Manchester United have had a very kind draw. Shakhtar have been a very good Champions League team in the past few years, but compare what they had in the group stage last year to what they've got now: they've lost their three best players. That simply has to hurt, and I think they'll struggle.
Leverkusen have had a good start to the season, but with German football there's no getting away from the fact that the top two teams are very, very good and the rest have a long way to go to catch up. I don't think United will have any trouble with that. The same goes for Real Sociedad's place in Spanish football too.
That said, there is little bit of danger for United in that if they lose a couple of away games early on then they could find themselves in trouble. They used to be a team you'd confidently expect to make the Champions League semi-finals year-in, year-out, but they're just not at that level any more.
Manchester City fans might be tempted to bemoan their bad luck in drawing Bayern Munich, but the fact is that their luck is self-inflicted. They've had two years in the Champions League to win enough games to have been seeded higher by now, but the fact is that their European campaigns have been an absolute disaster. There's no other way of putting it. Okay, their groups have been tough, but it's still of their own doing.
That said, I like Manuel Pellegrini, and he knows what he's going. He'll have a European playing style that will be different to his Premier League approach, and that will help them - and it better, because they HAVE to go through.
I'm not saying Pellegrini will get fired if they don't make it out of the group stage - City seem to have settled on a man who brings a lot of calmness to the role and I think they're determined to stick with him - but after two years of failing it just can't happen again. City need to be up with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich with the money they've spent, and it should be their time.
The Bayern clash almost speaks for itself, but Viktoria Plzen will be an interesting one. They're a new team who've come from nowhere, but they'll be a handful and will go all out to make it an open and entertaining game. As for CSKA Moscow? Well, it's no small achievement to be the best team in Russia, but in all honesty City should be better.
Chelsea have drawn three solid European teams in Schalke, Basel and Steaua Bucharest, but they're no more than that. Schalke are a shadow of what they were a few years ago, while the other two sides are also at least a level or two below.
They're a banker to win the group, simple as that; it can't be any other way. I don't see any danger to them whatsoever, even complacency.
It'll be very different for Arsenal. I'm not generally a fan of French teams in Europe - though the money that PSG and Monaco have spent might change that soon - and Marseille seem set to finish bottom of the group.
Borussia Dortmund, on the other hand, are very strong, and they play every game to win. Arsenal won't beat them in either game; I'm not saying they'll lose both, but they won't get three points off them.
With Rafa Benitez at the helm Napoli will be very tough too. You can say what you like about him, but he has a wealth of experience in the English game, and if you were ever to need a coach to give a tactical masterclass in European football, he's your man.
Some people chuckled and said "poor old Celtic" when the Scottish champions drew Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax, but I don't agree at all. They'll know as well as anyone that getting through the group stage last year was a one-off, and if you're a team with no chance of winning the competition then why wouldn't you be delighted to be in a group like that?
Parkhead will be rocking for all the home games, and the fans will travel in their thousands to those three wonderful European cities. Celtic will have a whale of a time and enjoy three great away nights - and then finish bottom of the group!
Well, they probably will at least, but you really never know. Celtic will be playing free of all expectations and they might have a chance of getting something off AC Milan, who aren't the European powerhouse they used to be. And even more so Ajax: they have been a fabulous European side in the past but they've really been struggling to compete financially in recent years, and yet again this summer they're being forced to offload their best players. Celtic are up against it, but they'll have a chance of at least finishing third and grabbing a Europa League spot.
As for the rest of the draw, the one that really jumps out is Real Madrid and Juventus drawing each other in group B. Depsite their two titles in Italy Juventus still have a little way to go before they're back up at the level of the best sides in Europe, but the Real-Juve matches will be great games and could be classics.
Then there's Galatasaray in the group as well. Their homes ties are guaranteed to be great games with amazing - and intimidating - atmospheres, and none of the other clubs will want to go to Turkey. But the issue I have is that Turkish teams never seem to go away from home and win, and that's what you need to do to get out of the groups. You never know though: maybe this time, with the likes of Wesley Sneijder having joined, this could be their year to put that right.
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