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Arsenal, Barca bow out
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New Connex timetable kicks in
Milan overcome Liverpool
In Group A we see the return of Marseille to the Champions League but its hard to look past Liverpool as to who are mostly likely to win this group. It could be a tough fight for second place though but I think Porto should use their experience to pull through and let Besiktas and Marseille fight for the UEFA Cup place.
Chelsea were a top seed for the first time in this competition and therefore avoided the European big guns in their group but they have found Valencia and FC Schalke to fight it out. Although last season's matches between Valencia and the Blues were very tight I think the Stamford Bridge outfit have strengthened their side and should win their group this time. I also think Valencia will come out a close second with Schalke coming third. Interestingly Rosenborg are nearly always in the competition but they never seem to get better and should anchor this group come December.
The new look Real Madrid will remember that last season they were knocked out of the competition by a German team and therefore will need to give Werder Bremen respect. This group looks like a straight-forward fight between Werder Bremen and Real Madrid for top spot and I am not convinced by both Lazio and Olympiacos who I think are going to have their own battle to see who still plays European football in the new year.
Defending champions AC Milan find themselves in a very tough group where I think one of Celtic, Benfica and Shakhtar Donetsk can easily make it to the next stage. I don't think there is any doubt that Carlo Ancelloti's team will come out of this group but its hard to tell who will join them.Celtic will be hoping that their home form will be helped by a better away form but Benfica and Shakhtar are equally good teams. Only two years ago Benfica knocked out Manchester United out of the competition but last season the finished below Celtic in their group and will be hoping to do better now under Jose Antonio Camacho .
Barcelona should rule supreme in Group E and Lyon should take second place with Stuttgart and Rangers fighting to avoid bottom place. I will be surprised if there is a surprise in this group because both Barca and Lyon are very experienced in this competition. My only concern would be that Lyon haven't their domestic season well this year and if that continues then Stuttgart might well get second place.
Its interesting to see that Manchester United find themselves in the same group as Roma. I don't think there will be seven goals this time at Old Trafford but these two teams should easily overpower Sporting Lisbon and Dynamo Kiev.
Serie A champions Inter Milan should fancy their chances of topping Group G with PSV Eindhoven firm favourites to follow them into the round of sixteen. Roberto Carlos and Fenerbahce will have a lot say about that and so will CSKA Moscow.
In Group H, the real strength of the group will be known after the Seville/AEK Athens match has been played in a match which I think Seville will go through. Whatever happens though Arsenal should qualify from this group and of the four English clubs the Gunners seem to have the easiest group of them all. Although Slavia Prague knocked out Ajax from the competition I think they will finish bottom of this group with Steaua Bucuresti getting the UEFA spot.
For the first time, this season I will be participating in the tipping
competition at TipsChallenge and it
should be great fun.
Another group of interest to me is Group H. I don't know how year after year Arsenal always gets the easiest group and yet they struggle through it. I hope they prove me wrong this time by blistering through that group and have as close to 18 points as possible. Cheers.