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This week, the Champions League group stages get under way, so we take a look at some of the talking points in Europe’s premier competition. This listening report is a shortened version of the regular weekly podcast.You can listen to the report by clicking on the link above, while there is also a worksheet here.
The Champions League – Group Stages
Choosing a winner for this season’s Champions League competition can never be easy, as we are still waiting for the group games to kick off. However, there are plenty of teams with pedigree and good league form. The two Spanish giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona will always be in the mix come April/May next year, and of course, the holders, Bayern Munich must be counted as a favourite – in fact they are the favourites with most bookies. There are question marks over Manchester City’s ability to perform on the big stage, despite the millions they have spent on the team. So, from England Chelsea have experience, strength in depth and are always hard to beat. They also have Mourinho’s know how from the dugout, too. Joining these teams should be Juventus and Paris St Germain.
Group of Death
On paper, easily the most difficult group and therefore the one dubbed ‘the group of death‘ is group F. This contains a Napoli side who have come out of the blocks quickly in Serie A with 3 wins from 3. They also have bought well in the transfer window and look like a tough proposition for any side. Dortmund, the only team to come close to Bayern and last year’s losing finalists will prove stiff opposition, as will Marseille, who will rely on their intimidating home ground. The last team in this group are Arsenal, who have bags of Champions League experience, but still no trophy. None of these teams are favourites to win, but all have a similar level of class. Too tight to call.
A dark horse is very different from an outsider, its the kind of club that everyone knows is good but goes about their work quietly while the bigger clubs attract more attention on and off the field. This year, Napoli and Atletico Madrid may well be the dark horses. Napoli will hope Benitez can engineer another cup success, as he did with Liverpool in 2005, and Atletico Madrid, if they get past the group stages, will believe that their strike force of Villa and Falcao can help them progress*.
Plzeň, Czech champions, will struggle in the Champions League but after finishing in the last 16 in last year’s Europa League they can’t be considered minnows. If we have to pick a minnow from the 32 teams it has to be Austria Vienna. Austrian champions but this is their first time in the group stages. They may get stage fright.
Napoli are the dark horses, Arsenal to fail to get out the group of death, no English teams in the semi finals, and a Real Madrid v PSG final.
Here are some of the football vocabulary and phrases used in this week’s listening report
pedigree: a long history; proven experience
be in the mix: play an important part; (in this context) be involved in the last stages of the tournament
question marks over: doubts about
know how: knowledge; experience; wisdom
on paper: in theory; making a decision based on imagination not fact
dubbed: called; named
stiff opposition: difficult opponents; tough and strong opposition
strike force: the striking partnership; the attackers on a team
stage fright: (in this context) to feel fear when you are in an important game; to freeze
* Falcao has since been transferred to Monaco
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