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admin 01.08.2013

Crammed right after the international break, it’s the greatest club competition in the world–the UEFA Champions League. Basel is a frenetic, free-flowing team out of Switzerland that swept Chelsea home and away at this stage last season, but probably doesn’t quite have enough to get by 2005 Champions Liverpool. His sports experience includes covering multiple Big XII Championship football games, a Fiesta Bowl, an NCAA Women's Final Four, and the 2009 BCS National Championship Game.
The German Giants have since hijacked Ralph Schmidt from Austrian Champions Red Bull Salzburg, and Schmidt has wasted no time in making a statement with Leverkusen.
Then again we though the Cypriot Champions, APOEL, were an afterthought in 2011, and they went on to win their group and shock Lyon in the Sweet 16 before running into another Spanish juggernaut, Real Madrid in the elite eight. Expect Liverpool to draw in Switzerland, but sneak out a win at home, a win that will make the difference between the big boy party and the B-list Europa League.

An opening day flag-planting at Borussia Dortmund and a Champions League panzerschrecking of Copenhagen has put the rest of Europe on notice, Schmidt’s “basketball on grass” style will cause problems and you’d best be prepared for a dog fight. Bayern Munich and Manchester City are probably two of the best three teams in the world right now, Roma is somewhere around the top 10 depending on who you ask, CSKA is a solid team and a domestic champion; there will be no easy games in this group.
With former manager Antonio Conte moving on to bigger and better things (now head coach of the Italian national team) new man Massimiliano Allegri is expected to turn his sights on Europe with Italian squads looking to prove they still hail from one of the most elite leagues in the world. Despite slow starts, Bayern Munich, the 2013 Champions League winners, will get the edge here based solely on their experience and depth of talent while Manchester City is picked second for a similar reason. It will be too much, and Olympiacos’ splash will have to happen in the Europa League this season. We like the Turkish Champions and all, but think they’ll find it tough to get by both Arsenal and Dortmund.

Slovenian Champions Maribor are not to be trifled with, and although they’ll more than likely finish bottom of this group, could definitely throw a real wrench in things if folks don’t handle their business.
Portuguese champions Benfica are always a mainstay at this point in the competition, yet always seem to slip up and find themselves roasting the Europa League field come spring. The two-time defending Europa League runners-up look to be heading that way again after a summer of getting absolutely pillaged by the European big boys. No Belgian team has advanced to the Champions League knockout rounds since the early 2000s.

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