I truly wish we wouldn’t call these soccer tournament’s formidable foursomes “Groups of Death.”
That said, what better way to describe Group D as it unfolded so fiercely Thursday from Europe?
They cannot get much tougher than this one, as the champions of Spain, England, Germany and the Netherlands were crammed into the most fearsome foursomes this tournament has yet seen. All tongues were wagging over a military-grade group that includes Real Madrid, Manchester City, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund.
Here are the groups as drawn Thursday by UEFA, followed by random thoughts in no particular order:
- First UEFA Champions League matchday is Sept. 18. (That’s a Tuesday; they split the games, with the second half up on Wednesday, Sept. 19.)
- Poor Ajax, a real player in this tournament back in another day. Realistically, they are out of this thing before the first group stage kickoff. Frank de Boer’s side should look to nick third place and a spot in Europa League that goes with it.
- Newly enriched Paris Saint-Germain is surely happy with Thursday’s draw. While no club will relish midweek trips into Ukraine and Croatia, the France side should like its chances of getting into elimination play (which begins early next year).
- Arsenal’s 15th consecutive Champions League campaign under Arsene Wenger holds some reasonable promise for advance. Germany’s Schalke could be tough, and a trip into Montpellier could be tricky, but Olympiacos should not pose too many problems. Of course, Gunners fans probably don’t like their draw as much as …
- Manchester United fans. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side should have a relatively easy time of it. Bonus: they get to play in that awesome stadium in Braga, Portugal.
- Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid against Manchester City? Yes, please. I’ll take some of that.
- Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea, crowned winners last spring in Munich, begin their quest to repeat in a manageable group. The West London side could be the first since AC Milan in 1989 and 1990 to repeat.