04/08/12: CSKA Moscow 1-3 Zenit
05/08/12: Vasco da Gama 0-0 Corinthians
09/08/12: Liverpool 3-0 Gomel
11/08/12: Zenit 5-0 Spartak Moscow
11/08/12: Paris SG 2-2 Lorient
12/08/12: Hibernian 1-1 Hearts
12/08/12: Chelsea 2-3 Manchester City
17/08/12: Cardiff City 1-0 Huddersfield Town
18/08/12: Leeds United 1-0 Wolves
18/08/12: Newcastle United 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
18/08/12: Mallorca 2-1 Espanyol
19/08/12: Wigan Athletic 0-2 Chelsea
19/08/12: Bordeaux 1-0 Rennes
19/08/12: Manchester City 3-2 Southampton
20/08/12: Everton 1-0 Manchester United
21/08/12: Spartak Moscow 2-1 Fenerbahce
22/08/12: Braga 1-1 Udinese
22/08/12: Malaga 2-0 Panathinaikos
24/08/12: Bolton Wanderers 2-2 Nottingham Forest
24/08/12: Dortmund 2-1 Werder Bremen
25/08/12: Swansea City 2-0 West Ham United
25/08/12: Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle United
25/08/12: Juventus 2-0 Parma
26/08/12: Stoke City 0-0 Arsenal
26/08/12: Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City
26/08/12: Milan 0-1 Sampdoria
26/08/12: Getafe 2-1 Real Madrid
27/08/12: Atletico Madrid 4-0 Athletic Bilbao
28/08/12: Maribor 0-1 Dinamo Zagreb
01/09/12: West Ham United 3-0 Fulham
02/09/12: Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal
02/09/12: Inter 1-3 Roma
07/09/12: Russia 2-0 Northern Ireland
07/09/12: Wales 0-2 Belgium
08/09/12: Scotland 0-0 Serbia
11/09/12: England 1-1 Ukraine
13/09/12: Leyton Orient 1-0 Brentford
14/09/12: Charlton Athletic 0-1 Crystal Palace
15/09/12: Norwich City 0-0 West Ham United
15/09/12: Sunderland 1-1 Liverpool
15/09/12: Milan 0-1 Atalanta
15/09/12: Sevilla 1-0 Real Madrid
16/09/12: Chievo 1-3 Lazio
16/09/12: Wolves 2-1 Leicester City
16/09/12: Reading 1-3 Tottenham Hotspur
17/09/12: Everton 2-2 Newcastle United
19/09/12: Celtic 0-0 Benfica
19/09/12: Chelsea 2-2 Juventus
20/09/12: Inter 2-2 Rubin Kazan
23/09/12: Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United
23/09/12: Manchester City 1-1 Arsenal
23/09/12: Lille 1-1 Lyon
26/09/12: Pescara 1-0 Palermo
26/09/12: Napoli 3-0 Lazio
27/09/12: Siena 1-0 Bologna
29/09/12: Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
29/09/12: Manchester United 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
30/09/12: Nottingham Forest 0-1 Derby County
30/09/12: Aston Villa 1-1 West Bromwich Albion
01/10/12: Queens Park Rangers 1-2 West Ham United
02/10/12: Spartak Moscow 2-3 Celtic
03/10/12: Zenit 2-3 Milan
03/10/12: Manchester City 1-1 Dortmund
04/10/12: Panathinaikos 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
04/10/12: Rosenborg 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen
07/10/12: Southampton 2-2 Fulham
07/10/12: Newcastle United 0-3 Manchester United
07/10/12: Hannover 1-1 Dortmund
07/10/12: Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid
07/10/12: Milan 0-1 Inter
12/10/12: Republic of Ireland 1-6 Germany
14/10/12: Preston North End 0-0 Milton Keynes Dons
14/10/12: Shrewsbury Town 1-0 Walsall
15/10/12: Port Vale 3-0 Oxford United
16/10/12: Belgium 2-0 Scotland
17/10/12: Poland 1-1 England
19/10/12: Bordeaux 1-1 Lille
19/10/12: Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Leeds United
20/10/12: Tottenham Hotspur 2-4 Chelsea
20/10/12: Valencia 3-2 Athletic Bilbao
21/10/12: Sunderland 1-1 Newcastle United
21/10/12: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Everton
21/10/12: Osasuna 0-0 Real Betis
23/10/12: Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Chelsea
24/10/12: Dortmund 2-1 Real Madrid
25/10/12: Maribor 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
28/10/12: Everton 2-2 Liverpool
28/10/12: Chelsea 2-3 Manchester United
28/10/12: Bayern Munich 1-2 Leverkusen
03/11/12: Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal
03/11/12: Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Cardiff City
04/11/12: Liverpool 1-1 Newcastle United
04/11/12: Granada 1-2 Athletic Bilbao
05/11/12: West Bromwich Albion 2-0 Southampton
06/11/12: Schalke 04 2-2 Arsenal
09/11/12: Middlesbrough 3-1 Sheffield Wednesday
10/11/12: Leicester City 2-2 Nottingham Forest
11/11/12: Lazio 3-2 Roma
11/11/12: Manchester City 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
11/11/12: Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool
11/11/12: Montpellier 1-1 Paris SG
14/11/12: Northern Ireland 1-1 Azerbaijan
17/11/12: Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham Hotspur
17/11/12: Peterborough 1-4 Blackburn Rovers
18/11/12: Millwall 1-0 Leeds United
18/11/12: Fulham 1-3 Sunderland
18/11/12: Hoffenheim 1-3 Wolfsburg
19/11/12: West Ham United 1-1 Stoke City
20/11/12: Spartak Moscow 0-3 Barcelona
21/11/12: Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid
23/11/12: Fortuna Dusseldorf 2-0 Hamburg
24/11/12: Derby County 3-2 Birmingham City
24/11/12: Palermo 3-1 Catania
25/11/12: Swansea City 0-0 Liverpool
25/11/12: Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City
25/11/12: Milan 1-0 Juventus
27/11/12: Aston Villa 1-0 Reading
28/11/12: Wigan Athletic 0-2 Manchester City
02/12/12: Norwich City 2-1 Sunderland
 
