Saturday, 3 September 2011

Champions League 11/12 Preview - Group A


Bayern Munich

Last season:
Budesliga, 3rd
Round of 16 – Lost to Inter Milan 3-3 on away games

Manager: Jupp Heynckes

Key Man: Arjen Robben

Stadium: Allianz Arena – Capacity: 69,901

Bayern Munich have been drawn in the toughest group of this season campaign, and will look to do all they can do to reach the 2012 final, as it takes place at the clubs home ground.

They had a disappointing 2010/11 season, finishing third behind champions Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Leverkusen, while The Bavarians sacked manager Louis Van Gaal in the final third of the season with caretaker manager Andries Jonker securing that coveted final qualification spot.

Club president Uli Honeß instilled Jupp Heynckes for his third spell in charge as manager. He guided his side through the Champions League qualification third round by comfortably beating Swiss side FC Zurich 3-0 over two legs.

Look out for new signings Manuel Neuer, Rafinha, Takashi Usami and Jerome Boateng.

Best Starting XI:

Manchester City

Last season:
Premiership, 3rd
Europa League, round of 16, lost 2-1 on aggregate to Dynamo Kiev

Manager: Roberto Mancini

Key Man: David Silva

Stadium: Etihad Stadium, Capacity 46,802

The richest club in the world have continued their unbelievable spending spree as they look to compete on all fronts and mainly in preparation for their first ever Champions League campaign. They have recruited Sergo Kun Aguero from Atheltico Madrid, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy from rivals Arsenal, as well as promising defender Stefan Savic.

They have a tough group, facing experienced Champions League sides in Bayern and Villarreal, as well as newcomers Napoli, but will look to cause quite a stir and live up to their dark horses tag. They finished 3rd in the Premier League last season, ascertaining the final automatic qualification slot.

Best Starting XI:

SSC Napoli

Last season:
Serie A, 3rd
Europa League, round of 16 lost 6-1 on aggregate to Bayern Leverkusen

Manager: Walter Mazzarri

Key Man: Edinson Cavani

Stadium: Stadio San Paulo, Capacity 60,240

This is Napoli’s first season in the Champions League, with Italian Walter Mazzarri in charge of the side who finished behind AC and Inter Milan in the league.

Look out for new signing Gokhan Inler in midfield, alongside 24 year old Marek Hamsik; who is one of the best playmakers in Italian football. Up front, is undoubtedly Napoli’s biggest asset, with the sensational Edinson Cavani, who scored a total of 33 goals in 47 appearances last season, and was a member of the Uruguayan national team who won the Copa America this summer. Up front, he is partnered by Argentinean striker Ezequiel Lavezzi and Macedonian Goran Pandev, who was a 2010 winner with Inter Milan.

Best Starting XI:

Villarreal CF

Last season:
La Liga 4th
Europa League, Semi-finals lost 7-4 on aggregate to FC Porto

Manager: Juan Carlos Garrido

Key Man: Giuseppe Rossi

Stadium: El Madrigal, Capacity 25,000

Villarreal played some of the best football in Spain last season, but went slightly unnoticed as all eyes seemed to be focused on the duopoly at the top of the La Liga table. However they got their just rewards, finishing 4th in the league, and attaining Champions League qualification.

Villarreal had a stuttering finish towards the end of their league campaign as a tough Europa League challenge took its toll on Juan Carlos Garrido’s small squad. They have strengthen this summer with two marquee signings; Cristian Zapata from Udinese and Javier Camunas.

They’ve sold midfielder Javier Matilla to Real Betis, experienced full back Joan Capdevila to Benfica, while cashing in on playmaker/winger Santi Cazorla for €19 million to rich boys Malaga. The squad is thinner, so they will rely on players from their B side or will have to do some business before the transfer window closes.

Villarreal made it into the group stage, overcoming a difficult two legged tie against Danish side Odense. They surprisingly lost the first leg 1-0, but won the return leg 3-0 and secured qualification.

Best Starting XI:

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