Monday, 12 September 2011

Champions League 11/12 Preview - Group E

Group E

Valencia CF

Last season:

La Liga 3rd
UEFA Champions League, round of 16

Manager: Unai Emery

Key Man: Roberto Soldado

Stadium: Mestalla, capacity 55,000

Perennial underachievers in the Champions League in recent years, many fans are disappointed that the Spanish club have failed to reach the latter stages on the tournament of the competition for some time, which has led to some unfair extra pressure on manager Unai Emery.

This season, Valencia have strengthened and have a lot more options going forward and more strength in depth. Watch out for star striker Roberto Saldado, and playmaker Pablo Piatti, who is seen as the replacement for Juan Mata, who has joined Chelsea.

Best Starting XI:

Chelsea FC

Last season:

Premier League runners-up
Champions League, quarter-finals

Manager: Andres Villas-Boas

Key Man: Fernando Torres

Stadium: Stamford Bridge, capacity 41,841

Chelsea has a fresh face in charge, and have started the Premier League season strongly, although not setting the world alight. Villas-Boas’ side have been quietly picking up results and it’s interesting to see how they’ll fair in a very tricky group. Away trips to Leverkusen and Valencia will be tough ties; while Michael Ballack and Juan Mata will both be interesting plot twists as both face their respective former clubs.

I’ve named Fernando Torres the key man, because for £50 million he has to start reproducing at some level. Torres could be one of Villas-Boas’ biggest achievements is he can get the Spaniard firing again.

Best Starting XI:

Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Last season:

Bundesliga runners-up
Europa League, round of 16

Manager: Robin Dutt

Key Man: Sidney Sam

Stadium: BayArena, capacity 30,210

The Bundesliga runners-up will believe they have a great chance of making it out of the group and into the knockout stages for the first time in six years. Their side is full of quality and technical players, strong going forward, but this team leaked 44 goals in the league last season, the third most in the Budesliga top 10.

Look out for winger Sindey Sam and Brazilian playmaker Renato Augusto. Former Chelsea fans favourite Michael Ballack will make his return to Stamford Bridge.

Best Starting XI:

KRC Genk

Last season:

1st Belgian Pro League

Manager: Mario Been

Key Man: Kevin De Bruyne

Stadium: Cristal Arena, capacity 24,956

Don’t expect too much from the Belgium champions, as they will have a tough task on their hands to make it out of the group. They beat both Partizan Belgrade and Maccabi Haifa on route to the Champions League group stage.

Watch out for left winger Kevin De Bruyne who was linked with a transfer to Chelsea in the summer.

Best Starting XI:

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