Thursday, August 28, 2014

Man City Report - UEFA Champions League Draw

Manchester City stubbed their toe to start the season losing 3-0 to Arsenal in the FA Community Shield, a match that is thankfully meaningless because it merely pits last season's FA Cup Champion (Arsenal) v. the English Premier League ("EPL") Champion (Man City) in a "showcase" match.  For how poorly the FA Community Shield went for Man City, they started their 2014-15 EPL campaign well with a 2-0 road win over Newcastle and followed that up with a 3-1 home win over Liverpool in their first home EPL match of the season.

I am working on a mega review of the summer transfer window for Man City but given that today the groups were drawn for the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League, I thought I would give my quick Man City centric thoughts on the draw.  By way of background, this is the fourth season in a row (and overall) that Man City is participating in the UEFA Champions League. Much like the World Cup draw, teams are split into four groups with some rules governing (e.g. clubs from the same country cannot be drawn into the same group) how the groups are drawn. 

In 2011-12 Man City drew Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal in the group stage.  Although Man City played well in all six matches, they missed getting out of their group by one point.  In 2012-13 Man City drew Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Ajax in the group stage.   For how well Man City played in 2011-12 Champions League group stage, they played the exact opposite in 2012-13 Champions League group stage en route to finishing last in their group.

In 2013-14 Man City drew Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzeň in the group stage.  Third times a charm because Man City made it out of their group in the Champions League for the first time ever.  Unfortunately since Man City finished second in their group behind Bayern Munich and they drew Barcelona in the knockout stages.  Man City played decent in their home-and-home against Barcelona but ultimately Barcelona went through ahead of Man City.

Given that Man City won two of the last three EPL tittles, expectations are much higher for the club now than just a few seasons ago.  Given their domestic league success, European success is the next box that they need to check if they want to be considered one of the elite clubs in the world that starts with the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League.

Going into the group stage selections for 2014-15 UEFA Champions League, I decided to develop some power rankings for each group.  Just to make these rankings crystal clear, the first team in each pot is the team I would least like the Man City to be drawn against, so on and so forth.  It is sort of academic for Pot Two since the Man City cannot be drawn with any of those teams but I thought it would be a nice way for me to rank the teams as they are currently constituted.  Here are the four pots with my rankings (best to worst) within each pot:

Pot One: Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Benfica, and Porto

Pot Two: Manchester City, Paris St-Germain, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Zenit St Petersburg, Schalke, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Basel

Pot Three: Bayer Leverkusen, Liverpool, Ajax, CSKA Moscow, Athletic Bilbao, Sporting Lisbon, Galatasaray, and Olympiakos

Pot Four: Roma, Monaco, Anderlecht, APOEL Nicosia, BATE Borisov, Ludogorets Razgrad, Malmo, and Maribor.

This may seem redundant but that means going into the draw I thought the best possible result for Man City was Porto, Olympiakos, and Maribor while the worst possible result was Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen, and Roma.  Technically that draw would not be possible because Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen are both German clubs but you get the point of the thought experiment.  Again groups matter because only the top two teams from each group qualify for the knock-out stage.  Here is the full list of the groups for the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League:

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiakos, Malmo

Group B: Real Madrid, Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets

Group C: Benfica, Zenit, Bayer Leverkusen, AS Monaco

Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray, Anderlecht

Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, Roma

Group F: FC Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Ajax, APOEL Nicosia

Group G: Chelsea, Schalke, Sporting Lisbon, Maribor

Group H: FC Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao, BATE Borisov

Well as luck would have it, Man City got almost the worst draw possible.  For the second year in a row, Man City are in the same group as Bayern Munich and CSKA Moscow.  Instead of having Viktoria Plzeň as the third member of their group this year, unfortunately they drew Roma.

I don't want to sound too defeatist but given Bayern's quality that essentially relegates Man City to playing for second place in the group.  CSKA Moscow is always a tough draw and Roma was placed in Pot Four because they have a lower co-efficient according to UEFA based on their most recent results in European competition but are always a plucky team.  Of all the clubs in Pot Four UEFA coefficient aside, I honestly think Roma should at least be in Pot Three.

In the World Cup, teams play each other once.  In the Champions League, every team plays each other twice: once at home and once on the road for six matches total.  Hopefully Man City will be able to navigate the "Group of Death" as well as the USMNT did at the 2014 World Cup when they advanced out of the group in second place behind Germany but ahead of Ghana and Portugal.  For that to happen, Man City will need to take maximum points at home (three wins would mean nine points) while either winning one match or drawing two matches on the road.

The summer transfer window closes on Monday, September 1, 2014.  The business that Man City does in the last few days if the summer transfer window will go a long way to determining how they perform in the Champions League this season.  Due to running afoul of UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules, Man City was (essentially) forced to sell players in the summer transfer window than it purchased.  Make sure to check back after the summer transfer window closes for my full breakdown of all the moves that Man City made during the summer transfer window to help them chase the quadruple (Capitol One Cup, EPL, FA Cup, and UEFA Champions League) this season.

No comments:

Post a Comment