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With historical heavyweights Bayern in this season's Group F of the Champions League, Goal.com gives you a low-down of the opposition

ANALYSIS
By Arkaprabha Chakraborty

Valencia
Valencia


Performance in last year's tournament: Group Stages.

How they qualified this year: Finished 3rd in La Liga for automatic qualification

The Manager

Cetainly one of the greener managers in the game, Mauricio Pellegrino is 'just' 40 years old. Having been appointed just this year, the former favourite player for Los Che has a lot to prove to his club in terms of his managerial ability. His first full managerial stint, although he had briefly been Valencia's youth coach before, he would like to hit European ground running. The young coach has big boots to fill after Unai Emery chose not to renew his contract and join Spartak Moscow instead. While their first three league games have been disappointing, one should note that they have faced both Real Madrid and Barcelona away, drawing 1-1 and losing 1-0 respectively.

Formation and Tactics

4-2-3-1

While the high profile departure of Jordi Alba is bound to hurt the defence a little from last season, Valencia have certainly not needed to change shape, even if they have replaced personnel. We expect Pellegrino to continue with the 4-2-3-1 that was so successful under Emery. In the middle of the park, Tino Costa and Fernando Gago will operate. And the wings they have Sofiane Feghouli and Andres Guardado instead of Pablo Piatti and Pablo Hernandez. The focus of attack still remains on the shoulders of Roberto Soldado.

Expectations:

With the tag of favourites quite understandably on Bayern, Los Che are certainly favourites to come in second. They gave Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen a run for their money last season, keeping the group teetering and narrowly missing out on qualification. With slightly easier teams in this time around, however, they will be looking to get out of their group and maybe even pull an upset on positions..?

  Man to Watch - Roberto Soldado

Roberto Soldado has always been on the brink of good-but-not-good-enough for the Spanish national side, but that list contains so many players who could walk into other international sides. One of the most lethal finishers in the game, he has a sweet shot on him as is quite strong with his back to goal. Also one of the better strikers at knocking down for team-mates, he not only scores many but creates a decent amount as well.


Lille
Lille


Performance in last year's tournament: Failed to get out of the group stages.

How they qualified this year: Finished 3rd in Ligue 1 and beat Copenhagen 2-1 on aggregate in the playoff round to qualify for the groups.

The Manager

Rudi Garcia is a manager who has done much without attracting too much attention. A former Lille player himself, his pinnacle was undoubtedly their League and Cup double in 2011. He has been grooming talent at his club for a long time, with the likes of Eden Hazard, Gervinho, group rivals Valencia's Adil Rami and Newcastle's Yohan Cabaye all having cut their teeth at the club. The attacking brand of football has made journalists dub the club 'The Barca of the North'. He will certainly be an important figure as they try to get out of the group.
Formation and Tactics

4-2-2-2

Garcia is set to continue with his radically effective 4-2-2-2 formation with a change in personnel, with Eden Hazard and Salomon Kalou effectively switching clubs, among other transfers. While his backline should stay undisturbed, The midfield base or Rio Mavuba and Aurilien Chedjou will be linked to the attack of Nolan Roux and Salomon Kalou by attacking midfielders Marvin Martin and Dimitri Payet. A nice, solid formation, but one wonders what their Plan B is if the opposition pack the midfield.

Expectations:

While Bayern and Valencia are obvious favourites to progress, we can see Lille as dark horses capable of major upsets. They might have lost their best player in Eden Hazard, but they have 'replaced' him with Martin, who has not done too badly. Dark horses who might even progress. 

Lille
  Man to Watch - Marvin Martin

Effectively Eden Hazard's replacement, Martin has big shoes to fill. But the wide playmaker most definitely has the ability to make things happen, much like his predecessor. A vital cog in the Sochaux team for four years, his importance to Lille is growing. The moment of magic needed to unlock a stubborn defence or shock more celebrated opposition, definitely something that Martin can provide.


FC BATE Borisov
BATE Borisov


Performance in last year's tournament: Did not make it out of the Group stages.

How they qualified this year: Won the Belarus Premier League and beat Vardar, Debrecen and Ironi Kiryat Shmona in the second and third qualifiers and then the playoffs respectively.

The Manager

One of the Andre Villas-Boas mould of emerging young managers, Victor Goncharenko is just 35. Having taking BATE to Europe's groups 4 times in his 5 years at the club, his ability to get the best out of his players is unquestionable. A one club man as both a player and manager at the Belarussian club, there is perhaps no one who understands and engages with BATE like Gorcharenko does. How far familiarity will take him in Europe's elite club competition will be found out soon enough.
Formation and Tactics

4-4-2

BATE have usually engaged the fluid 4-4-2 formation which dynamically changes into a 4-5-1 when they take up the tactic of packing the midfield, which they mostly do against strong sides who pass the ball well. The tactic of frustration has worked pretty well with the lighter weights of Europe, but it has usually been defeated by sheer difference in quality of the bigger names.

Expectations:


Clear underdogs, it is more likely than not that they could blank out of this group without a win. The group stages itself will have been a good reaching for the Belarussian side and if they can make third to parachute into the Europa, it will be quite the unexpected bonus.

FC BATE Borisov
  Man to Watch - Aleksandr Hleb

Journeyman Hleb has been a restless presence ever since he left Arsenal for Barcelona. Quickly deemed surplus to requirements at the Catalonian club, he has spent most of his time out on loan across Europe. Do not let this belie his undoubted quality. Always a danger out wide, he is perhaps BATE's best bet to get something out of this European campaign. Will the Belarussian find his ne side's home comforts to his advantage? We will see.

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