Sport

Challenges in Europe for English sides

Manchester City face a tough task making it through to the Champions League knockout rounds, as they have been drawn in a group with the Italian champions, and last year’s Champions League runners-up Juventus; as well as last season’s Europa League winners Sevilla.

City have faced Juventus before in European competition, being drawn in the same group as them in the 2010/11 Europa League. Both matches then finished 1-1 while City were under Roberto Mancini’s management. They also faced the fourth side in their group, Borussia Monchengladbach, in the UEFA Cup in the 1970s, but the trip to Sevilla will be a first for the blue half of Manchester.

On the other side of the city, Memphis Depay will be returning to face his old club, as Manchester United have been drawn in the same group as PSV. The away fixture will also see manager Louis Van Gaal’s return to his home country, and he will certainly add some spice to the match having been a supporter, player and manager of PSV’s rivals Ajax.

Strangely, United were also drawn in the same group as the other two sides in the group – CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg – in the 2009/10 Champions League, winning three of their four games against the sides. However, their win in Russia that year is their only win in the country in seven attempts, something they will hope to improve upon to progress from Group B.

Arsenal fans will be weary of facing Bayern Munich, the team who has knocked the club out of the competition twice in the last three years. It’s a Bayern side who have strengthened during the transfer window, looking to regain their spot as the champions of Europe.

Despite having Munich in their group, Arsenal shouldn’t face too many issues in getting through, as the other games against Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb should be winnable. The Gunners’ have a surprisingly poor record in Greece, winning just 50% of their 16 matches in the country.

The major talking point from Chelsea’s point of view will of course be Jose Mourinho’s return to FC Porto. Mourinho is this year looking to become the first manager to win the competition with three different clubs, having first won the Champions League with Porto in 2004. Chelsea should be confident of a result, having won seven of their nine games in Portugal.

On paper, Chelsea shouldn’t have an issue negotiating Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel-Aviv and securing their place in the knockout rounds. On two previous trips to Israel, Chelsea have never won, however Tel-Aviv and Dynamo Kiev shouldn’t really be able to cope with Eden Hazard and co.

Elsewhere in the draw, the potential for surprise upsets look pretty thin on the ground. The most likely big name exit comes from Group H, where Zenit St. Petersburg, Valencia and Lyon could be fairly well matched, while Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid in Group A is probably the biggest individual match outside of British representation.

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