thumbnail Hello,

With Manchester United in Group A under new boss David Moyes, Goal looks at United's rivals - Bayer Leverkusen, Real Sociedad and Shakhtar Donetsk.


GOALBY   KAUSTAV BERA     Follow @hopelessk on twitter



Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Bayer Leverkusen


Performance in last year's tournament: Did not qualify

How they qualified this year: Finished 3rd in the Bundesliga and secured automatic qualification.
The Manager - Sami Hyypia

Sami Hyypia took on the role of joint managership of the club last year with Sasha Lewandowski being the other partner as he had a coaching license. But it was Hyypia who did the training and most of the player management while Lewandowski was the face of the team, attending press conferences and the like. The partnership was successful as they led the club to a third placed finish behind Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Hyypia was rewarded with sole charge of the team in the new season with Lewandowski going back to managing the youth side. They did lose an important player in Andre Schurrle this summer but the signing of Son Heung Min who reportedly rejected Dortmund to move to Bayer was a masterstroke.

Formation and Tactics

4-3-3

Hyypia employs a fluid 4-3-3 formation. The team is deadly on counter-attacks with not too much focus on keeping the ball. In fact against a Borussia Monchengladbach side whom they convincingly beat 4-2 recently, they had only 42 percent possession. The central striker Stefan Kießling is ably supported on both flanks by the goal hungry Sidney Sam and new recruit Heung Son Min who have both opened their accounts in the new season. The solidity in the midfield is provided by Reinartz who shields the backline with Bender. On the left, Gonzalo Castro is equally able to bomb forward as well as keeping the shape when facing an opposition's attack.

Expectations:

Having made a great start to the season winning their first three matches with only a recent loss against Schalke spoiling their 100 percent record, Bayer Leverkusen will hope to advance from their group. Manchester United have undergone a major shift with Sir Alex Ferguson's departure and with newcomers Real Sociedad and an unknown entity in a Shakhtar Donetsk side devoid of their last season's stars, this group could very well be wide open.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen
  Man to Watch - Stefan Kießling

Last season's Bundesliga top scorer was a prime reason for Leverkusen finishing third behind the Dortmund and Bayern duo and he is in splendid form this time around too, as he has scored twice in four matches so far. Good in the air and unflappable, Kießling leads the line splendidly well. He is also capable of dragging away defenders to create space for Sam and Son who have both been on the scoresheet for the very same reason.


Real Sociedad
Real Sociedad


Performance in last year's tournament: They did not qualify.

How they qualified this year: Finished fourth in La Liga and defeated Olympique Lyon in the Playoffs.

The Manager - Jagoba Arrasate

After former coach Philippe Montanier had left for Rennes, assistant coach, Arrasate had been elevated to the position of head coach. Although Sociedad have won 1, lost 1 and drawn 1 in the La Liga, it's still early days and there is a lot of time left for them to replicate last season's form. However, their entry into the Champions League was ensured by two sterling performances against Olympique Lyon which meant they would be in Europe's premier competition after a long wait.

Formation and Tactics

4-2-3-1

Real Sociedad play a fluid 4-2-3-1 system with Bergara and Zurutuza sitting deep in midfield to break up play and shield the defense. However their front four make up for an exciting quartet. While veteran Xabi Prieto is the playmaker who orchestrates the play linking up midfield with the strike force, the trio of Griezmann, Vela and new boy Seferovic are the expected goal scorers. Vela was last season's top scorer while Griezmann has already dazzled with some stunning goals against Lyon. 

Expectations:

Although one would not put their money on Sociedad's progression, the European new boys with their dynamic and adventurous brand of football might catch even the big fishes off guard and are indeed capable of providing an upset with their expansive style of play.
Real Sociedad
  Man to Watch - Antoine Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann, who has come up through the youth ranks at La Real might be the player to watch in their Champions League campaign. Still only 22, the French left winger who can also operate as a forward possesses oodles of skill coupled with terrific technical prowess. As he already demonstrated against Lyon, he is also able to score some spectacular goals besides taking on and beating defenders at will. 


Shakhtar Donetsk
Shakhtar Donetsk

Performance in last year's tournament: Losing in the Round of 16 to eventual runners up, BVB Dortmund.

How they qualified this year: Won the Ukrainian Premier League.

The Manager - Mircea Lucescu

The veteran Romanian tactician has been at the helm of Shakhtar Donetsk since 2004 and has amassed a massive 7 Ukrainian League championships during his tenure making them the undisputed number one team in Ukraine. He has also led Shakhtar to European glory winning the UEFA Super Cup in 2009. Last year was another milestone for him as he successfully navigated past a tricky group as they relegated Chelsea to third spot to progress to the round of 16. However, they did go down to eventual finalists, Borussia Dortmund in the next phase.

Formation and Tactics

4-2-3-1

With stalwarts Henrikh Mkhitaryan who was the top scorer last season and midfield general Fernandinho leaving, Shakhtar did not let the money earned go to waste. They grabbed talented Brazilian prospects Fred, Bernard and Fernando and also signed young striker Facundo Ferreyra to adequately replace the departed players. Playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, Lucescu uses a double pivot in the centre of the field with Fernandinho's position taken up by the twenty year-old Grechyshkin who has been a revelation in the league. The former Metalist player Taison has also slotted in Mkhitaryan's position behind the always prolific Luiz Adriano who already has six goals in eight league matches. With an exciting bench comprising of the likes of Fernando, Fred and Bernard to call upon, they certainly do not lack the firepower and raw talent to break down any team. However, the relative inexperience might cost them.

Expectations:


The youthful nature of the team might surprise a few but in the end, their inexperience on such a big stage might be too big a hurdle for Shakhtar to overcome. They would still like to grab the Europa League spot if they do fail to finish within the top two. 

Shakhtar Donetsk
  Man to Watch - Darijo Srna

The Croatia and Shakhtar captain, Darijo Srna might be a surprise choice as the star man, especially with the team's abundant firepower up front. However the rock at the back, Srna is at the heart of everything good for the team. A right-back by trade who is solid defensively, Srna excels at overlapping runs and sending pin-point deliveries into the box. Besides that he is deadly from set-piece situations.

How do you stay up with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com –your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game.

Related

From the web