Todays Champions League draw, set in the millionaires playground of Monaco saw The Arsenal command a group with the following teams
The matches will take place on the following dates, meaning that by Christmas we will know our fortunes for the knockout stages.
|Group stage, Matchday 1||16/17.09.2008|
|Group stage, Matchday 2||30.09/01.10.2008|
|Group stage, Matchday 3||21/22.10.2008|
|Group stage, Matchday 4||04/05.11.2008|
|Group stage, Matchday 5||25/26.11.2008|
|Group stage, Matchday 6||09/10.12.2008|
In an ideal world, examining the possible permutations before this draw took place, if I could have rigged it we would have been playing in Holland, France, and Denmark. Germany, Scotland, Belarus and even Cyprus would have shown up on a longer list of favourable trips. Being seeded in the draw, along with the clubs talent and natural ambitions, means that we should always consider ourselves favourites to finish top 2 in any group; this year held the possibility of some real tough groups though. Munich, Fiorentina, and Fenerbache looked the toughest task possible on paper, but there was always the gruelling possibility of having to play two games deep in Eastern Europe, with unpredictable, teams, weather, and pitches.
As it played out we were the 4th team drawn and were placed in group G. There were no easy ties in pot 2, but the Italians and Munich were surely to be avoided, thankfully there were no long trips possible at this stage. Chelsea drew Roma, which should be fun for their fans in the eternal city, you imagine they might get along. Real Madrid against Juventus was the tie of the round so far. We drew Porto, who we know well from recent years; the Portuguese like to play football, but on form we can win that game home and away.
Pots 3 and 4 saw the potential for all sorts of oddities, from tricky teams to unknowns, spread from just about Asia to Portugal. From pot 3 we drew Fenerbache, this looks like a tough assignment; the Turks play good football in an imposing stadium and the journey won’t make life easy the following weekend. Group H was also shaping up nicely with last seasons Uefa cup champions joining Madrid and Juve, Celtic drew Manure, giving Glaswegians a chance to get reacquainted with Manchester, whilst the scouse luck continued as they looked to be getting the easiest draw going.
Pot 4 would round out the group, with the potential to make it look very tricky. We drew Kiev, all the way in the Ukraine with the potential for a snow filled winter night, fun for travelling fans and players alike. So, we have drawn 3 teams that we should beat, but there is certainly not an easy game in the group for sure. The away fixtures will be particularly tough and we might need to rely on our home form to get through. For our young side we could have had easier draws, there were marginally harder ones available also though. All through though there were quality teams, this always looked a strong field. Perhaps we could have drawn teams with less recent pedigree and experience in Europe, but that is the nature of this competition, it is as good as its gets. Now we just need to see how the fixtures break down in terms of dates and travel against our league matches, you always want to be home after an away game in Europe, but we will see. Keep the faith, this is well within our means.