Arsenal have advanced through to the Champions League group stages for another consecutive season under Arsene Wenger after two thrilling legs against Fenerbahce in the qualification round. A 3-0 win in Istanbul and then a 2-0 win at the Emirates saw the Gunners progress rather easily win a 5-0 win on aggregate. But now we come to the real competition, where Champions League nights begin and the atmosphere roars around the stadium! Who could we face in the Champions’ League group stages this year?
Arsenal have been once again been put in Pot 1 alongside Europe’s elite in Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Porto and Benfica. Despite the lack of success from Arsenal over the past 8 years, to still be in Pot 1 surely shows we are still recognised as a big club, whilst Manchester City are still simmering low in Pot 3. To be honest, the way the coefficient is worked out by UEFA does us a really big favour.
So we can’t face anyone from pot 1, meaning we are relieved of the big guns for now, however there are several other very good teams lurking amongst the lower pots and so it certainly won’t be easy. In pot 2 we have Atletico Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, AC Milan, Schalke04, Marseille, CSKA Moskva, PSG, Juventus. There are some fantastic teams in this pot and so it certainly won’t be easy to get a comfortable group this time around. From this group I would probably like Marseille the most. A trip to Russia or Ukraine won’t be fun, whilst all the other teams are arguably at Arsenal’s level or maybe even above.
Next, the following teams feature in Pot 3: Zenit St. Petersburg, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, FC Basel, Olympiacos, Galatasaray, and Bayer Leverkusen. Again we see some very good teams in this pot, it’s going to be a very interesting Champions League this year. We cannot draw Manchester City, and I don’t really fancy another trip to Turkey and Galatasaray. I’m sure Arshavin wouldn’t mind seeing us in Russia, however the away trip would be horrible for us, so I would be quite happy to draw someone like Ajax or Leverkusen. No doubt as always though we will get Olympiacos because for some reason we always do!
Then finally in pot 4, we have: Copenhagen, Napoli, Anderlecht, Celtic, Steaua Bucharest, Viktoria Plzen, Real Sociedad, and Austria Wien. This is meant to be the weakest pot; however it’s still full of good opponents that could give Arsenal a run for their money. Napoli is the one to avoid, but I wouldn’t mind a trip to Belgium with Anderlecht.
Overall I’d like a group of Arsenal, Marseille, Ajax and Anderlecht, because they are worthy opponents that won’t be easy but we should get through anyway. It also isn’t bad considering travel because going across Europe can be difficult for the players to get off a flight, play the game and then fly back and play again at the weekend. Worst case scenario is Arsenal, PSG, Dortmund and Napoli. That would be an extremely difficult group and although it’s possible we would get through, I think every game would have the highest pressure.
The draw takes place later today, who would you like to see Arsenal drawn up against?