Champions League – 2016/17 Group stage

The groups have been drawn and with only a few days to go until Europe’s premier club competition gets underway, we thought we’d have a look through each group and provide our tips on who we’re predicting is likely to progress to the next stage.

With some new faces added to the familiars it should create added interest in this year’s competition.

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Before we begin we’d like to say that we do not agree with UEFA’s seeding system and the multiple rounds that some clubs have to go through just to make it into the pots.

Champions deserve an automatic place in the competition not sides who finish a distant 4th. This would help the smaller leagues and nations throughout the continent as the money will be distributed in a fairer manner. We all know that the rich are getting richer and the poorer teams are being left further behind.

Anyway we have no say in these matters so onto the groups…

Group A

Arsenal – Basel – Ludogrets Razgrad – PSG

Wenger’s men once again pay the European price for domestic failure, a 2nd place finish in group A will ultimately lead to a meeting with a top side completing the season mission of last 16 stage. A PSG side under Unai Emery should progress comfortably in top spot leaving the minnows battling for the Europa League place.

Group B

Benfica – Besiktas – Dynamo Kiev – Napoli

One of the more intriguing groups of this year’s competition, All tricky sides in their own right and don’t expect to see too many away wins. Ultimately we expect to see Napoli and Benfica progress given their slightly greater European pedigree just don’t ask us in which order!

Group C

Barcelona – Borussia Monchengladbach – Man City – Celtic

The group of death for the Scottish champions, despite their impressive form under Brendan Rodgers, this group is one step too far and a big Eurovision “nil pois” could be on the cards for the Glasgow side. The Germans will take 3rd place, Pep’s City 2nd both unable to displace Messi & co from their usual 1st place.

Group D

Atletico Madrid – Bayern Munich – FC Rostov – PSV

Last season’s finalists will count themselves unlucky to be in with Bayern but you can’t see past both of them qualifying, the order will depend on the meetings between the two. PSV and Rostov are in to make up the numbers in Group D.

Group E

Bayer Leverkusen – CSKA Moscow – Monaco – Tottenham

We are tipping Tottenham to make it 4 from 4 in terms of English sides progressing and even going to call a group topping top seed position. Monaco aren’t the team they used to be and with Leverkusen hit or miss, Spurs need to take advantage. The German will join them at the top of Group E.

Group F

Borussia Dortmund – Legia Warsaw – Real Madrid – Sporting Lisbon

The champions will be comfortable and expect them to top this group. Do not be surprised to see Sporting cause an upset or two, especially at home. With their recent players sales they are a weaker opposition and Dortmund should have enough to join Real in the next round.

Group G

Club Brugge – FC Copenhagen – PC Porto – Leicester City

The Foxes are in dreamland and although they would have perhaps preferred a more glamorous tie they will quietly be aiming to progress. Porto will provide their sternest test but both Brugge and Copenhagen have continental experience. Tough group to call but it’s Porto and Leicester for us.

Group H

Dinamo Zagreb – Juventus – Lyon – Sevilla

Serial Europa League winners Sevilla have yet to make their mark in this competition, however this maybe their year to avoid the lesser cup. Along with Juventus they appear to be in good shape to see off Lyon and Zagreb.

That’s our predictions for the sides to compete in the latter stages in the early part of next year, not too many surprises it has to be said.

As always we look forward to the start of the competition and the big games that it will undoubtedly bring.

Tuesday 13th September sees the long road to the 3rd June 2017 final begin. With it being a “home” final in Cardiff will we see a British side contest the final 90mins for the 1st time since Chelsea four years ago?

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Champions League Table Image Sourced from; www.youtube.com
Millennium Stadium Image Sourced from; www.itv.com

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The Old Firm – Semi Final is just the Beginning…

April the 17th will see two massive clubs play out one of the most hotly contested local derbies in World football. Celtic v Rangers is an event  like no other and let it be known that this game will light the touch paper for the 2016/17 season.

To the surprise of many Scottish football fans the 2 big guns came out together in the draw when most expected the much laughed about “hot and cold” balls to be placed into the pot.

The prospect of an Old Firm Final just before Rangers make the long awaited re-appearance in the top flight we assumed would be too good an opportunity for the SFA to overlook.  How wrong we were!

Since Rangers demotion to the Scottish 4th tier in 2012 these 2 rivals have met only once, In the League Cup Semi Final of 2015. Rangers were no match for Celtic either on the park or off it a year ago but this time around they are a different proposition.

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Rangers have rid themselves of a lot of deadwood and players not capable of producing a Championship title at the 1st time of asking last term. They had paid big wages and carried the likes of Ian Black, Bilel Moshni and Steve Simonsen for too long the new management team of Warburton and Weir have cleared the decks and brought in their own men. Mainly raiding Wigan Athletic for 3 solid footballers who have settled well in Glasgow.

Over in Glasgow’s East End this could quite easily be seen as one of Ronny Delia’s last act’s as Celtic Manager. His 12 moth rolling contract will once again be up for review at the end of the season and with a poor European performance (Europa League – Played 6, won 0), League Cup Semi defeat to Ross County and a strong title challenge from Aberdeen still on the cards, it is difficult to make a case for him being given another season. Speculation is rife with David Moyes and even Ryan Giggs being mentioned for the role, Delia is not and never will be the man for Parkhead.

The game itself will be set up perfectly by the time it comes around, Rangers have secured the Scottish Championship title and will be determined to prove many doubters wrong by upsetting the bookies and making it to the final. Celtic will still have one eye on the league and will undoubtedly be under pressure to dispatch of their fiercest rivals just like last year.

3 battles on the day will be key to deciding who will play either Hibs or Dundee United in the 144th Final…Griffiths v Wilson – Brown v Holt – Delia v Warburton.

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Next season will see at least 3, more likely to be 4 Old Firm games return to our screens and it fair to say they have been missed. They are looked forward too by millions around the world and really should be mentioned in the same breath as El Clasico, The Manchester and Merseyside derbies.

The football on show may be looked down upon by some but you’d struggle to name a poor game between these two giants.

Back to the impending duel however…Hampden will be packed to the rafters, the respective ends will be in full voice and make no mistake both sets of fans will be arriving expecting to leave victorious. Celtic are there for the taking in our opinion and this alone should make for a fantastic Semi Final.

As long as the players and fans behave then roll on Sunday 17th April!

Old Firm image sourced from; www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/jackross
Old Firm crowd image sourced from; www.thetimes.co.uk/sport/football