Editorial: Champions League off to good start

By Ricardo Vargas
Reporter (Fall 2012)

The UEFA Champions League group stage was officially kicked off on Sep 18, and it looks promising, already. The sports’s biggest clubs and best players began their quest for one of the most prized trophies in the world of soccer. But sometimes the best stories come from the smallest teams upsetting the giants. The Champions League is definitely the greatest club soccer tournament in the world.

This soccer tournament features 32 of the finest teams Europe has to offer. They are drawn into groups of four and only two teams per group advance to the playoff stage. Here is a quick breakdown of the groups along with some predictions and things to watch.

I see PSG taking group A. After their spending spree this summer, it would be a failure for them not to. Their biggest purchase was one of the world’s best strikers, Zlatan Ibrahimović, who delivers year after year for whatever club he’s playing for. Joining them in the round of sixteen, in my opinion, will be Porto.

Although they lost their biggest star and top goal scorer Robin van Persie Arsenal still have a strong squad and should be able to win group B. Their key player could be Lukas Podolski who was brought in as a kind of replacement for van Persie. Although not as prolific as a goal scores, Podolski should be able to carry enough of the scoring load to get Arsenal by. Their biggest competition in this group will be Shalke, who should also make it to the next round.

Milan let some of their veteran players go and lost star striker Ibrahimović and defender Thiago Silva. With a weakened squad they had some good fortune on the group draw and avoided any big competition so we will be seeing them in the next round. With Zlatan gone, the scoring load will fall heavily on Alexandre Pato. Pato’s form could be key if Milan wants to have any shot at the title.

Last year APOEL, a small team from Cyprus, was the Cinderella story of the tournament and managed to make it to the quarter finals. This year it could be Málaga’s turn to be the big upset. They are a small team with no big stars on their squad, but they showed good organization and passing in the qualifiers and have the potential to make it far this year. The biggest team on their group is Milan, who are struggling at the moment so look for Málaga to make it at least out of the group stage.

Group D is without a doubt the most exciting group of the tournament. All four teams are champions of their respective leagues and all cross great moments. In this group of death Real Madrid has more than enough to reign supreme. Amongst all of Madrid’s stars, the player to watch will be Cristano Ronaldo. A scoring machine and always fun to watch, CR7 has the potential to be the best player of the tournament.

The second spot on the second round will be fought between Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund. City has great attacking power but Dortmund is good all around, so it should be very entertaining watching them play for that second spot. And of course you can never count out Dutch champions Ajax

Current champions Chelsea should have no problem wining group F, and young stars Eden Hazard and Oscar could be the ones leading the charge. The biggest competition for the champions will be Italian side Juventus who should also make it to the next round.

German giants Bayern Munich will win group G thanks to their great attacking power. Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery are two of the world’s best wingers and if they are in form they could lead Bayern to a title this year. Valencia should be able to edge out LOSC to get to the next round.

Barcelona are one of the best in the world and should be able to sweep the group stage without any problems. Messi is one of the best players the sport has ever seen and he will be trying to lead Barcelona to win the cup. After upsetting Manchester United last year, Benfica is in my opinion the favorite to move to the next round with Barcelona on group H.

Crowd favorite Manchester United are the favorites to take group I. After a disappointing season last year look for Man U to come back with a vengeance. They will not take chances like last year and will run through the competition in the group stage. And with Robin van Persie as their new addition they are definitely candidates for the title. Galatasaray dominated Turkish soccer last year and should make it to the next stage.

If I had to pick a final it would be Manchester United playing against Real Madrid. United are looking very strong and Madrid have shown they can beat their rivals Barcelona when they beat them for the Spanish super cup. Of the two I think it will be Madrid that will walk away with the trophy.

The Champions League will be very exciting this year and no soccer fan should miss out on the action. It will all end in the final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday May 25, 2013. You can follow the tournament on Fox Soccer or online at championsleaguetv.com.