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Champions League Draw in Full

The draw in full

Group A: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Bordeaux , Maccabi Haifa

Group B: Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Besiktas, Wolfsburg

Group C: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Marseille, FC Zurich

Group D: Chelsea, Porto, Atletico Madrid, Apoel FC

Group E: Liverpool, Lyon, Fiorentina, Debreceni

Group F: Barcelona, Internazionale, Dynamo Kiev, FC Rubin Kazan

Group G: Sevilla, Rangers, VfB Stuttgart, Unirea Uriziceni

Group H: Arsenal, AZ Alkmaar, Olympiakos, Standard Liege

Analysis:

Group A:  Group A will be a very interesting group to watch unfold.  Juventus, Bayern and Bordeaux all have a great chance of reaching the knockout rounds, but it may all come down to how each of them play Maccabi Haifa – the Israeli champions.  In my eyes, whoever drops points to Haifa, doesn’t make it to the next round.

Prediction:

Bayern Munich and Juventus progress

Group B: Manchester United will be disappointed with all the traveling they will be doing, especially to Turkey where the hooligans go mad every time United come to town.  Wolfsburg is also going to be a bigger threat than they’re given credit for, watch for them to nick points in group play.  The Russians will be a stingy opposition and may steal points in the Motherland, but away from home may struggle to find their feet.  Wolfsburg are my dark horse of the tournament.  I don’t think for a second they deserved the fourth pot, but now find themselves with a tall order.  They can push for the knockout round, and their match against CSKA Moscow will make or break their run.

Prediction

Manchester United and Wolfsburg progress

Group C: Group C, along with F, is a “group of death”.  Somehow, Madrid dodged the British bullet (which makes for a more exciting knockout stage!), and they should find themselves in the knockout round before too long.  AC Milan have had a dodgy start to their campaign, and if they don’t start clicking could start dropping points in group play.  Marseille have been a tough nut to crack in years past, and with the addition of Morientes to their attacking play, will give Milan and Madrid a test.

Prediction:

Real Madrid and AC Milan to progress

Group D: The boys from London should have a spot in the knockout round if they keep their heads about them.  The only thing I would worry about is that they’ve been giving up goals early in the EPL and come from behind to win it, and may well do so against more formidable sides in this competition who won’t be so forgiving.  Atletico are always impressive to watch and I don’t see anyone but those two making it past this group.

Prediction:

Chelsea and Atletico Madrid to progress

Group E: Liverpool can’t have too many complaints here, they were grouped with great teams in Lyon and Fiorentina, but, to be honest, they should be able to cope.  The Merseysiders should claim the top spot, but the second one is completely up for grabs.  Fiorentina and Lyon are both squads that have firepower up top (Mutu and Govou) and can work to break down their opponents.  Fiorentina would love to have Melo back in their squad as I have no doubt he’d love to break up the Frenchmen in attack.

Prediction:

Liverpool and Lyon (by a hair!) to progress

Group F: This is it.  The group of death. We have the reigning Spanish and European champions as well as the Italian and Ukrainian league winners.  I’ve had to keep my mouth shut all day so as not to drool all over my desk.  Mourinho vs. Guardiola.  Eto’o vs. Pique.  Ibrahimovic vs. Cordoba.  Chocolate vs. Vanilla.  Coke vs. Pepsi.  Bert vs. Ernie.

Prediction:

It’s not going any other way.  Barcelona on top, Inter taking second.

Group G: My pick (and yours if you have sense) for the tamest group.  Not a lot to gawk at here.  Rangers and Sevilla will probably make the next stage, as I don’t think Stuttgart have enough bite to make any marks here.  Unirea Uriziceni will just be happy to be in the competition, and will love the fact that they have be thrown into this group.

Prediction:

Rangers and Sevilla to progress (in that order)

Group H: Arsenal may have the best of the English teams, and Wenger will be hard pressed to find something to complain about (if you can believe that!).  But remember the torrid time Standard Liege gave Liverpool last season in the qualifying rounds, as they could give group H some trouble.  Gunners aside, this group is fairly balanced.  Each team will fancy their chances at nabbing the last spot into the knockout stages.

Prediction:

Arsenal and Standard Liege to progress


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Ferguson Finds Home In EPL
July 17, 2009, 12:23 PM
Filed under: premier league, Transfer | Tags: , ,

– SportingLife

Birmingham have signed Barry Ferguson from Rangers for £1.25million.

The Scottish champions first accepted a bid from the Barclays Premier League outfit as Blues boss Alex McLeish stepped up his long-standing interest in the former Scotland captain.

The Veteran Scotsman is now a done-and-dusted Birmingham player.

The Veteran Scotsman is now a done-and-dusted Birmingham player.

And the 31-year-old duly completed the move, signing a three-year contract to return to England for the first time since an injury-plagued spell at Blackburn.

Ferguson’s time at Rangers soured last season when he was stripped of the captaincy following a breach of discipline while on international duty.

He returned for the final three games of the season but his future remained in doubt. He joins compatriots McLeish, Garry O’Connor and James McFadden at St Andrews.

McLeish managed Ferguson during his time with Scotland and Rangers and believes the midfielder still has much to offer.

“For me, Barry is a midfielder at his peak,” he told the club’s website.

“I don’t think 31 is too old for a central midfielder of great experience.

“Players like Gordon Strachan and Gary McAllister continued playing into their late 30s and these were guys who were not afraid of the ball.

“I think Barry can play on for a good few years yet.

“He’s a guy that always turned up for work. By that I mean that his appearances over the years have always been fantastic.

“Barry has got the culture of the true-grit Brit, who will go through brick walls to play football. He has a winning mentality, and that is proven by all the winners’ medals he has won.”

McLeish told the Rangers website, http://www.rangers.co.uk: “Barry has played at a very high level for Rangers, in big games.

“Maybe the Scottish league is not the strongest, certainly not anywhere near the Premier League, but he’s played a good level of games, in the Champions League, the Celtic fixture and cup finals.

“I think he has got unfinished business in England.

“He started with a bad injury at Blackburn, then fought his way back to fitness, and the reports I got at that time, before he came back to Rangers, was that he was playing extremely well.

“But maybe he didn’t stay long enough for people to make a full assessment of him. So I think in that respect Barry will want to come down with something to prove.”

McLeish added: “They have barely started pre-season training but again, from the reports I’ve had, he’s been up there in the fitness testing they have done. He’s always been a pretty fit guy.”

Analysis:  Barry Ferguson, who was banned from International play ever again by Scotland, has penned a deal for Birmingham.  He’s a great acquisition for the Blues, as he is a veteran of football both domestic (spell at Blackburn) and abroad in Scotland.  He’ll bring composure and balance to the Blues midfield, and I think McLeish will be pleased with himself and his new signing.  He’s not a goal scorer but he’s a natural leader (even if he gets booted from International play).