Analysis – Champions League takes on less predictable look

MONACO (Reuters) – The Champions League group stages took on a less predictable look after Thursday’s draw, helped by UEFA’s decision to tweak the seeding system.

Only Group A, where Paris St Germain and Real Madrid should steam through, and Group F, set to be dominated by Bayern Munich and Arsenal, appeared to be foregone conclusions after the hour-long ceremony in Monaco.

Other sections looked far more difficult to call, particularly Group D where anything could happen between Juventus, Manchester City, Sevilla and Borussia Moenchengladbach.

In past years UEFA have based their seeding system for the draw on club coefficients, a complex ranking based on results in European competition.

This time European football’s governing body brought in a change, the top seeds were the champions of the eight most successful nations in club competition.

Real Madrid, who lead the club coefficients but were not La Liga winners last season, were one of the eight second seeds while Dutch league champions PSV Eindhoven, 37th in the coefficients, were one of the eight top seeds.

Whether by accident or design, the draw could pump a little more excitement into a competition that, recently in the group stages, has been short on romance and shock results.

Last season all but five places in the round of 16 were taken before the final round of matches in the group stages.

In addition, 11 teams have reached the round of 16 for the last two seasons in a row.


This time the thrills could start in Group B featuring Manchester United, VfL Wolfsburg, CSKA Moscow and PSV.

PSV will want to show Dutch club football is alive and kicking, Wolfsburg were Bundesliga runners-up last season and CSKA came through a dramatic playoff against Sporting Lisbon.

While United should go through, they will not want to depend on getting a result in their final match at Wolfsburg.

Atletico Madrid should progress from Group C, leaving Galatasaray and Benfica to scrap for second place with Kazakh outsiders Astana adding an exotic touch.

There are no clear favourites in Group D where Serie A champions and last season’s runners-up Juventus could struggle after the departures of Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal.

City’s poor European record has shown that Premier League status and riches do not guarantee Champions League success.

Europa League winners Sevilla are seasoned campaigners with a talented coach in Unai Emery and outsiders Moenchengladbach are capable of springing an upset.

Holders Barcelona should cruise through Group E but there is likely to be a fascinating battle for second place between Bayer Leverkusen and AS Roma.

BATE Borisov of Belarus are unlikely to qualify but could throw a spanner in the works of Leverkusen and Roma, having beaten Bayern Munich and Athletic Bilbao in recent years.

Chelsea should dominate Group G although Porto are always dangerous opponents with a knack of replenishing the team after selling their top players.

Porto, however, are by no means certain to get the better of Dynamo Kiev having recently sold Alex Sandro, Danilo and Jackson Martinez.

Last season Kiev wrested the Ukrainian Premier League title from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Zenit St Petersburg, who as Russian league champions avoided the likes of Barcelona and Bayern, drew Valencia, Olympique Lyonnais and Ghent in Group H where two of the first three have a realistic chance of advancing.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)