Monday, 12 September 2011

Champions League 11/12 Preview - Group D

Group D

Olympique Lyonnaise

Last season:

3rd Ligue 1
Champions League, Round of 16

Manager: Remi Garde

Key Man: Michel Bastos

Stadium: Stade de Gerland, Capacity 40,494

The dominant force in French football over the last few years, have struggled to recreate their strong domestic form on the European stage. Semi-finalists two years ago, and with new manager Remi Garde in charge, and a new sense of excitement around the club, Lyon will look to challenge once again. They qualified for the group stage by beating Rubin Kazan 4-2 on aggregate.

Lyon are quite familiar team around the world, Lisandro Lopez, undoubtedly their best striker, will miss the next month of action through injury, but should return to have an impact in the latter half of the group matches. Michel Bastos, the Brazilian flying winger, is the man to watch out for.

Best Starting XI:

GNK Dinamo Zagreb

Last season:

1st Prva HNL
Croatian Cup winners
Europa League, group stages

Manager: Krunoslav Jurcic

Key Man: Milan Badelj

Stadium: Stadion Maksmir, Capacity 38,923

The Croatian champions have reached the Champions League group stage for the first time in 10 years, making a long awaited return. They beat Malmo 4-3 on aggregate over two legs in the last round.

Players to look out for in the Zagreb squad include; 24 year old midfielder Sammir, who already has 3 goals in 5 Champions League games this season. Also promising full back Sime Vrsaljko, and deep lying playmaker Milan Badelj who has been watched by some English Premiership clubs. Familiar faces in the squad include club captain Igor Biscan, who won the Champions League as a Liverpool player. Jerko Leko, who used to play for Monaco and defender Josip Simunic who spent nine years playing in Germany, with Hertha BSC.

Best Starting XI:

Real Madrid CF

Last season:

2nd La Liga
Copa Del Rey winners
Champions League, Semi-final

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Key Man: Cristiano Ronaldo

Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu, capacity 81,254

The biggest club in the world, what we can automatically tell is that they have closed the gap on rivals Barcelona, and I expect them to reach this year’s final. A manager with a game plan, and two Champions League titles to his name, Jose Mourinho will look to formulate a plan to get Real’s hands back on the trophy, which has eluded them for nine years.

They’ve added Fabio Coentrao and Nuri Sahin to their current crop of fantastic players, and the nine times champions will look to match winners Ronaldo, Di Maria and Ozil to take them further than last season.

Best Starting XI:

AFC Ajax

Last season:

1st Eredivisie
Champions League, group stage

Manager: Frank De Boer

Key Man: Christian Eriksen

Stadium: Amsterdam Arena, Capacity 52,960

The four times Champions League winners last collected the title in 1995. Since then, major European teams in leagues with bigger budgets and greater competition have lured away some of their brightest talents, causing them to no longer be the major European powerhouse they once were. They returned to group stage last season after spending a couple of years in the Europa League, and have now secured back to back seasons in the group stages.

The current squad, as usual, feature some of brightest talent in Europe. The key men in this team include; Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen, who is just 19 years old and already, has represented his national team at senior level, and was instrumental to their first Eredivisie win in seven seasons.

Icelandic Kolbeinn Sigþórsson is the main striker at the Amsterdam Arena at the moment. He signed from AZ in the summer and at the moment has 4 goals in 4 games for his new side. He has fantastic movement, and as his record shows, an eye for goal.

They no longer have Dutch number one Marten Stekelenburg, who has joined Roma, so Kenneth Vermeer is the new number one. New club captain Jan Vertonghen is a quality left footed centre half, who partners fellow countryman Toby Alderweireld, another great prospect.

Best Starting XI:

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