and do well for head coach Diego Simeone.
My gut tells me Atletico and Porto will pull through.
Off to Europa: Zenit St. Petersburg
Group H: Ajax, Barcelona, Celtic, Milan
Looking for Barcelona and Milan to contest group leadership here.
Off to Europa: Celtic