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Sunday, December 18, 2011

2011/12 UEFA Champions League Predictions by Chris Behrens

by Chris Behrens for World Football Commentaries

Editor's Note

During the last UCL season, Chris successfully predicted all 16 teams in the group round phase and five out of eight in the round of 16. Then, he correctly predicted three out of four in the quarterfinal round and the final winner.
Total: 25/29 = 86%
2011/12 First Round: 11/16 = 69%
Round of 16 Draw: 14/15 February and 21/22 February 2012

Olympique de Lyon v. APOEL
Napoli v. Chelsea
Milan v. Arsenal
FC Basil v. Bayern Monaco
Bayer Leverkusen v. Barcelona
CSKA Moscow v. Real Madrid
Zenit San Petersburg v. Benfica
Marseille v. Internazionale

Group A

Bayern Munich's Dutch midfielder Arjen Robben (front ) and Hoffenheim's  defender Marvin Compper vie for the ball during the German first division Bundesliga football match TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs Bayern Munich at the Rhine-Neckar arena in Sinsheim, southwestern Germany, on October 1, 2011. The match ended with a 0-0 draw.
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Arjen Robben of Bayern Munich.

1). Bayern Munich (correct)

2). Manchester City (incorrect: Europa League)

3). Napoli (qualified in second)

4). Villarreal

Bayern Munich's form has been absolutely electric, both in league and showing glimpses in Europe. Their experience in Europe and spark plugs off the bench should put them comfortably (points-wise) through to the knockout round.

Second place is a very tough call, but I'm giving the nod to Manchester City with the incredible depth at Roberto Mancini's disposal in attack and wide players. Plus, Mancini's men have allowed less than a goal a game in the league thus far. Defense wins games and the Citizens' early European play jitters should wear off over time. Napoli should everyone provided Marek Hamsik and Edison Cavani stay healthy but they just aren't good enough. Villarreal are just simply not performing either, despite the undeniable talent of Giuseppe Rossi.

Group B

Lille's French midfielder Eden Hazard (R) vies with Lorient's Togolese midfielder Alaixys Romao during the French L1 football match Lille vs Lorient on September 24, 2011 at Lille metropole stadium in Villeneuve d'Ascq.
Getty Images logo Getty Images

Eden Hazard
of Lille.

1). Lille

2). Internazionale Milano (correct)

3). Trabzonspor (Europa League)

4). CSKA Moscow (qualified in second)

Strangely, the most intriguing, bizarre group thus far. Trabzonspor are top of the group, despite not even technically earning the right to be a part of the group stage. The Turkish side shocked the men in Inter Milan jerseys at the San Siro, but don't read into that as an indication that Trabzonspor is a great side; rather Inter has just declined in form very rapidly. I'm picking Lille to win the group because of their exciting attackers and one of the great young talents in the game, Eden Hazard. Wesley Sneijder's return from injury should lift Inter to advance on, but just barely. I just can't see Trabzonspor continuing a Cinderella story for the rest of the group games, so a trip to the Europa League should ease the pain. Traveling to CSKA Moscow might be tough, but their leaky defense offsets the travel pain.

Group C

Manchester United's English striker Wayne Rooney shoots during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Norwich City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England on October 1, 2011.
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Wayne Rooney of Manchester United.

1). Manchester United (incorrect: Europa League)

2). Basel (correct)

3). Benfica (qualified as group winner)

4). Otelul Galati

Manchester United's superiority over the rest of their minnow competition will soon show, despite the Red Devils opening two draws against Benfica and Basel (a last gasper at Old Trafford, mind you). The depth of the squad is too much to handle to not have United finish on top of the group. The fight for second place will be between Basel and Benfica, but I think Benfica will win the battle with a superior attacking lineup. Galati, well it's a miracle they are even in the group stage. Let's give them that and move on. Maybe they'll snag a draw or two, but they shouldn't be a threat to anyone in particular.

Group D

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L) vies with Espanyol's Mexican defender Hector Alfredo Moreno during the Spanish league football match Espanyol against Real Madrid on October 2, 2011 at the Cornella-El Prat stadium in Cornella.
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Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF.

1). Real Madrid (correct)

2). Lyon (correct)

3). Ajax (Europa League)

4). Dinamo Zagreb

Los Blancos have improved over last year's side thanks to the Special One instilling confidence in an impressive Karim Benzema and his additions of Fabio Coentrao and others. The team's staunch defense coupled with the world-class whining machine Cristiano Ronaldo should see the side clinch first place before their last game occurs. Lyon look to be on the downtrend, but Ajax's loss of Luis Suarez has seen the Dutch club lose a true leader on the pitch. Zagreb's inexperience sees them right where they should be: The bottom.

