Monday, September 16, 2013

UCL - Round 1

Champions League football starts on Tuesday and this year's competition looks wide open now that many of the leading clubs are under new management. There are certainly bound to be a few surprises out of the preliminary stages. Here are my thoughts on some of Tuesday's matches.

Man Utd v/s Leverkusen. I am probably one of just a handful that think that Man Utd are thoroughly exposed Group A. I don't think it's as easy a group for them and the fact that they are odds-against to land the group looks too short to me. Let's not forget that it will be Moyes' only second venture at this level and as his predecessor SAF would say, experience is the key. They might go through to the knockout stages but I doubt it will be plain sailing. Their opponents Leverkusen, Shakhtar and Sociedad will all be tough cookies. Tomorrow's opponents Leverkusen are in very good form in the Bundesliga, having won 4 of their first 5 games. They have a dangerous striker in Kiessling who will be a goal scoring threat at Old Trafford. I think this will be a really close game and wouldn't be surprised if it ended in a draw. Still, Man Utd are always formidable at home on these European nights and could very well nick it at the end. The Red Devils are a draw-no-bet selection.

Real Sociedad v/s Shahktar. I really fancy the Spaniards to finish in the top 2 of this group. They are a real talented team that ended up 4th in La Liga and knocked off French outfit Lyon in convincing fashion in the qualifying round. They will aim to get maximum points at home to further their aspirations for the next round. Shakhtar are on their 4th consecutive UCL season but have lost arguably their best player in Willian to Chelsea. At current odds, I really like Real Sociedad as a draw-no-bet.

FC Kobenhavn v/s Juventus. No contest here, this looks like 3 straight easy points for Juve.

Benfica v/s Anderlecht. The hosts look good value to land the spoils. I have reservations about the quality of this Belgian side, which does not seem anywhere as good as its predecessors. One of these 2 teams should accompany favourites PSG to the next round, so the Portuguese will want to get maximum points from this encounter.

Olympiakos v/s PSG. The French should get at least a point out of this if they fail to win, so they are a draw-no-bet selection.

Bayern v/s CSKA Moscow. Straight win for the defending champions.

Viktoria v/s Man City. Pellegrini knows UCL better than Mancini, so I expect City to do well in the competition this season. They should very well go through to the next round. They will have Kompany back for the game and should be difficult to score against. Viktoria are a decent team that actually managed to tie Milan at home a couple of years ago. So the Citizens should be on their guard on this one and it's safest to stick with them as a draw-no-bet.

Win: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Benfica
Draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Real Sociedad, Man City, PSG

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