In a group involving Paris Saint-Germain, French champions and European football powerhouse, Real Madrid, 10 time-UEFA Champions League winners, Shakhtar Donetsk, runners up in the Ukrainian league last year and a recognizable name and Malmo of Sweden, PSG and Real Madrid look like the shoo in favorites but both sides could be in for a surprise. Today we take an in-depth look at the teams in this group, their strengths and their potential positions.
The ageing Ibrahimovic, and eager to impress Di Maria and a side with a huge chip on their shoulder, PSG have the potential to be very deadly yet very predictable side. Di Maria for starter would either have his best games or worst games against Real Madrid, and the reason is quite simple, the Argentine winger is very emotional and would be willing to show Real Madrid just what their missing. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is definitely a genuine threat but at 34, he is a threat that can be contained. Blaise Matuidi is set to do some damage in midfield while Thiago Silva and David Luiz have developed a fantastic defensive partnership, both players are liable to make unforced errors in defense and David Luiz’s tactical indiscipline could cost them. PSG’s strength lies in their organization and they make it hard for teams to concede. PSG have struggled to create chances for their forwards despite the creativity of Pastore and Lucas. PSG would most likely pick up wins against Malmo and Shakhtar in France and might just pull off a surprise against Real Madrid too. Shakhtar are bound to cause PSG problems in Ukraine and Real Madrid would be very tough costumers at the Bernabeu but PSG would not struggle to get 10 points from this group and they could be on their way to the next round before the final game in the group.
Predicted Position: 2nd
10 time champions of the UEFA champions league and a hungry side looking to get one over everyone this season, Real Madrid’s biggest undoing would be their over-eagerness to win games. Rafa Benitez is bringing a new style of play to the Madrid team and trying to reduce emphasis on the predictable counter attacking style usually associated with Real Madrid. The problem with the new style of play is this: Cristiano Ronaldo, the teams talisman over the last 3 years has reinvented his game to make himself the perfect counter attacking weapon. Real Madrid struggle to score when Ronaldo doesn’t find the net and if he can’t this season, they may have a huge problem. James Rodriguez is great on the ball and Toni Kroos is set to have more influence on the midfield this season. Real Madrid have two experienced defenders in the ranks in Sergio Ramos and Pepe and a Rafael Varane that is pure defensive quality. Real Madrid might not be as smooth as usual this season but Malmo might lose both legs to Real while Shakhtar would cause Benitez problems over both legs. Madrid would get a solid 8 points at least out of both games. And while their clashes with PSG might prove to be boring cagey affairs, Real Madrid would most likely edge one of both ties and finish just ahead of PSG in the group.
Predicted Position: 1st
This is probably the most organized side in this season’s champions league. They are not so much as side about quality as they are a side about defensive organization and attacking menace and tough tackling midfielders. Shakhtar are almost always the underdogs in European ties and over the years, it has worked for them. This team are by no means also-rans in any group as Eduardo Da Silva and Facundo Ferreya are very dangerous strikers on their days and Bernard just adds that dynamism to their attack. A hard working midfield that includes Malyshev and Alex Teixeira is one of Micrea lucescu’s side’s biggest strengths. Shakhtar would cause any team problems but for all their attacking flair, the Ukrainian side has a track record of poor end products and could end up slipping up against Malmo in Sweden. Expect PSG to beat them over two legs while the ever complacent Real Madrid to stumble in one tie against them. Shakhtar Donetsk would do well to get 5 points in this group and 7 should be their target as they would be set for a berth in the Europa League
Predicted Position: 3rd
They look like the whipping boys of the group but don’t be fooled, this Swedish side are no pushovers. While they may not win games, their ability to defend leads is only bested by their inability to create scoring chances. Averaging 6 shots per game and only 2 on target in Europe, Malmo are obviously not a model for attacking football. Marcos Rosenberg and Simon Kroon form the nucleus of a team that are just looking to put themselves on the map with a few draws and a surprise 1-0 win but you get the feeling that PSG and Real Madrid possess way too much fire power for the Swedes to cope with and Shakhtar would be too cautious for the game in Sweden to be interesting. The clash in Ukraine on the other hand would be an explosive affair and a barrage of wasted chances but Malmo would most likely not be playing European football this season once the group stage is over. if Malmo perform to their best, they might scrape 5 points in on the table but if they perform as we expect them to, 4 points is most likely what Age Hariede and his boys would get
Predicted Position: 4th