As Chelsea and Manchester City found out a year ago, the Champions League takes no prisoners. Despite having two of the most talented squads in Europe, both crashed out at the first hurdle after several poor performances.
Manchester City failed to win a single game in their group, losing all three away games and drawing all three home games in the so-called ‘Group of Death’ alongside Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax. Meanwhile Chelsea, who were the holders of the competition, qualified for and eventually won the Europa League after missing out on the Champions League knockout stages to Shakhtar Donetsk and Juventus.
So who will have a shock exit this time round? Let’s take a look at which three teams could face this prospect come mid-December.
It looked like another smooth progression through the group stage for Arsenal when Marseille were picked alongside them in Group F but when Dortmund and Napoli’s name followed; the Gunners’ chances were instantly questioned. When you look at the stats, so far this season, Arsenal are the worst ranked team in their group according to Squawka Performance Score and have created the least chances (46) out of all four teams with Dortmund topping that chart with 87 chances created. Arsenal will fancy their chances but it will be a very tough group to get out of, so do not be surprised if they fail to make it to the knockout stages.
David Moyes revealed that Sir Alex Ferguson had told him that the group he faces this year is “one of the hardest draws they have ever had,” and who is going to argue? As we know, second seeds Shakhtar knocked out Chelsea last year and Bayer Leverkusen are definitely no slouches as third seeds, whilst Real Sociedad were one team everyone wanted to avoid from Pot Four.
Looking at United’s Attack Performance Score, it shows that they are behind both Leverkusen and Sociedad. Moyes’ men had an Attack Score of 320, while Sociedad scored 422 and Leverkusen scored 678.
Furthermore, Man United had a mere 44 shots to Leverkusen’s 64 in their opening league games this season. This will have to be improved upon if they are to qualify from this group, as Moyes looks to prove his doubters wrong and “define himself” on the elite European stage.
Amid the furore of the Gareth Bale transfer, Real Madrid were pitted alongside Italian champions Juventus, Turkish champions Galatasaray and Danish champions FC Copenhagen in the Champions League. This group is definitely not as straight forward as people make out, as Madrid proved by losing 3-2 in Turkey to Galatasaray last season.
Added to that, they have to face a rampant Juventus side, intent on European glory, whilst Copenhagen have been known to cause an upset or two in the past as Man Utd found out in 2006. Madrid have proved over recent years that you cannot buy success on the European stage. They have not won the competition for what will be 12 years come May but Carlo Ancelotti is determined to change all that. Although they should qualify, it will be tough to win Group B and if they do finish second, they could face a hard draw in the next round. They will be reliant on the goals of Bale and last season’s top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo whilst the creativity of young Spaniard Isco will be vital too.