Assessing the group of Champions

Despite many critics saying the Champions League group stages are a waste of time, there is always a group that draws together three of Europe’s finest; however this time around there is four in easily the toughest group! Here is a preview of the four league champions all placed together in Group D.

Real Madrid
Jose Mourinho’s side won La Liga for the first time since 2008 and were only a penalty shoot-out away from the Champions League player. They are definitely favourites to qualify from the group and despite the group’s strength in depth, expect them to do so and probably top.

Key player – Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite reportedly being unhappy at Real Madrid, Ronaldo’s goal to game ratio since his arrival in 2009 is stupidly good (150 goals in 149 games) and can score goals from literally anywhere on the pitch. His is the second greatest match winner in the world (behind you know who) and expect Ronaldo to be their main man in qualifying again.

Best signing – Luka Modric. The Croatian was heavily linked with a move to the Bernabeu all summer, but despite it only being completed a month or so before the window, Real finally got their man. In a quiet transfer window for Real, Modric will replace the departed Nuri Sahin and Lassanna Diarra.

Manchester City
Having won the Premier League is such dramatic circumstances last season, Manchester City will be one of the favourites to reign in Europe this year. With a strike force to compete with anything in the Champions League, City shouldn’t have too many problems scoring goals. Roberto Mancini’s men will be looking to do better than last year as they deal with life in their second consecutive group of death for City.

Key player – Yaya Toure. The Ivorian has played a huge part in City’s recent success. He has a huge presence in the midfield, and dominates both areas of the pitch, scoring pivotal goals in the clubs recent success (winners in 2011 F.A Cup semi-final as well as final coupled with both goals in City’s penultimate game of their successful 2012 Premier League campaign). Having won the Champions League before with Barcelona in 2009, Toure will be after more European success this year.

Best signing – Javi Garcia. Having sold Nigel De Jong to A.C Milan, Manchester City replaced him with the addition of Garcia from Benfica. He has improved considerably since he was deemed surplus to requirements at Real Madrid and he was key in their run to the quarter finals of this competition last year.

Frank De Boer’s side ended their domestic season in style, winning 14 consecutive league games to seal the Eredivise title. Like most summer’s the Dutch club are resigned to losing their best players with Gregory van der Wiel and Vernon Anita departing for P.S.G and Newcastle respectively.

Key player – Christian Eriksen. Despite being heavily linked with a move away from the club, Eriksen has prolonged his Ajax career. The creative midfielder has frequently been compared to his Michael Laudrup, and Ajax will need Laudrup quality performances from Eriksen if they are to progress from the group.

Best signing – Ryan Babel. Having never reached his potential at Liverpool and Hoffenheim, Babel has returned to Ajax. De Boer will be hoping he finds the form that made him one of the most sought after youngsters in world football and on a free transfer it’s definitely worth the risk.

Borussia Dortmund
Despite the loss of their best player in Nuri Sahin, Dortmund held off pressure from Bayern Munich to reclaim the Bundesliga title. This summer they’ve lost another one of their key players as Shinji Kagawa left for Manchester United.

Key player – Robert Lewandowski. The Polish international was linked with a move to the Premier League; however that never materialised and is heavily relied on at Dortmund given the departure of Lucas Barrios. He will need to continue his goalscoring form from last year if Dortmund are to have a better Champions League then last year, when they exited disappointingly early.

Best signing – Marco Reus. Jurgen Klopp has certainly replaced the departed Kagawa in the shape of Reus from their Bundesliga rivals Borussia Monchengladbach. Reus, when figured, impressed at Euro 2012 for Germany and he certainly fits the mould at Dortmund.

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