Fenerbahce SK- Managed by Luis Aragones, Euro 2008 winner with Spain Fenerbahce will be looking to better last years quarter finals finish beaten by Chelsea. Technically and physically strong, possesion speed on the counter the Turkish side will be a huge danger to the sides. However they have made a stuttering start to their league and have won just one game but the team looked more better in the qualifying stages beating Partizan. The loss of Mehmet Aurelio to Betis will be huge as the question is would they be able to plug the gap left by the defensive midfielder. They have signed Emre and Maldonado indicating the manager will try and revert to a more attacking play though his vision may take some time.
Key Player: Daniel Guiza– Signed for €14million, Guiza became the most expensive player in the Turkish League. He is good on the air as well as on the deck and will be looking to provide the goals to put them through.
Verdict: 3rd- The homes games could be key as they have one of the most intimidating atmospheres in Europe though they look weak defensively. Going to the UEFA cup may not be a bad thing as they can back next year a better team.
FC Porto- Not the force they once were the former champions under Mourinho have lost key players since then; Deco, Pepe, Bosingwa, Anderson and most recently Quaresma but they should still challenge. They have bought in 11 players for a total of €25.5 million to replace those departed but maybe not enough of world class quality. A workmanlike team who are very technical.
Key Man: Lucho Gonzalez- The reliance on the Argentinian will be even greater this year. He typifies all that is Porto and if he is not on his game then the contriversial Portuguese champions may falter. Has a great shot, crisp passing and a big engine.
Verdict: 2nd- This will be a tight battle as all teams are capable of getting points but Porto may edge it. Against Arsenal the movement and overall technical quality may be too much for them but are a danger from the counter.
Dynamo Kiev- The Ukraine club are the form team in the group, thrashing Spartak Moscow twice 4-1 in qualifying with Artem Milevsky getting four goals. Expected to come bottom of the group but they have improved from last year when they were beaten by Man United and may shock as they have some good players in Emerenko, Vukojevic and Husyev.
Key Man: Ismaël Bangoura– Scored 15 goals in 20 appearances for the club last season and will be a threat this time. Scored against Man United last season and has great paces.
Verdict: 4th- They can get through this tough group but it will ne a tough ask. Have got crucial home games in the winter, the last against Fenerbahce which could be crucial.
And the best of the rest…
Holders Manchester United are the favourites and unfortunately the European sides look to weak this year against the English:
- Chelsea: More complete this year and with Deco they have a player who can play the continental way to lead them to glory or mix it up with Lampard and Ballack.
- Inter Milan: Jose Mourinho knows how the english sides play and looks to have the best squad outside England. New signings such as Quaresma, Muntari and Mancini are added to counter the english threat.
- Liverpool: Their best comes out in Europe and with probably the best stamina in the whole tournament. Have added Riera out wide but look weaker up front without Crouch.
Dark Horse(s): Zenit and/or Juventus: It depends on who gets out with or without Madrid. If so these two teams have the quality to shock. Zenit are frightening on the counter but are they good enough defensively while Juventus have recruited Amauri, one of the most dangerous strikers in the world.