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2006/7 UEFA Champions League Season Preview

This year's UEFA Champions League kicks off on Wednesday morning Melbourne time and for the first time in many years there is no Juventus and another team that is missing is Ajax Amsterdam but the competition should still be very interesting. There are going to be some mouth watering fixtures and one of them is Manchester United/Celtic and then the other Barcelona/Chelsea.

Group A is very interesting with Barcelona facing Chelsea again. I think Barcelona are stronger than what they were last season with the addition of Thuram and Zambrotta and they should come top in this group with Werder Bremen and Chelsea fighting it out for second place.

Group B brings together Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. This looks like a straight forward contest between Bayern and Inter for the first two places but I think Sporting Lisbon and Spartak Moscow could cause some upsets especially when playing at home.

Three weeks ago I would have said Liverpool are red hot favourites to win this group but having watched their last three league matches I think its a pretty open group with all teams PSV, Galatasaray and Bordeaux plus Liverpool having a good chance. PSV have done well in the past two seasons but that was under Guus Hiddink and we will have to wait and see what happens this season.

I think Valencia will come top in Group D but its very hard to see which other team will join them in the second phase. The Greek champions Olympiacos have lots of experience in this competition and that should give them a bit of an edge but Roma and Shakhtar Donetsk are no pushovers and so I think this will go down to the last match of the group phase to decide who proceeds to the next stage.

I think Lyon and Real Madrid should easily sort themselves at the top of Group E. Real Madrid should be a better team this season under Fabio Capello. Lyon are more or less the same team minus Diarra who ironically went to Real Madrid and should be able to navigate their way in this group.

Group F is another group where there is one very strong team in Manchester United but with three very good teams Celtic, Benfica and FC Copenhagen comprising the group. Its quite difficult to separate Celtic and Benfica to start with but there is also FC Copenhagen who knocked out Ajax in the qualifiers.

Arsenal haven't started well in the Premiership and should raise their game if they are entertaining hopes of winning this group because Group G has got some good teams in Hamburg, FC Porto and CSKA Moscow. I still think that Arsenal and Hamburg will go through this group with former champions Porto and CSKA Moscow fighting it out for the UEFA place.

Finally Group H and here AC Milan should easily cruise through and it should be an even battle between AEK Athens, Anderlecht and Lille. I think it will be a good chance for the other three teams to reach the group stages for the first time and it could come down to goal difference to decide the second place and UEFA place.

Jose Mourinho said at least 10 teams have a chance of winning the champions league this season. Here are my ten teams: Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen, Barca, Real Madrid, Valencia, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Lyon, Chelsea, Man U. Sorry PSV.

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