 
KEY
Schalke 04= Blue
Arsenal= Yellow
 
 
Well here we are again. The European club season is getting into gear and nothing symbolises it more (so UEFA would lead us all to believe) than the UEFA Champions League Group Phase Draw. Fast forward through Pedro Pinto and Michelle Winiger’s smiley introductions and the legendary faces drawing the names out of the bowls and the draw itself is not as mesmeric a spectacle as UEFA try to paint it. It’s not even worth applauding the effort. The results hold some potential moments of intrigue yet as happens on an almost constant basis, the unpredictable nature of football appears to have not quite materialised in its truest sense in Europe’s premier competition. But here it is in all its glory and some thoughts on the compositions of the groups and things to look out for are below.

GROUP A

Porto                                    
Dynamo Kiev                    
Paris SG                               
Dinamo Zagreb

The big spending Parisians will be fairly pleased with this group. Porto aren’t as strong as previous incarnations while Dynamo Kiev shouldn’t provide too much of a problem to a team containing the talent that PSG do (granted the trip to Ukraine’s capital might prove a difficult game to navigate). Dinamo Zagreb were hopeless last season and will be hoping to at least come out of this with a point to their name. It is probably the most they can achieve.

Sales Point: Seeing how well the moneyed Parisians do in the competition they aim to become integral to.

If just for one game…: Porto - Paris SG (the kind of game that the Qatari owners have paid for)


GROUP B

Arsenal                                
Schalke 04                          
Olympiakos                       
Montpellier

Arsenal will be fairly pleased with this group although Olivier Giroud might be a little uncomfortable returning to Montpellier so soon. It looks fairly close for who is likely to progress along with the Londoners so for that this group does retain some wider interest. However, it’s probably the least inspirational group in this draw. Schalke 04 and Olympiakos are of good European pedigree but won’t particularly frighten anyone and whoever goes through with Arsenal will be preferred opposition in the knockout stages. Hopefully Montpellier’s supremo Louis Nicollin will do something wacky to generate some wider interest. 
 
Sales Point: Occasionally the weak groups provide the most entertainment. 

If just for one game…: Montpellier - Arsenal (The French side’s biggest reward for preventing PSG lifting the Ligue 1 title last season. Not to mention the Giroud factor too).


GROUP C

Milan              
Zenit                                     
Anderlecht                        
Malaga

With Milan’s downsizing reducing them to being one of the worst Milan teams in the club’s illustrious history, this group is fairly open. Money remains the main factor with Zenit spending in their bid to make a more significant impact on the continental stage while Malaga’s odd situation has question marks over what to expect from them. However, with Manuel Pellegrini in charge they will certainly provide a challenge to the top seeds. It might also be an opportunity for Anderlecht to sneak through. Yes, Milan really have fallen that far.

Sales Point: Zenit could buy your attention. Don’t blame them; it’s a widely accepted method to generate interest in football.

