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Volume 6 No. 215

International Football

The UEFA Champions League group stage draw took place in Monaco on Thursday. Chelsea FC will start its UEFA Champions League title defense against three domestic champions in FC Shakhtar Donetsk from the Ukraine, Juventus FC from Italy and FC Nordsjællands from Denmark. The group stage fixtures will be played on Sept. 18-19, Oct. 2-3, Oct. 23-24, Nov. 6-7, Nov. 20-21 and Dec. 4-5. The group winners and runner-ups will progress to the round of 16 in the spring. Teams finishing third in each group will transfer to the UEFA Europa League round of 32 (UEFA).

Group A
Group B
FC Porto
Arsenal FC
FC Dynamo Kyiv
Schalke 04
Paris St. Germain
Olympiacos FC
Dinamo Zagreb
Montpellier HSC
   
Group C
Group D
AC Milan
Real Madrid
Zenit St. Petersburg
Manchester City
RSC Anderlecht
Ajax Amsterdam
Málaga FC
Borussia Dortmund
   
Group E
Group F
Chelsea FC
Bayern Munich
FC Shakhtar Donetsk
Valencia FC
Juventus FC
Lille OSC
FC Nordsjællands
FC BATE Borisov
   
Group G
Group H
FC Barcelona
Manchester United
SL Benfica
SC Braga
FC Spartak Moscow
Galatasaray AS
Celtic FC
CFR 1907 Cluj

Football's most-prestigious club competition, the UEFA Champions League, has divided the 32 participating teams into eight groups. SBD Global Staff Writers Nicolas Journel and HJ Mai looked at Groups A through H and analyzed which teams have the best chances of advancing to the knockout stage.

Group A:
Paris St. Germain started the night in pot three and could have ended up in a group with the likes of Real Madrid and Man City, but fortune was on their side. They now look prime to go through the group stage together with Portuguese league champions FC Porto. The group as we see it:

Group A
1. Paris St. Germain
2. FC Porto
3. FC Dynamo Kyiv
4. Dinamo Zagreb

Group B:
Arsenal will be happy with its group, as the stiffest competition looks to come from Bundesliga side Schalke 04. As fate would have it, Ligue 1 defending champions Montpellier will have to play against its best player from last season, which it sold to the Gunners in the offseason. The group as we see it:

Group B
1. Arsenal FC
2. Schalke 04
3. Montpellier HSC
4. Olympiacos FC

Group C:

The quality of Group C resembles more a Europa League group than a Champions League group. AC Milan sold most of its best players in the summer transfer window but will still be the favorite to come out on top of the group. The other three teams all have a realistic shot at the knockout phase. The group as we see it:

Group C
1. AC Milan
2. Zenit St. Petersburg
3. Malaga FC
4. RSC Anderlecht

Group D:

The so-called 'Group of Death' has the champions from Europe's three top leagues paired together. Borussia Dortmund will kick itself for its unlucky draw. On paper, Dortmund looks like a squad bound for the knockout stage. Unfortunately for them, Real Madrid and Man City look to have the advantage and will most likely make it through. Ajax fans will be wondering what they have done to draw Real Madrid for the third consecutive year. The group as we see it:

Group D
1. Real Madrid
2. Manchester City
3. Borussia Dortmund
4. Ajax Amsterdam

Group E:

Defending CL champion Chelsea will be satisfied with this draw, as the only challenge looks to be Serie A champion Juventus. The Italians make their return to Europe's top club competition for the first time since the '09-10 season. The group as we see it:

Group E
1. Chelsea FC
2. Juventus FC
3. FC Shakhtar Donetsk
4. FC Nordsjaellands

Group F:

Bayern Munich will have the difficult task of repeating last year's runner-up campaign, but the Bundesliga side is the heavy favorite in the group. Valencia and Lille will both try to spoil the party for the four-time Champions League winner. The group as we see it:

Group F
1. Bayern Munich
2. Valencia FC
3. Lille OSC
4. FC BATE Borisov

Group G:

Barcelona should be able to build confidence from this fairly easy draw. The Catalans look to repeat their '92 victory when Coach Johan Cruyff and his Barca team hoisted the trophy at Wembley Stadium, site of this year's final. The rest of the group is a toss-up, with all three clubs having a chance to make it through. The group as we see it:

Group G
1. FC Barcelona
2. SL Benfica
3. Celtic FC
4. FC Spartak Moscow

Group H:

After last season's surprisingly early exit, the Red Devils look ready to bounce back as they appear to be significantly better than their three opponents in Group H. Portuguese club SC Braga and Turkish champion Galatasaray AS will fight for second place and a chance to advance to the knockout phase. The group as we see it:

Group H
1. Manchester United
2. Galatasaray AS
3. SC Braga
4. CFR 1907 Cluj

A report released by L'Equipe revealed that ManU, Real Madrid and Barcelona "are the three European clubs that sold the most jerseys last season," according to Nicolas Lagavardan of MAXIFOOT.fr. ManU led the pack with 1.5 million jerseys sold worldwide. Madrid came in second place with "an estimation situated" between 1.2 and 1.5 million followed by Barça, who reportedly sold anywhere between 1 and 1.2 million shirts. The next two clubs in the ranking are Bayern Munich 950,000 and Juventus 600,000. The top France team is Marseille with 350,000 sold jerseys (MAXIFOOT.fr, 8/28). SPORTUNE.fr's Marcelo Martins reported that "it can be estimated" Real Madrid made close to €100M ($125.5M) and Barca €85M ($106.7M) in revenue from jersey sales in the past year (SPORTUNE.fr, 8/28).

Club League Jerseys Sold
Manchester United Premier League 1.5 million
Real Madrid La Liga 1.2-1.5 million
FC Barcelona La Liga 1-1.2 million
Bayern Munich Bundesliga 950,000
Juventus FC Serie A 600,000

FIFA received new information about player transfers in South America as football's ruling body "looks into the €19M ($23.8M) trade of Brazilian striker known as 'Hulk' to Porto," according to Alex Duff of BLOOMBERG. Argentina's federal tax agency wrote to the football authority last week to say that the country's players are being traded "through seven of the smaller professional clubs in Uruguay and two in Chile to avoid paying tax, and that sometimes transfer fees pass through offshore companies." FIFA, which is trying to improve regulation of the $3B transfer market, said in an email that it "received a letter from Argentine authorities about the matter." FIFA has looked at an arrangement that allows Hulk, whose real name is Givanildo Vieira de Sousa, and other Brazilian players to move to European teams via Club Atletico Rentistas, a Montevideo-based club for which they never play a game. The agency said that the nine teams include Uruguay's Club Atletico Fenix and Chile's Club Deportivo Union San Felipe (BLOOMBERG, 8/29).

The bonds of 2nd Bundesliga club FC Cologne "broke the €4M ($5M) mark," with more than 2,600 fans purchasing one of the club's bonds. Cologne Managing Dir Oliver Leki said, "Our next goal is €5M ($6.2M). This would mean we have reached the level of our '05 bonds." The subscription period for the club bonds ends on Oct. 31 (SID, 8/30). ... The Real Betis vs. Atletico Madrid La Liga match scheduled for Monday at 9:30pm has been rescheduled for Sept. 26 by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). A significant number of players would have missed the game due to int'l duty if the federation had not made the change (MARCA, 8/29).