|UEFA Champions League Groups|
|Group A||Group B|
|Group C||Group D|
The 2013/14 UEFA Champions League will be the 58th season of Europe's premier club football tournament and the 21st season in its current UEFA Champions League format. The Final of the 2014 UEFA Champions League will be played on -- May at the --- in ---, the home ground of ---- at --- local time.
Group C: Juventus : Ajax : Bayern Munich : Maccabi Tel Aviv
· Third in Serie A
· Champions League pedigree: Winners 1985, 1996
The Star Turn - Pavel NedvedNedved has a burning desire to finally play in a Champions League Final after he was denied the chance to shine on the biggest stage two seasons back. A cruel suspension kept the little Czech midfielder out of the 2003 Final against Milan and he may just have had the class to change the outcome of what was a dour 0-0 stalemate. New boss Fabio Capello will use Nedved as his central play maker and he will be hoping to recapture his best form after falling off his mighty pedestal over the last 12 months. Everyone in Europe knows what this guy is capable of and he is quite capable of recapturing that glorious form.
The Weak Link - The defence
Juve creaked at the back all the way through last season and the fact that they shipped an alarming total of 42 goals in Serie A confirmed as much.
They got away with their defensive flaws in the early stages of the Champions League last season as a glut of goals sent them through to the knock-out stages, but when the strikers failed to fire against Deportivo La Coruna in the round of 16, their hopes were dashed in no uncertain terms.
The arrival of the tactically astute Capello, not to mention the signing of Fabio Cannavaro should help, but will it be enough?
The New Faces - Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Fabio Cannavaro
Juve's two deadline day buys were among the more eye-catching in the European game and there is no doubting the duo's class as they look to impress at the Stadio Delle Alpi.
Cannavaro's arrival could be a masterstroke, but there are huge doubts over his ability to get through the season after a lengthy spell with injury problems. Real Madrid are said to have opted out of a move for the Italian centre-back due to fitness doubts, so, considering they opted for Jonathan Woodgate, he must be a gamble.
As for Ibrahimovic, he has scored goals aplenty with Ajax in Holland and the challenge will be attempting to convert that form into a league where defences are notoriously tough.
The Coach - Fabio Capello
The master tactician of Serie A has plenty of options after stunning the Italian football scene by taking over the reigns of mighty Juventus.
Signing Ibrahimovic means he may have trouble using all his best striking options and he may look to use an attacking 4-3-2-1 set-up to incorporate the enigmatic Swede. With David Trezeguet and Alessandro Del Piero, it looks to be a forward line brimming with goals. However, Capello may not be so adventurous away from home and Ibrahimovic may be the one to miss out if he reverts to a 4-4-2 set-up.
Verdict: Italy's Old Lady should be a formidable force once again under Capello.
· Dutch League champions
· Champions League pedigree: Winners 1971, 1972, 1973, 1995
The Star Man - Wesley Sneijder
Exceptional young central midfielder who enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame in the second-half of the 2002-03 season. One moment he was playing for Ajax reserves; the next, he was a mainstay of the Amsterdammer first team, playing with incredible maturity in a Champions League quarter-final against AC Milan and making his debut for Holland against Portugal . The 20-year-old has all the assets of a great: magnificent two-footed passing ability, vision, industry, inch-perfect set-piece delivery and a piledriver shot. Born in bred in the Dutch town of Utrecht - like his idol Marco van Basten - he joined the famous Ajax academy at the age of just seven. Quite superb in Holland's 6-0 victory over Scotland in the second-leg of Euro 2004 play-offs, opening the scoring with a fierce drive from outside the area and having a hand in four others.
The Weak Link - The Attack
Although Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not always enjoy the best of working relationships with his Ajax teammates and coach Ronald Koeman, there can be little doubt that he will be badly missed in the wake of his recent sale to Juventus.
Ajax clearly are short of top-quality firepower. Since arriving from Genk a year ago, Belgian international Wesley Sonck has failed to live up to expectations, while the lumbering Greek Yannis Anastasiou is simply not technically-gifted enough to cut it. Young Daniel De Ridder looks promising but he lacks European know-how.
Ironically at a club which places great emphasis on wing-play, Ajax are struggling a little in this sector too. Tom De Mul, Tom Soetaears and Ioan Mitea all are skilful and quick but do not deliver constantly.
The New Face - Mauro Rosales
Ajax are expecting great things from the Argentine right-winger, who they signed from Newell's Old Boys for £3.3 million shortly before the close of the summer transfer window.
Known as 'Maurito' to fans in Argentina , he is a bundle of electricity, full of pace, trickery and confidence. Loves to take on defenders and he has the rare ability to whip in crosses with pace and accuracy.
In the Newell's first-team for the past five years, he was a key member of the Argentine side which won gold at the Athens Olympics, playing in six games there and scoring once.
The Coach - Ronald Koeman
Legendary Dutch libero who quit Viteese Arnhem mid-way through the 2001-02 season to take over from the sacked Co Adriaanse as Ajax boss. Immediately made an impact, transforming a previously under-achieving squad into Dutch League winners. Loves attacking football but has added a touch more discipline to the traditional free-wheeling Ajax style.
The European Cup has been a happy hunting ground for Koeman. He was a member of the PSV Eindhoven side which won it in 1987-88 and struck the winning goal for Barcelona in their victory over Sampdoria in the 1991-92 Final at Wembley.
One of the few players to have played for all of Holland 's Big Three clubs - Ajax , PSV and Feyenoord. A European champion with Holland at Euro 88.
Verdict: They are in a tough group. Touch and go whether they progress to the next round.
