The Champions League came into sharp focus yesterday amid a shambolic draw in Monaco. I don’t know where UEFA got the presenters from but I hope they kept the receipt; they deserve a refund – the goods were barely fit for purpose.
We got a kind draw, not as nice as Leicester’s by a long way but nowhere near as awful as Manchester City’s. CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen and AS Monaco; hardly names to instil fear into us but equally, not at all glamorous. I wonder whether that will impact on the attendances at Wembley?
Even so, it will be a huge disappointment not to win the group, let alone finish second. Of the three, Bayer Leverkusen strike me as the best team and certainly the one to be wary of. The back-to-back games against them in October and November may decide who wins the group.
In last season’s Champions League, CSKA finished bottom of a group featuring PSV, Wolfsburg and Manchester United; hardly a ringing endorsement for their abilities. They are difficult to score against by the looks of things, only conceding 2 goals in 5 matches so far this season. With the away game in September, we’ve avoided inclement weather.
As for Monaco, they’ve beaten Fenerbahce and Villarreal to get to the group stage but we have to believe we can beat them. They finished 31 points behind PSG last year and just scraped into the Champions League in one of Europe’s least competitive divisions. We shouldn’t underestimate them but ought to win home and away.
Wembley is the only concern. Will we freeze? Will others raise their games more than if visiting the Lane? I am wary of this; it’s great that the club has made the effort to get more supporters into the games but is it counter-productive on the pitch?
We shall see but it’s a great adventure and a competition that we should be in more often. We might do in future; UEFA has changed the rules and the top four in the Premier League will qualify automatically for the group stages instead of going through qualifying.
Just the small matter of finishing in the top four…