Champions League 2014-15: Group E preview

Sports Mole previews Group E of this season's Champions League, which contains both Bayern Munich and Manchester City.


Previous European Cup/CL best: Winners: 1974, 1975, 1976, 2001, 2013

Manager - Pep Guardiola: Since taking charge of Barcelona in 2008, few managers have been more successful than Guardiola. The 43-year-old won everything domestically in Spain, as well as two Champions League titles. He also added the Bundesliga title and DFB-Pokal trophy during his debut season in Germany, but he will still be smarting from the humiliation that his side suffered at the hands of Real Madrid in the semi-final of last term's Champions League. It's a competition and a trophy that is close to Guardiola's heart, having lifted it as a Barca player in 1992.

Key Player - Thomas Muller

Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller celebrates with teammate Javi Martinez after scoring his team's second goal against Augsburg during their 3rd round German Cup match on December 4, 2013© AFP

For club and country, there may be bigger stars in the starting lineup than Muller, but few can match his consistent form. The 25-year-old has an uncanny knack of weighing in with important goals, while he is also willing to put in a shift for the good of the team. He can play anywhere across the frontline, which makes him a difficult player to mark for opponents. He will go into this season's Champions League on the back of a positive showing at the World Cup, where he scored five goals for eventual champions Germany.

Sports Mole says: Bayern would probably have been hoping for an easier draw than Man City from pot two, but even so, there will be huge confidence from the German champions that they will ease into the knockout stages of the tournament. Their English counterparts may harbour ambitions of topping the group, but Bayern are the favourites. After that, it will take a strong team to knock them out of the competition.

Did you know?: Only Real Madrid (25) have appeared in more European Cup/Champions League semi-finals than Bayern, who have reached that stage 16 times.


Previous European Cup/CL best: Last 16: 2014

Manager - Manuel Pellegrini: The Chilean arrived at the Etihad Stadium last summer charged with the task of taking City further in the Champions League than the previous two seasons, when under the management of Roberto Mancini, they failed to progress beyond the group stages. Pellegrini did just that, taking City to the first knockout round, where they were defeated by Barcelona. He also masterminded success in the Premier League and League Cup, so this time around, it's likely that the club's owners will be demanding a run to the quarter-finals at the very least.

Key Player - Sergio Aguero

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates after scoring the second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Swansea City at Etihad Stadium on August 15, 2011© Getty Images

Had the Argentine not suffered numerous niggling injuries last season, City would probably have wrapped up the Premier League title before the final day of the season. He still contributed 17 goals, as well as a further six in the Champions League. His fitness still remains key to City's hopes of success, both domestically and in Europe. If he can keep the complaints down to a minimum, City will not be too far away when the big prizes are being handed out.

Sports Mole says: There will have been a groan when City were placed in the same group as Bayern, but they showed in the Allianz Arena last season that they can be more than a match for the Germans. Along with Bayern, Pellegrini's men should move into the last 16 of the competition, where a lot will then depend on the luck of the draw.

Did you know?: Man City's first ever Champions League goal was scored by left-back Aleksandar Kolarov during a 1-1 draw with Napoli in 2011.


Previous European Cup/CL best: Finalists: 1984

Manager - Rudi Garcia: The Frenchman is highly regarded at the Stadio Olimpico and it's easy to see why. He inherited the hotseat last year and has since made Roma a competitive force again, so much so that they were the closest challengers to Serie A champions Juventus last term. As a result, the 50-year-old will be looking for that optimism to give his side enough of a boost in what will be their first appearance in the Champions League since 2011.

Key Player - Miralem Pjanic

AS Roma's Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic celebrates after scoring against Parma during the Serie A football match between AS Roma and Parma in Rome's Olympic Stadium on April 2, 2014© Getty Images

Garcia made a number of positive additions to his squad during the summer, but it was the club's ability to keep hold of Pjanic that could well prove to be their best piece of business. With Francesco Totti well into his veteran years, 24-year-old Pjanic is able to provide a consistent link between the midfield and strikers. The Bosnian has a creative streak about his play, as well as being somewhat of a set-piece specialist.

Sports Mole says: Bayern and City may be the favourites to progress, but Roma will fancy their chances of throwing a spanner in the works. Garcia has assembled a good squad, with the likes of Ashley Cole and Seydou Keita providing the experience of having previously won the Champions League. If they can pick up a decent amount of points at home, the other two may well be fretting.

Did you know?: This year will be Roma's eighth outing in Europe's top club competition.


Previous European Cup/CL best: Quarter-finals: 2010

Manager - Leonid Slutsky The 43-year-old came in for some criticism last season, with CSKA having collected just three points in the group stages of the Champions League. It meant that they finished bottom, below Czech minnows Viktoria Plzen, who qualified for the Europa League at the Russian club's expense. However, he was able to guide the club to their second consecutive Russian Premier League title, which earned him some restbite. This time around, the demand is likely to be at least a third-placed finish.

Key Player - Seydou Doumbia

CSKA Moscow's Ivorian forward Seydou Doumbia celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League group D football match between Manchester City and CSKA Moscow at The City of Manchester stadium in Manchester, north-west England on November 5,© Getty Images

There will be few strikers in this season's Champions League that possess more pace than the Ivory Coast international. It's that speed that allows the 26-year-old to score many of his goals, with 20 being scored in all competitions last term. He has scored a number of goals in the Europa League and will be needed to transfer that into the Champions League if CSKA are to be competitive.

Sports Mole says: Much improvement will be needed from 12 months ago if CSKA are to stand any chance of reaching the knockout stages. They are the rank outsiders to progress, mainly because the three others teams in the group look better equipped. If they can finish third and reach the Europa League - a competition that they are capable of having a decent run in - that will be regarded a good campaign.

Did you know?: Brazilian striker Vagner Love, who left CSKA last year, has scored 30 goals in UEFA competitions for the club - no player has found the net on more occasions.

Group E fixtures

Wednesday, September 17
Roma vs. CSKA
Bayern vs. Man City

Tuesday, September 30
CSKA vs. Bayern
Man City vs. Roma

Tuesday, October 21
CSKA vs. Man City
Roma vs. Bayern

Wednesday, November 5
Man City vs. CSKA
Bayern vs. Roma

Tuesday, November 25
CSKA vs. Roma
Man City vs. Bayern

Wednesday, December 10
Roma vs. Man City
Bayern vs. CSKA

Prediction: 1. Bayern 2. Man City 3. Roma 4. CSKA

Manchester City's Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring from a penalty with teammate Spanish midfielder David Silva during the UEFA Champions League football match between Manchester City and CSKA Moscow at The Etihad Stadium in Manchester,
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