· Second in the Bundesliga.
· Champions League Pedigree: 1974, 1975, 1976, 2001
The Star Man - Michael Ballack
The most naturally-talented German player to emerge for many a long year. Always elegant, able to perform in a variety of midfield roles, a sublime passer of the ball and a masterly finisher of chances with either head or foot. Hailing from eastern Germany, he learnt his football at Motor Karl-Marx Stadt and Chemnitzer FC before moving west to develop further at Kaiserslautern and Bayer Leverkusen, inspiring the latter to the runners-up spot in the 2001-02 Champions League. Joined Bayern that summer for a knock-down £4 million. He has often been criticised for not being a leader on the pitch. But new Germany boss Jurgen Klinsmann obviously does not agree; he has just made him captain.
The Weak Link - Keeper
Bayern keeper Oliver Kahn came in for a torrent of criticism for allowing a rather tame Roberto Carlos free-kick to slip under his body in a second round Champions League tie earlier this year and that was not the only present he offered the opposition last term.
With tales of his marriage break-up and affair with a younger woman constantly featuring in the German tabloids, Kahn is becoming increasingly irritated with the media's apparent obsession with him and has threatened to move to a foreign club if the hacks do not respect his privacy.
The 36-year-old is under pressure like never before and Jurgen Klinsmann's decision to take the national team captaincy from him was a further blow to his pride. It's a make or break season for Oli.
The New Face - Lucio
Over the last couple of years, rumours were rife that Bayer Leverkusen's outstanding Brazilian centre-back was bound for Real Madrid or Barcelona . But the trails were false. Instead of heading to the Spanish Liga, the 26-year-old opted to stay in the Bundesliga, joining Bayern in a £8 million deal.
Very much a multi-dimensional player, he combines athleticism, strength and intense competiveness with bags of footballing ability. He long-striding runs upfield are the stuff of legend, his distribution is sound and he hits a mean free-kick as well.
First made a name for himself at leading Brazilian club side Internacional of Porto Alegre, moving to Leverkusen early in 2001.
The Coach - Felix Magath
Hard-nosed ex-Stuttgart boss brought in to replace Ottmar Hitzfeld at the Bayern helm. Has a triple brief: to regain the Bundesliga title lost to Werder Bremen last term, to at least reach the last-eight of the Champions League and to knock the big egos into the dressing room into shape.
A sergeant major type of coach, the 51-year-old does not regard discipline as optional. Players who do not toe the line risk major problems. Famous for his tough physical training sessions, which are compared to those of an elite miliitary force.
Ironically, he was a cultured midfield general in his playing days, starring for West Germany and Hamburg . Struck the wining goal in Hamburg 's surprise 1-0 victory over Juventus in the 1983 Champions' Cup Final in Athens .
Verdict: Potential quarter-finalists.
· Second in Israeli League.
· Champions League pedigree: First appearance in competition.
The Star Man - Ishmael Addo
Effervescent young Ghanaian frontrunner bought from Maccabi Netanya earlier this year, he was one of the main men as MTA reached the Champions League for the first time in their history, on target in their 2-1 win away to PAOK Salonika in the first-leg of the third qualifying round. Small, pacy and a good dribbler, the 21 year-old is a born predator, always on the look out for scoring opportunities and a very calm finisher indeed. Began his career in 1999 at top Ghanaian side Hearts of Oak, subsequentlly topping the African nation's scoring charts for three consecutive years early in the new millennium. Spent a couple of months at French First Division side Bastia in 2002 without the Corsicans offering him a permanent contract. Represented Ghana at the recent Athens Olympics.
The Weak Link - The Back Line
Usually adopting a safety-first 4-5-1 formation, the modus operandi of MTA coach Nir Klinger in the Champions League will be to soak up opposition pressure and hope to strike on the counter-attack. But do Maccabi have the defensive wherewithal to resist the likes of Bayern Munich, Ajax and Juventus?
In truth, probably not. While their back-four is full of athleticism and determination, they are singularly short of big match experience and ultimately, that may prove their downfall.
Losing talented stopper Tal Ben-Haim to Bolton this summer was a major blow.
Current centre-backs, the Brazilian Mauricio Giovannoni and Avri Strull are both combative and strong but can be turned relatively easily, while full-backs the 23-year-old Ghanaian John Painstil on the right and Salim Abu Siam on the left, can be exposed by genuine pace. Siam also has a disciplinary problem, picking up too many unnecessary bookings.
The New Face - Elad Bunfeld
Skilful goalscoring midfielder bought from Hapoel Be'er Sheva 48 hours before the UEFA transfer deadline. Aged 24, he distributes the ball with precision, has lots of energy and is especially good at making late runs into the box.
Almost single-handedly carried Hapoel to the Israeli Cup Final in 2003, putting on a masterclass in a 3-0 semi-final win over Maccabi Haifa. Unfortunately, his side lost the Final on penalties to Hapoel Ramat-Gan.
Boasts a German pasport and says he is especially looking forward to facing Bayern Munich in the Champions League, describing the prospect as 'dreamy'.
The Coach - Nir Klinger
Former captain of Israel who was an instant hit as Maccabi boss, steering them to the domestic league title in his first season in charge in 2002-03.
A stopper or midfielder in his playing days, he won 77 full caps for Israel between 1987 and 1997 and spent eight years playing for MTA.
Very much a disciplinarian; earlier this year he shipped out big name Israeli stars Tal Banin and Avi Nimni following bust-ups with him.
|GRUPO A||GRUPO B||GRUPO C||GRUPO D|