30
Aug

Champions League Group B Predicted Finishes

Here is a synopsis of each club and their projected finishes from Leander Schaerlaeckens. Check back all day for each group’s predictions.

Group B:

1. SCHALKE ‘04

Champions League titles: 0

No, Virginia, it’s not all about Jermaine Jones. Schalke is a pretty decent team with a curious habit of making others’ lives difficult in European play. Domestic form doesn’t seem to matter: Schalke have shown that on the big stage, they shine. They return to the Champions League after a year toiling in the Europa League – a competition that saw them battle all the way to the quarters — and look like they have a squad that can cause folks some headaches. Edu, Jefferson Farfan and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar are big game players and they have some good movement in Joel Matip, Tranquillo Barnetta, and yes, even the foul-prone Jones.

2. ARSENAL

Champions League titles: 0

Arsenal is the weakest of the English teams going into the group stage. They have lost Alex Song and Robin van Persie and their replacements — Santi Carloza, Oliver Giroud, Lukas Podolski — have so far failed to gel. At press time, Arsenal had yet to win a game or even score a goal. That doesn’t mean they will not be a force to be reckoned with: this is an historically powerful team, behind only Manchester United and Liverpool in terms of top-flight titles, and they frequently go deep in this competition. But this is a side that is in something of an unwanted rebuilding mode. If the Gunners continue to lose their best players, one has to wonder if they will be in this competition in 2013-14.

3. OLYMPIAKOS

Champions League titles: 0

It’s hard not to love a club that plays in a grudge match called “the derby of the eternal enemies.” Along with Panathinaikos (notably, not in this year’s Champions League) Olympiakos are one of Greece’s greatest clubs with a long track record in European play. However: they have never made it past the quarters and on the strength of their current squad it is hard to see them making inroads. David Fuster and Rafik Djebbour continue to be their dangermen; keeper Roy Carroll is a curiosity. The one-time Manchester United netminder has been playing at the lower levels for some time but has the distinction of winning a title as a player-manager in the lone game he managed the team. (It was Barnet in the Herts Cup.)

4. MONTPELLIER

Champions League titles: 0

This is a pretty eclectic mix, a team that took their first ever Ligue 1 title last year behind the heroics of Oliver Giroud, but Giroud has moved on to another “French” team (L’Arsenal). Key for HSC will be the play of Younes Belhanda: he has to make up all the firepower that Giroud brought to the table and spark Emanuel Herrera and Souleymane Camara up top. A number of people are likely to think that without Girous, this is a team here only to make up the numbers. Don’t be fooled: Rene Girard has crafted a pretty resilient team that has a lot of self-belief. They should give people all they can handle.