After Thursday’s Champions League draw, fans and analysts alike looked at each group as usual to determine which group in could be called the ‘Group of Death’.
So what group deserves the title in the 2013-14 season? The answer to this question is simple — it is Group F, which is comprised of last season’s runner-up Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Olympique Marseille and Napoli.
That said, some will try to make the argument that Groups B and or H is more deserving.
Group B is comprised of Real Madrid, Juventus, FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray. While many assume that the presence of Galatasaray makes this group tougher, the fact of the matter is that Galatasaray are not near the level as a team of Real Madrid and or Juventus, and their run into the quarterfinals of season was in part a result of fortune. In addition, the presence of FC Copenhagen means that there is at least one team in the group viewed as a clear-cut weak link.
Group H has also been referred to by some as a ‘Group of Death’ with Barcelona, Milan, Ajax and Celtic. While it is the only group this season to be able to say that each team has won the Champions League and or the European Cup at least once, the fact is that Ajax and Celtic are clearly a notch or two below Barcelona and Milan, even though they will give both teams tough games at home.
All that brings us back to looking to Group F and when examining the group, it becomes much clearer that this is indeed the Group of Death. Borussia Dortmund are the clear favorites in this group as they have the best and most talented team, the best manager, and the most relevant experience as they played in the final last season. After Dortmund, each of the other three teams has legitimate arguments to say they can advance onto the knockout stage of the tournament.
Arsenal, despite being a team that has frustrated its fans so far because of a lack of player acquisitions, still has a group of players who are good and have played year in and year out in Champions League play. Certainly, the Gunners with Arsene Wenger as manager has proven that they know how to advance out of the group stage. Olympique Marseille are a team who, despite not having played in the last edition of Champions League, still has a core group of players who did play in the 2011-12 edition with the team or another team.
Aside from being a solid team defensively, Marseille have some very good attacking players in the likes of Mathieu Valbuena, Dimitri Payet, the Ayew brothers Jordan and Andre, and Andre-Pierre Gignac, who be lethal upfront when looking to score goals. Marseille are a bit of a dark horse in this group for many, but if you’ve seen how they have played so far in Ligue 1, you will know why they have legitimate chance to advance.
Finally we have Napoli, who are coached by a man who has previously won the competition as a coach in Rafael Benitez. Benitez has proven to be a coach who knows how to coach in European games with his time at Liverpool and Valencia CF.
In addition to the coach, Napoli have a team with players who reached the round of 16 back during the 2011-12 season along with the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Callejon and Raul Albiol, who were part of a Real Madrid team that made back-to-back semifinal appearances in the past two editions of the Champions League.