Old Rivalries Renewed in the Group Stage
Thursday’s draw for the group stages was made at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco and sees some of last season’s knockout stage matchups grouped together. For example, Roma will be offered the chance to avenge the 7-1 drubbing they suffered against Manchester United. Those two are paired along with Sporting Lisbon and Dynamo Kiev in Group F. AC Milan will begin their trophy defence against fellow European title-winners, and a team they defeated in last season’s first knockout round, Celtic FC.
One place in the group stage is yet to be filled, as the second leg of the AEK Athens – Sevilla FC tie was postponed to Monday September 3rd due to the death of Sevilla’s midfielder Antonio Puerta on Tuesday. The eventual winners will play in Group H. I feel Sevilla will come through their qualifying tie and progress from the group stage as well.
Some other initial impressions are that Inter Milan will be upset in their group, Rangers will emerge as a surprise in their group (I think Lyon will stumble this season, at least based on early form) and I look for Marseille to do well. Most of the favourites like Liverpool, Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid should advance comfortably. Manchester United may struggle as they are bereft of quality strikers at the moment. I haven’t decided which group I would call the “group of death” though Groups B, E and G look the toughest.
The group stage fixtures will be confirmed shortly and will be played on September 18/19, October 2/3, October 23/24 , November 6/7 , November 27/28 and December 11/12. I’ll be previewing the groups leading up to the first matchday so please check back or subscribe to our RSS feed to be notified of new articles.
Posted below are the complete group listings with my picks to advance highlighted.
* I feel Sevilla will come through their qualifying and progress from the group stage as well.