If just for one game…: Milan - Zenit (the Rossoneri can hold onto their status as big dogs or they can relinquish it with surprising ease. Worth a watch don’t you think?)


GROUP D

Real Madrid                       
Manchester City              
Ajax                                      
Dortmund

It’s the strongest group of the lot on paper. Real Madrid will be aiming to get that elusive tenth European title. Manchester City will want to improve greatly on last season’s effort. Ajax will want to show that they are moving in the right direction on the biggest stage and Dortmund will be looking to produce performances more akin to their league standard. Should the Germans do so then this group will at least get close to living up to the over-inflated expectations. 

Sales Point: The champions of Spain, England, Holland and Germany competing in one group. It’s what the Champions League should be about.

If just for one game…: Dortmund - Real Madrid (aesthetically probably the best tie of the group phase)


GROUP E

Chelsea                                               
Shakhtar Donetsk           
Juventus                             
Nordsjaelland

Nordsjaelland will be loving this. A group consisting of last year’s winners, an established name in European competition and a returning giant will have fulfilled the desires of their fans for the group phase. Nothing is expected of them and they can enjoy just being there. That might sound demeaning but it is truthful. Shakhtar make the group highly interesting in competitive stakes and regularly deliver on the entertainment front. 
 
Sales Point:  The Old Lady is back and testing herself against a Chelsea team that’s undergoing surgery to reduce the signs of ageing. The Italian game has taken quite a kicking over the past few years and for the good of calcio, Juventus need to continue to build themselves back up to being a heavyweight. It just might take a little longer than Italy hopes.

If just for one game...: Juventus - Chelsea (the Old Lady is back with Europe’s biggest and with their English-style arena welcoming the reigning European champions, it’s sure to be a game to enjoy)


GROUP F

Bayern Munich                
Valencia                              
Lille                                       
BATE Borisov

Last season would have sucked for Bayern supporters. It all seemed so good but thanks to those upstarts at Dortmund on the domestic scene and Chelsea really pooping what was meant to be a great Bavarian party at the Allianz Arena last season, it has been a summer of deep analysis. New faces have added positivity for the new campaign and if their league start is anything to go by then they’ll be in the reckoning once again this season. Just without a final at their home ground. That really must sting. As for the other teams in the group, both Valencia and Lille are entering new chapters: Mauricio Pellegrino’s first job in management at the Mestalla while Lille enter the Post-Hazard days. BATE Borisov are appearing much more frequently and along with CFR Cluj, serves as a poster team for the changes that Michel Platini made to Champions League qualification. However, they would do well to pick up any points in this group.

Sales Point: As a club, Lille have continued to improve in status and with their new ground, they’ll be keen to upset an unconvincing Valencia and a Bayern team that just might get complacent.

If just for one game…: Lille - Bayern Munich (Bayern just might do what Manchester United did last season and it’ll be in the game at Lille where they’ll need to keep their wits about them most to avoid making progress anything less than a formality) 


GROUP G

Barcelona                           
Benfica                                
Spartak Moscow             
Celtic

This looks fairly dull doesn’t it? Let’s be honest, Barcelona will win this group before the final matchday and Benfica will finish in second place. It’ll be a little closer between Spartak Moscow and Celtic for third but given that Neil Lennon is the boss at Celtic, the Russians should land in third. At least Aiden McGeady will enjoy a Glasgow reunion. 

Sales Point: If you like your tiki-taka (a phrase that grates more and more) then enjoy as Barcelona comfortably skip past teams that will try but will ultimately fail to derail the Catalan campaign.

If just for one game...: Celtic - Benfica (history and all that. We are talking about Celtic in Europe)


GROUP H

Manchester United       
Braga                                    
Galatasaray                       
CFR Cluj

Do you remember Manchester United in Europe last season? Wasn’t pretty for them was it? Admittedly for everyone else it was delightful but it will have now provided a wake-up call to Sir Alex Ferguson and they won’t make the same mistake again. Although we can dream can’t we?
CFR Cluj just might fancy their chances in a group like this. Braga are decent as are Galatasaray but the Romanian poster boys for Platini’s handiwork could capitalise on any slipups from them.  
 
Sales Point: Manchester United were stupidly arrogant in what was perhaps an easier group last season and they fell flat on their face, missing out on the knockout rounds. It’s highly unlikely they’ll do it again but this is football we are talking about (yes, it is a hateful cliche but it is necessary).

If just for one game...: Braga - Galatasaray (one of the best looking grounds in Europe hosting one of the most vocally supported sides in Europe)