Simon Hart
Simon Hart

Which is the toughest group?

Thursday 29 August 2013, 20.53CET
The UEFA Champions League draw has produced some intriguing matchups, not least in Group H where four past winners will meet, but which section is hardest?
Published: Thursday 29 August 2013, 20.53CET

Which is the toughest group?

The UEFA Champions League draw has produced some intriguing matchups, not least in Group H where four past winners will meet, but which section is hardest?

As the dust settles on the UEFA Champions League group stage draw and 32 coaches start plotting their team's path to the knockout phase, for the rest of us the immediate question is this: just who got it toughest?

Amid the many intriguing matchups, it is Group H that stands out at once as the only section containing four past European Cup winners in FC Barcelona, AC Milan, AFC Ajax and Celtic FC. Barcelona got the better of Milan in the round of 16 last season, but can they do it again? And can Celtic repeat that tumultuous Glasgow night in the group stage last November when they beat the Blaugrana?

As for the holders, FC Bayern München will renew acquaintance with Manchester City FC in Group D, a section also including PFC CSKA Moskva and FC Viktoria Plzeň. The big questions centre inevitably on Bayern and City. Can Josep Guardiola win another European title with the champions? Can City put two disappointing campaigns behind them under new coach Manuel Pellegrini?

©Getty Images

Bayern helped eliminate City two years ago, but the Citizens should be stronger this time – and in sporting director Txiki Begiristain have a man who knows all about Guardiola, his one-time colleague at the Camp Nou.

There is much else to catch the eye, including Group F, which could arguably be considered the most evenly-balanced of all the sections, with last season's runners-up (and romantics' favourites) Borussia Dortmund pitted against Arsenal FC, Olympique de Marseille and SSC Napoli. Arsenal have not fallen at this hurdle since the 1999/2000 season, but they may find it harder going than usual.

In Group B, meanwhile, Spain's most-supported club will face their Italian counterparts when nine-time winners Real Madrid CF find themselves up against Juventus in a repeat of the 1998 final. That encounter will be the highlight of a section also containing FC København and a Galatasaray AŞ side who gave Madrid a scare in last season's quarter-finals. Can Carlo Ancelotti get the better of his old club with Los Merengues?

Manchester United FC look the favourites in Group A, and the same goes for the big-spending duo of Chelsea FC in Group E and Paris Saint-Germain FC in Group C, but don't rule out a surprise or two along the way. Whether it comes from FK Austria Wien, the only debutants, over in Group G we will have to wait and see.

What is your view on the draw? Which group holds the most intrigue, and could some of the big names slip up? Have your say in the comments box below or on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ using #UCLdraw.


Last updated: 21/11/13 14.31CET