Friday, August 27, 2010

Champions League Draw: Group F - Your Guide To Chelsea, Marseille, Spartak Moscow & Zilina

Aug 26, 2010 9:36:00 PM

Chelsea VS West Bromwich Albion, Premier 
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Join for a quick briefing on Group F of the upcoming UEFA Champions League.

Here we'll bring you the lowdown on the teams involved.


Group F
Spartak Moscow


Last season at home: Winners, English Premier League; Winners, FA Cup; Quarter-finalists, League Cup.
Last season in Europe: Champions League last 16
Coach: Carlo Ancelotti, since June 2009
Playing style: Physical and direct, look to dominate opponents
Strength: Prolific forward players with an eye for goal
Weakness: Technically suspect defense prone to occasional lapses
Key men: Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, John Terry
Realistic Objective: Champions League finalists
Starting XI (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Essien, Lampard; Anelka, Malouda, Drogba.


Last season at home: Winners, Ligue 1; Round of 32, Coupe de France; Winners, Coupe de la Ligue.
Last season in Europe: Third in their Champions League group, Europa League round of 16.
Coach: Didier Deschamps since summer 2009
Playing style: Likely to attack primarily down the flanks and leave a burly front player to cause the damage in the box.
Strength: Should be a team with plenty of goals in them.
Weakness: Lacking stability, cohesion and real European experience throughout the side.
Key men: Gabriel Heinze, Lucho Gonzalez
Realistic Objective: Quarter-finals
Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Mandanda; Azpilicueta, Mbia, Heinze, Taiwo; Kabore, Cisse; Remy, Lucho, A. Ayew; Gignac.


Last season at home:
Runners-up in Russian Premier League
Last season in Europe: N/A
Coach: Valery Karpin since April 2009
Playing style: Attractive short-passing game
Strengths: Lots of Brazilian talent, imaginative play, plenty of attacking options on the bench
Weaknesses: No decent goalkeeper, defensive errors, young team with no experience
Key men: Welliton, Alex, Ibson
Realistic Objective: Third and Europa League place
Starting XI (4-5-1): Pesyakov; Parshivlyuk, Pareja, Suchy, Makeev; Sheshukov, Ibson, McGeady, D.Kombarov, Alex; Welliton.


Last season at home: Winners, Slovak Corgon Liga; Third round, Slovak Cup
Last season in Europe: Eliminated in Europa League play-offs
Coach: Pavel Hapal since July 2009
Playing style: Uncomplicated and methodical, with good organization
Strength: The side’s cohesion makes them a sum far greater than their constituent parts
Weakness: They lack much individual quality to get them out of trouble
Key men: Martin Dubravka, Emil Rilke, Momodou Ceesay
Realistic Objective: Avoid finishing bottom of the group
Starting XI (4-4-2): Dubravka; Guldan, Pecalka, Placek, Mraz; Rilke, Bello, Jez, Majtan; Ovavec, Ceesay.


Chelsea would appear to have a fairly straightforward route to the knockout rounds of the 2010/11 Champions League. They will, however, have to negotiate Marseille, coached by one of their former players Didier Deschamps; Spartak Moscow, who could play the role of party-poopers in this group; and Slovakian champions MSK Zilina.

Carlo Ancelotti’s red-hot Blues will be happy with this draw, although they will not relish the tricky visits to Russia and Slovakia. The west London side scored 12 goals in their first two Premier League games: Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba were shown to be in particularly insatiable form, having notched up three goals each so far, with Nicolas Anelka and Salomon Kalou close behind with two each. Goals are always crucial in the Champions League, and Chelsea should have no problems scoring them - just don’t expect half a dozen goals every matchday. They will be runaway favourites to top the group.

The English giants’ closest rivals to top Group F will be French champions Marseille. L’OM had a tumultuous start to the new campaign when Mamadou Niang left the club, Hatem Ben Arfa threatened to walk, and they lost their opening Ligue 1 game. Things have improved for coach Deschamps, however, with the captures of Loic Remy and Andre-Pierre Gignac and they got back on track on the domestic front. Marseille failed to get out of the group stage last season, but they will feel confident of snapping up second spot in the group this time around.

Russian sides are always difficult and unpredictable and Spartak Moscow will fancy their chances to sneak that second place away from Marseille. Last season’s Russian Premier League runners-up are already halfway through their current domestic campaign and they could focus on European competition as they languish out of the top six at present in the Russian table. Playing at the Luzhniki Stadium in the dead of winter will be a tall order for any opponent, and coach Valery Karpin will be using that to his advantage.

Wrapping up the group is yet another league champion, but a debutant in Europe’s blue-ribbon club competition, Zilina. They comprehensively beat Sparta Prague 3-0 on aggregate in the play-off round to progress to the group stage for the first time in their history. They are very much the outsiders, but there have been surprises aplenty in the Champions League in the past, and while Zilina are always capable of causing an upset in a game or two, they will need more than that to qualify for the last 16.

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