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Champions League Group Stage Preview

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With the 2015/16 edition of the UEFA Champions League just days away, The Sports Lowdown takes a look at each of the groups and predicts how they will turn out.

Group A

The first group includes ten time winners Real Madrid and big spending PSG. It is hard to look past either of these when predicting who will qualify from the group, with Madrid looking to regain the trophy they last won in 2014 and PSG aiming to continue their steady progress in the competition. Both teams will face a difficult trip to Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk , who have impressed at home in recent years.

The outsiders of the group are Malmo, who will be aiming to challenge Shakhtar for a spot in the Europa League. Although PSG and Real face the difficult journey to Ukraine, it is difficult to see a scenario where the two big spenders fail to make the knock out stages. Although PSG have added former Real star Di Maria to their ranks, they may find topping the group a struggle and are likely to have to settle for second place.

Group B

Manchester United return to the competition after a years absence and Louis van Gaal will be pleased with the draw his side have been given. They face a difficult trip to Russia where they will face CSKA Moscow and ambitious German side Wolfsburg may also prove a difficult challenge. Despite this, United can be expected to win the group fairly comfortably.

The battle for second place should be interesting with all three of the other teams in with a shout of qualification. CSKA Moscow will be relying on their home form if they are to qualify, while Wolfsburg will fancy their chances of emulating other German teams in progressing to the latter stages of the competition. PSV impressed in the Dutch league last season, but have lost some of their better players over the summer. Expect Wolfsburg to qualify in second place, with CSKA Moscow qualifying for the Europa League.

Group C

Group C should see Atletico Madrid qualify for the knock out stages, although Galatasary and Benfica may prove tricky opponents. Group minnows Astana may struggle to pick up a point, meaning the other three teams should be assured of at least a Europa League spot. The games between Galatasary and Benfica should be intriguing, with both sides having an array of quality individuals on show.

Although Benfica are perennial Europa League challengers, they have failed to make an impact on the Champions League in recent years and this trend may continue, especially given Galatasary’s strong home form. If Galatasary can utilise a strong backing at home, they may feel confident of challenging Atletico for top spot. Although the group will be tight, Atletico should be too strong for their opponents and top the group, with Galatasary joining them in the knock out rounds.

Group D

Manchester City have again been handed a tough group and must face last season’s runners-up Juventus and Europa League winners Sevilla. However, it is worth noting Juventus have lost Pirlo, Tevez and Vidal over the summer and have struggled at the start of the Serie A season. German side Borussia Monchengladbach complete the group, although they may struggle in a group packed with talent. Given the impressive way City have started the season, it will be no surprise if they go on to win the group fairly comfortably.

Sevilla may be a threat, but they have been dealt a tough draw and as a result may have to settle with the chance to defend the crown in the Europa League. However, their games with Juventus may determine who qualifies and if the Italians are not at their best they may find themselves struggling to qualify. This looks to be one of the most competitive groups, and all four teams should take points off each other.

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