By Ollie Cranham-Young
- Manchester United were in pot two for the draw
- Drawn into Group B with PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg
- United start their campaign away to PSV on Tuesday 15 September
Following last week’s Group Stage draw we now know our first set of opponents in the Champions League and the teams we will face first off are PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg.
We were drawn with PSV from Pot One, CSKA from Pot Three and Wolfsburg from Pot Four. According to UEFA, PSV are the toughest opponents, then CSKA and finally Wolfsburg however many could argue Wolfsburg are also tough opponents to play against. Trips to the Netherlands, Russia and Germany are soon to be on the cards. Quite frankly, we can’t wait…
The first opponents that we will look at will be PSV Eindhoven. The first thing that jumps out at you about these opponents is the fact that they are Memphis’s old club. It’s none other than fate, it just had to happen. Because they were in Pot One, on paper they are United’s toughest opponents, and whilst they are no pushovers, we are still glad to be playing them instead of other Pot One sides Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.
They are currently the Dutch champions, largely down to Memphis’s input from last season and we will have to see whether they are pushovers or not now they have lost their best player. The key players to watch out for though when we play them are Andrés Guardado and Luuk de Jong. In recent years, Phillip Cocu’s side have not been very successful in Europe. Having featured in the Europa League for the past 2 seasons not progressing very far and failing their Champions League play off in the 2013/14 season.
Before that, they were in the Europa league for 4 years. In fact, the last time the Dutch champions played in the Champions League Group Stages was in the 2008/09 season, infamously when United reached the final against a certain Barcelona.
This time though, PSV will be looking to improve their record in Europe, and were looking to a good season before the departure of Memphis Depay shattered any optimistic hopes this summer. But let’s not forget that they are the champions, look how unexpectedly far we progressed in the 2013/14 season, so you just never know. For now though, we’ll just have to wait and see.
The second opponents that we will be looking at will be CSKA Moscow. CSKA were drawn from Pot three and unfortunately for us, a long trip to Russia is on the cards days before the Manchester Derby – City play on the Tuesday so will have an extra day to recover but just remember from February onwards in the treble year we had 2 games a week. If we did it then, we can do it now.
CSKA are memorably known for all of the wrong reasons. The racial abuse from their fans during last seasons group stage games forced one of their games to be played behind closed doors, notably against Manchester City.
As they were drawn from Pot three they are not the strongest of opponents United will face, probably the weakest which is ironic because the weaker opponents from now on will be from Pot four after the rules changed this season. In case you didn’t know, Pot One is the champions of the competition followed by the champions of each league, and Pots Two, Three and Four are based on UEFA Coefficient Rankings. CSKA have never got out of the group stages of the Champions League so you would like to think that if is an easy tie however the logistics of the fixture causes the most problems.
Russia is obviously one of the furthest places to travel to in the competition and as well as this, we will probably have to play on artificial grass which makes it all the more harder. We will have to wait and see whether Van Gaal decides to rest players ahead of the Derby, because they aren’t the strongest of sides but it will be a tough game as we already know. CSKA finished runners up in the Russian league but this is no major factor as Russia is not the most successful country in Europe, and the country is not as mad on football as England, Germany Spain are etc.
The final team that we will be looking at will be our opponents from Pot four, Wolfsburg. Wolfsburg are arguably the best team in Pot 4, and whilst they may seem no pushovers on paper, at least we don’t have to endure a trip to Kazakstan or some other Eastern European country like other teams do. Overall it is a trip to Germany and the Netherlands, very short journeys but we make it for it by flying all the way to Russia later on.
For the last couple of years, Wolfsburg have featured in the Europa League and their last appearance in the Champions League came in the 2009/10 season. Like CSKA, they have never made in past the group stage which makes it look like two potentially easy opponents for United to face. Their most re enter honours have been the German cup which they won is year and the Bundesliga which they won in 2009.
They are not the most prolific German team in the Champions League, but they do have some fantastic players including Nicklas Bendtner and André Schürrle. With players of this calibre, it is unusual that this is their first year back in the Champions League but they will be hoping to progress further than they have done and Dieter Hecking’s side are determined not to fall at the first hurdle like they did in the 2009/10 season.
To read more detailed analysis on each of these opponents, check Sir Alex Ferguson Way closer to the time of the game and we will have a match preview on there for you to look at…
The Champions League Group Stage Fixtures are as follows:
Tuesday 15 September – PSV Eindhoven – Away
Wednesday 30 September – Wolfsburg – Home
Wednesday 21 October – CSKA Moscow – Away
Tuesday 3 November – CSKA Moscow – Home
Wednesday 25 November – PSV Eindhoven – Home
Tuesday 8 December – Wolfsburg – Away