Group E

BOLTON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  Juan Mata of Chelsea shoots past Gary Cahill of Bolton Wanderers during the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Chelsea at the Reebok Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Bolton, England.
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Juan Mata of Chelsea FC.

1). Chelsea (correct)

2). Valencia (incorrect: Europa League)

3). Leverkusen (qualified in second)

4). Genk

Juan Mata has been just the creative catalyst Chelsea were seeking to give the team a breath of fresh air. The Blues irreplaceable experience at defense in Europe along with Villas-Boas' attacking mentality should see the English side march onward. Valencia's loss of Mata was big, but the team has endured bigger losses and coped (see David Silva and David Villa last year). Leverkusen is a bit too inconsistent to seriously challenge the group (one game draw with the Dortmund, the champions, another loss 4-1 at home to Koln?). Genk will collect a couple of points at home fixtures but don't have enough talent to surprise the other teams.

Group F

Marseille's french forward Andre Ayew (R) vies with Dortmund's German midfielder Sven Bender during the UEFA Champions league group F football match Olympique de Marseille vs Borussia Dortmund at the Vélodrome stadium in Marseille, southern France on September 28, 2011. Marseille won 3-0.
Getty Images logo Getty Images

Andrew Ayew of Marseille.

1). Marseille (correct)

2). Arsenal (correct)

3). Borussia Dortmund

4). Olympiacos (Europa League)

Marseille should top the group, in large part to the emergence of Andre Ayew and Arsenal's misery. The Gunners' woes are well documented and frankly becoming nauseous. The club was never going to be as good as they were when Fabregas, Nasri, and Clichy all graced the Arsenal jersey before exiting the Emirates doors for greener pastures. However, Wenger is still a great manager, despite his arrogance in his transfer policy and the club should squeak into the knockout rounds thanks to the incredible Szczesny between the posts. Dortmund certainly appear to be missing Nuri Sahin, who would have been invaluable to have right now. The German club appear to be a one-hit wonder, but it doesn't mean they aren't still an exciting young side to watch. Olympiacos simply are out of their depth but should make some headlines for their impressive home play.

Group G

Zenit St Petersburg's Igor Denisov (R) fights for the ball with Porto's Hulk during their Champions League Group G soccer match at the Petrovsky stadium in St. Petersburg September 28, 2011.
Reuters Pictures logo Reuters Pictures

for Porto.

1). Porto
(incorrect: Europa League)

2). Zenit St. Petersburg (correct)

3). Shakhtar Donetsk

4). APOEL (qualified as group winner)

APOEL are one of Europe's darlings right now after being on top of the group following two matchdays. The club scored a home win over Zenit and earned a surprise draw at the Shakhtar's typically impenetrable home fortress. Don't look too much into it. Porto's Hulk and the club's general winning mentality after last year's treble winning effort should see the club top this weak group. Zenit's side are very tough at home so look for them to scrape enough points together to move on in the group, despite Shakhtar's similar feel at home fixtures. For those who cry foul on the prediction of APOEL going from first to last, answer me these questions (without looking it up on Wikipedia): Which country does APOEL reside from, what formation does the club play in, and who are three players on the side? That's what I thought.

Group H

Sporting Gijon's midfielder Ivan Hernandez (L) vies with Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (R), during the Spanish league football match Sporting Gijon vs Barcelona, at El Molinon stadium, in Gijon, on October 2, 2011.
Getty Images logo Getty Images

Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona.

1). FC Barcelona (correct)

2). AC Milan (correct)

3). Viktoria Plzen (Europa League)

4). BATE Borisov

Amazingly, the Spanish side have gotten even better than last year's Champions League winning side, adding Alexis Sanchez and youth club member Cesc Fabregas back to the club. The tiki-taka play of the club are just too much to overcome as long as the majority of the squad stays healthy. Milan should have no problem disposing of the lesser Viktoria and BATE Borisov in their upcoming fixtures, even if they club do get injuries along the way. Neither Viktoria nor BATE are ready to be in the competition so it should just be a fight for third place. Frankly, does anyone care who gets third in the group besides these two teams involved?

About the Author

Chris Behrens is the Champions League Oracle at Soccerpro.com. Chris gets his all of his licensed soccer equipment at soccerpro.com. Please check out SoccerProse: A soccer blog for soccer players, fans, parents and coaches. You can follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisGBehrens

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1 comment:

Steve Amoia said...

Chris, thank you for another excellent preview and predictions of the Champions League.

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