The road to a sound beating by Barcelona in the final begins here.
Thankfully, staying true to the Corinthian spirit, the Champions League isn’t all about winning, it’s about how much money you can hoover up along the way. Like a high stakes game of Monopoly, success doesn’t really matter as long as you amass a pile of money and drive some other people out of business along the way.
Man City are a curious type of Champions League new-comer. Yes, they’ve never played in the competition, but they’re not exactly a group of doe-eyed novices likely to be over-awed by the environment. It is possible to come from relative European obscurity to win the competition at the first attempt, despite what the efforts of Chelsea over the years suggest. They’re up against a couple of Champions League stalwarts and a Napoli that haven’t had it so good since Maradona was merrily snorting his way around the Bay of Naples, but with the start they’ve made to the domestic season it’s really only the teams of La Liga’s duopoly that should hold any semblance of fear for the Citizens. They should start their campaign with a win at home to the Italians and from there, they could realistically expect to go right into the latter stages of the tournament.
Not for the first time, Man Utd have once again hoarded all the Group stage draw luck for themselves and they kick off their cakewalk into the Last 16 with the toughest game on their itinerary. Benfica may well be the first team to deny them a victory this season, but not taking all three points won’t put their chances of qualification in jeopardy and they’ll more than likely go on to give Basel and Otelul Galati a couple of sound steam-rollings.
Arsenal look to be in a difficult group, but the way they’re playing at the moment pretty much every group would have looked
difficult for them. Even the most favourable of draws would be greeted by Gunners fans with a sharp intake of breath and a comment like ‘Oh, I don’t know. Verona Under 9s have been playing pretty well lately and Guiseppe Annoni is back for them after missing the last game due to a trip to Legoland with his mum. I’d be happy with a draw’. They kick off their campaign with arguably their trickiest assignment. Dortmund romped to the Bundesliga title last season and arguably even more impressive was holding on to most of their key players.
‘No, no – we definitely don’t think of you as the new Mourinho. You’re your own man, with your own style and own ideas. I totally understand that. Now get out there and win me a European Cup,’ Roman Abramovich may have said at some point during his negotiations to take Andre Villas-Boas to Stamford Bridge. In his head, Villas-Boas may think he has the support and time to learn the ropes, but in reality he doesn’t and he’s totally expected to win it. To pointlessly compare Chelsea’s draw with an insect, the Blues have got a wasp of a draw – tough enough to cause sustained irritation, but not enough to be fatal. They should qualify with relative ease before falling short of Roman’s dream later along the line.