Friday, 31 August 2012

UEFA Champions League - German teams challenged at Group stage

Hello! I'm back in full swing, since CreComm restarted, and my first post for the new semester is about one of the most prestige tournaments in all of soccer: The UEFA Champions League.

At around 11 am on Thursday morning, the draw for the Group stage of the Champions League begun, with the pots containing the names of great clubs from the biggest leagues in Europe, including Manchester United (England), Real Madrid (Spain), Juventus (Italy), and Germany's defending champion, Borussia Dortmund. The results are mixed for the German clubs entering this year.

Dortmund is having probably the most successful run in club history, claiming the Bundesliga crown two years in a row, with a German Cup this year to complete their first double ever. I don't know what head coach Juergen Klopp is doing to keep his team so motivated and strong, but it's really doing the trick, placing Bayern Munich on a two-year title drought.

But nothing comes easy, and certainly not in the CL. Dortmund will be experiencing that first hand in their Group D, which consists of Real Madrid, Manchester City, and Ajax Amsterdam. All three claimed the championships in their respective countries and will look to make a big impact. This draw puts the "black-and-yellows" in an underdog position, just like last year, when they finished last in their group with just 4 points in 6 games. But can they get their break through on the international stage this year? It would make for a great story.

The next German club I'm going to talk about is Schalke. Now, Schalke finished 3rd in the Bundesliga last season, thus they already have undertaken an underdog rule for this group stage. Their best run in the CL happened just two years ago, when they eliminated Italian powerhouse Inter Milan in the quarterfinals before falling to Man U in the semis. Considering that "Die Knappen" will be facing Arsenal, Olympiacos (Greece) and French champions Montpellier in their Group B, their chances are still good. But then again, easier said than done.

Last, but not least, Bayern Munich. Runner-ups in the Bundesliga, runner-ups in the German Cup, AND... (wait for it) losing to Chelsea in the 2012 CL Final on their own turf! Holy deja-vu, if you remember 2002 Bayer Leverkusen! Isn't that a tragedy? Though I think Bayer fans are still laughing their butts off over Bayern's hatrick of second-place finishes. "Now you know what it feels like." Am I right?

On a serious note, Bayern will probably have one of the easiest groups this year, facing Spanish side Valencia, Lille OSC of France, and Belarusian champs BATE Borisov in Group F, while keeping most of the core team players over the summer, and signing a few key additions, including Spanish star Javi Martinez. If Bayern keeps playing the way they did last year, and kick it up a notch with fresh new legs, a long run is possible once again.

Tough challenges ahead for all three German teams in the Champions League, but it will be exciting to see who will become the Kings of Europe this year.

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