25 August 2005

Champions League Group Predictions

The draw was made today for the group stage of the Champions League. Let me not waste any time and make some rash predictions on who will advance from each group.

Group A
The clear favorites here are Bayern Munich and Juventus. They should both advance easily over Rapid Vienna, who needed a late goal to qualify for the group stage, and Club Brugge, who needed penalties.

Group B
The little Swiss side that could, FC Thun, has already made history by qualifying for the group stage. As a reward, they'll get to face lengendary teams Arsenal, Ajax and Sparta Prague. They'll also get beaten by them. Arsenal should progress without too much trouble. Ajax haven't looked all that impressive as yet this year but should still have enough class to squeek past Sparta Prague for the second spot.

Group C
Barcelona should have little trouble winning this group, but it will be very interesting to see who will claim the second spot. Werder Bremen should probably be favored, but I'll go out on a limb and predict that unfancied Italian side Udinese will pip the Germans.

Group D
There might be an upset or two along the way, but Manchester United and Villareal should survive this group. In fact, Villareal might finish just ahead of United. This group will be tighter than most as Lille and Benfica are quality sides.

Group E
AC Milan will qualify comfortably out of this group. Here again, the race will be for second. I'm going to favor PSV and DaMarcus Beasley, but it's possible Shalke could sneak through.

Group F
I've not been all that pleased with Real Madrid's personnel choices of the past few years, but the galacticos should still make it out of this group. Lyon should qualify as well.

Group G
If there's a group of death, this is it. Chelsea are certainly the favorites, but it will be a tight group. For me it's a toss up between Real Betis and Liverpool for second place. I'll pick Liverpool simply because I think the desire to defend their title will carry them through.

Group H
Inter Milan are the clear favorites and I'm picking Porto to make it through as well, even though they've lost many of their best players and coach, Jose Mourinho. Rangers will be a close third, but they've never made it out of the group stage and I don't see that changing this year.

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