Well the day all soccer fans have been waiting for has arrived. After a shortened summer layoff due to the World Cup and the excitement surrounding the arrival of Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez to the NY Red Bulls of the MLS, the UEFA Champions League draw was announced as 32 teams will be vying once again for the title as the best soccer club in the world.
As always there are strong groups and on the other hand there are certain groups where one top team has an easy Sunday stroll to the knockout stages. And don't worry I am here to break down all the groups and get you ready for the best club tournament in the world.
The defending champs and the two teams that looked the strongest during the qualifying playoffs are included in a group that has a potential sleeper in FC Twente in what is the safest pick for "The Group of Death".
Watch out for Tottenham coming out strong after mounting a comeback to qualify off of a classic hat trick by striker Peter Crouch. Also look for Werder Bremen to experience a hang over after selling top player and World Cup breakout star Mesut Ozil.
This group can end in every possible scenario and look like a good prediction, but the obvious giant in this group is the defending champs in Inter Milan. On a team loaded with stars from the World Cup and being lead by one of the best coaches in the world they are a threat to repeat.
Advancing: Inter Milan, Tottenham
Hapoel Tel Aviv
A ho-hum group lacking in a famous club, but strong on talent and on pitch performance the theme in Group B is results. All are annual contenders in their countries club leagues and with the exception of Tel Aviv all have taken down top teams in recent years.
Look for Schalke to throw their name into the category of elite German clubs on the international cup stage. An afterthought for the most part they have proven they can hold their own against top clubs in their home country and with a headline win in the group stage they can bolster their image among soccer fans around the world.
Also look for Lyon to attempt to improve upon their semi-final run last year and for Hapoel Tel Aviv to try to continue their Cinderella run.
Advancing: Benfica, Lyon
Any group that features Manchester United is a guarantee in any tournament, but Group C also features Valencia in a group that appears easy to predict, but that's why they play the games and Rangers and Bursaspor aim to create some chaos at the top of the board at the end of stage.
Watch for Wayne Rooney to break his slump of no goals and for Mexican youth sensation Javier 'Chicharito" Hernandez to make his Champions League debut. Basically watch Manchester United and you should be good.
Advancing: Man U, Valencia
Leo Messi, the consensus best player in the world, and the core of the best national team in the world join forces once again as Barcelona looks to reclaim the title they failed to defend last year. They are joined in a group with Greek squad and spelling challenge to sportswriters everywhere Panathinaikos, Coppenhaggen and Barcelona killers last year, Russian squad Rubin Kazan.
I personally don't see any team that I would go against the grain to pick in this group as Barcelona and Panathinakos should advance, but Russian soccer is growing and after their disappointment in failing to qualify for the World Cup the club teams have to prove that Russia is a strong soccer country.
Advancing: Barcelona, Panathinaikos
Another two deep group as Bayern and Roma should prove why their league's are consider as two of the best in the world while picking on two teams coming from lower league's.
Look for Bayern Munich to try to deal with Robben's injury woes post-World Cup by relying on another German breakout star in Thomas Muller. Muller was the golden boot winner for the tournament's top goal scorer despite being infamously red carded and having to sit out of his country's semi-final matchup against Spain. He is a rising star in a tournament loaded with them.
Advancing: Bayern, Roma
A very tight draw between three very talented teams and a pretender in Zilina that is playing for pride. Chelsea is looking to continue it's strong performance as of late and with a weak slate as of late a sudden increase in competition may cause problems for some teams, but a team of Chelsea's stature should be able to deal with the challenge.
The second spot will likely be fought out by Spartak Moscow and Marsielle. As mentioned before Russian soccer is growing rapidly and Spartak Moscow is the league's crown jewel. Look for a very small window between second and third place in this group.
Advancing: Chelsea, Spartak Moscow
This and Group A are the clear groups to watch in terms of competitive soccer. With AC Milan and Real Madrid giving it two famous names at the top Auxerre and Ajax round out the group and are still top-flight clubs. There will be one team in this group that could easily advance in a weaker one.
Look for Real Madrid to have to quickly adjust as always with the influx of transfers that come to their team every year. This year they try to find a place in their system for Mesut Ozil who is known for his attacking style of midfield play. Real Madrid doesn't settle for merely advancing group stage and they have been spoiled with success look for more of the same this year.
Advancing: Real Madrid, AC Milan
I will wait for a few seconds for you all to spot out the team that has the easiest path to the Round Of 16 in this year's draw.
The Gunners reap the benefits that come with lady luck smiling at you and line up against three teams from smaller European league's in the throwaway Group of the table. While their opponents look to take advantage of only having to take out one top team, instead of two.
Look for max points for Arsenal and a tough fight for the second spot.
Advancing: Arsenal, FC Braga
There you have it your group stage preview for the 2010 UEFA Champions League stay posted at my profile for more soccer and other sports articles or follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/chaseruttig for more thoughts and analysis.
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