thumbnail Hello,

New manager Pep Guardiola prepares to lead Bayern Munich into this season's Champions League. Brendon Netto looks at what the defending champions will face in the group stages.

 Brendon Netto
 ANALYSIS | EUROPE
Follow on


Manchester City


Performance in last year's tournament: Finished bottom of their group.

How they qualified this year: Finished 2nd in the Premier League and earned automatic qualification.

The Manager

Manuel Pellegrini arrived at Manchester City this summer with a glowing reputation. He may not have won the biggest trophies on offer but is renowned for his coaching methods, tactical nous and professionalism. He worked wonders at Villarreal, helping them to a third place finish in the league in his first season and following it up with a semi-final berth in the Champions League the next year. He endured a difficult stint at Real Madrid where he finished second to Barcelona despite winning a record number of points at the club. The politics at the Bernabeu got the better of him though and he was eventually sacked. He proved himself all over again at Malaga and even steadied the ship when their funds were cut off and had to sell their best players.

Formation and Tactics

4-2-3-1

Even though Manchester City deploy two strikers, their system resembles a 4-2-3-1 more than a 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2. Fernandinho and Yaya Toure are the two anchor men in midfield but do bomb forward quite regularly with the latter doing so more often. Jesus Navas and his blistering pace provides the team with the kind of width they lacked last season. David Silva starts on the left but drifts inside a lot which often sees Sergio Aguero making diagonal runs into that channel down the left. Eden Dzeko is so far the preferred striking option up front for Pellegrini despite the arrivals of Alvaro Negredo and Stefan Jovetic.

Expectations:

With the investments the club made in the transfer market, they should be targeting a place in the quarter-finals having failed to progress from the group stages in the last two seasons. Pellegrini has got the team playing some delightful football so advancing to the knock-out round has to be the minimum objective despite being drawn in the same group as the defending champions.

  Man to Watch - Yaya Toure

There are so many players in Manchester City's line-up capable of winning a game but Yaya Toure stands tallest, literally and figuratively. The Ivorian is as consistent a performer as they come and arguably the most all-round midfielder in the Premier League. He's fairly quick, incredibly strong, accomplished on the ball and has a great engine. He scores goals and could even better his previous tallies now that he's added free-kicks to his reportoire. Meanwhile, Fernandinho's arrival means he should be able to get forward a lot more.


CSKA Moskow


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

How they qualified this year: Won the Russian Premier League to earn automatic qualification.

The Manager

Leonid Slutsky replaced Juande Ramos as manager of CSKA Moscow in 2009 and subsequently led them to their first ever Champions League knock-out stage and even advanced to the quarter-finals. Since his arrival, he's won a Russian Premier League title, a Russian Super Cup and two Russian Cups. He re-organized his team last season and reinforced their defense which resulted in them setting a record of 15 games without conceding a goal.

Formation and Tactics

4-2-3-1

CSKA Moscow operate with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Seydou Doumbia plays as the lone striker while Steven Zuber, Keisuke Honda and Ahmed Musa support him in attack. Pontus Wernbloom and Rasmus Elm sit in midfield with the former operating in a slightly deeper role. The pace of their wingers, Musa in particular, is used to good effect in order to get in behind full-backs. Honda orchestrates proceedings in the final third and the Japanese playmaker is also licensed to shoot from distance.

Expectations:

Bayern Munich and Manchester City are clear favourites to progress from this group but if an upset is on the cards then CSKA Moscow are the ones most likely to provide it, especially with the Manchester club's poor record in Europe. Qualifying for the round of 16 would be a great achievement but securing a Europa League spot would be acceptable as well for the Russian side.

  Man to Watch - Seydou Doumbia

Seydou Doumbia is as prolific a striker as any in Europe but has been plagued by a herniated disc injury for the last couple of seasons. However, he scored 39 goals in 53 appearances in the 2010-11 season and it looks like he's ready to deliver again after returning to fitness and chalking up 4 goals and 2 assists in 6 appearances this term despite not completing 90 minutes as yet. He is renowned for his pace, strength and directness. He's an instinctive striker capable of unsettling the best defenses and definitely shouldn't be taken lightly despite not being in peak physical condition yet.


Viktoria Plzen

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

How they qualified this year: Won the Czech league and won their final play-off game against Maribor.

The Manager

Pavel Vrba joined Plzen in 2008 and has since enjoyed a successfull tenure having won two league titles one Czech Cup and one Czech Super Cup. He's renowned for having an offensive football philosophy. He was also named 'Czech Coach of the Year' for the third time in a row at the end of last year. In the 2011-12 Champions League tournament, Vrba engineered a performance against AC Milan to earn a 2-2 draw which helped them secure a place in the Europa League after finishing third in a group that also included Barcelona.

Formation and Tactics

4-2-3-1

Viktoria Plzen plays in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Their star midfielder, Vladamir Darida left this summer to join FC Freiburg so Vladimir Duris takes up his attacking midfield role.

This is a fairly organized set up but Plzen does like to go on the offensive. Tomas Horava will get forward from central midifield on occasion while captain Pavel Horvath sits back. The full-backs get forward only during a long spell of possession. They have been known to revert to a 4-5-1 formation against the better sides. 

Expectations:


They are clearly the underdogs of this group. For Plzen, making the group stages in itself is considered reasonable success but they would love to take it one further and attempt to sneak into third place in order to secure a place in the Europa League.

  Man to Watch - Tomas Horava

Plzen may have lost Darida but new signing, Horava is already making a mark in the side. He has 2 goals and 3 assists in 11 appearances for his new side this season, not a bad output for a central midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 system. The 25 year old was dubbed 'the new Tomas Rosicky' as a youngster and is finally starting to live up to the promise he initially showed. He possesses a neat first touch, has good technique, can dribble well and being an accomplished passer, he's also his team's playmaker.

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