How will the English teams perform in the Champions League group stages?

The Champions League group stage has been drawn and even though English teams are usually very good at qualifying through their group it may not be as easy this team.

No doubt, Manchester City have the hardest group with Spanish giants Real Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund. Madrid may pose the biggest threat with Jose Mourinho as their manager and he will be desperate to win the trophy again. Cristiano Ronaldo is obviously one of their biggest threats but they have quality all through their side and if City want to prove they are one of the best teams in Europe they will have to top the group and show up the former Chelsea manager. But, City may not even get in the top two because Ajax have a lot of quality themselves with players like Christian Eriksen in their side and you cannot discount Dortmund as they should never have been in the bottom pot anyway and have won the German league twice in a row.

Now, neighbours Manchester United have a much easier task as they should top the group if they play to their potential and I can’t see Braga, Galatasaray or Cluj topping this group. The current Galatasaray squad contains a few former Premier League players in Milan Baros, Emmanuel Eboue and Johan Elmander so they will want to show their quality and show everyone they are good enough against English opposition. Braga are an interesting side but unfortunately for them they can never seem to take that extra step and compete right at the very top and are seen as the customary third place team in Portugal. Cluj will probably be the whipping boys of the group however it is worth noting that they have beaten Roma and drawn with Chelsea in the past so they may be dark horses.

Arsenal will face Schalke, Olympiakos and Montpellier in their group matches and they will also be hoping that they don’t have too many problems. Arsenal new boy Olivier Giroud will travel to the club he signed from a lot sooner than he probably expected and the French champions will want to show Giroud that he was wrong for leaving and should have stayed but I can’t see them posing too much of a threat. What separates Schalke from the rest in this group is they have a goal scorer that is feared all over Europe and can score all different types of goals and that man is Klaas Jan Huntelaar, he will try and show Arsene Wenger that maybe he should have tried to sign him instead of Lukas Podolski and Giroud. Olympiakos will always cause problems at home for any team so they will be relying on that and goalkeeper Roy Carroll may have a lot of work to do in the group stages.

Finally, reigning champions Chelsea will be hoping to start their campaign comfortably and they will surely progress but may not get things their own way with Shaktar Donetsk, Juventus and Nordsjaelland in their group. The standout team is Juventus but they are not the team they once were even though they were very impressive in Serie A last season. But, if Chelsea can stop Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings in midfield they will have a great chance of winning the group. Shaktar are also a decent side and have won the Ukrainian title for the last two seasons so they may put more of an effort into trying to topple some of the bigger teams in Europe this year and it is always difficult to play away in Eastern Europe so that could be difficult for Chelsea. Nordsjaelland are the current Danish champions but not a lot is known about them so everyone is expecting them to lose all of their games but this could work in their advantage and they could pull off a few shocks

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Which clubs should be interested in signing Klaas Jan Huntelaar?

Klaas Jan Huntelaar has been linked with a move away from his current club Schalke and a lot of Premier League clubs will be interested in his services.

Huntelaar has scored 31 goals in 56 games for Holland

The Dutch striker didn’t have the best of times at the European Championships playing second fiddle to Robin Van Persie but that shouldn’t worry potential suitors as he had a fantastic season at club level scoring 48 goals in just 47 games which is a remarkable record. The 28 year old has played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe including Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan so he will not be fazed by joining any of the big teams in England. Personally I believe that at these clubs he was never really given a chance and if he was his goal scoring record would be even more impressive, at Real Madrid he only scored 8 goals in 20 games but he only started 13 of these and it was a similar story at Milan where he only got 7 goals in 25 games. He has proved he can score goals at all levels and I would love to see him in the Premier League.

The favourites to sign him would have to be Manchester United as he would fit into their style of play and I am sure winger Antonio Valencia would love to play with him as he is a striker that likes to attack the ball in the box and doesn’t mind putting his head in where it hurts. With the number of crosses the team puts in, Huntelaar could easily get 20 goals if he is first choice. With Dimitar Berbatov’s future at Old Trafford in doubt, I think Man United need another proven goal scorer to play alongside Wayne Rooney. Danny Welbeck has potential but he showed last season he isn’t always on his game and Javier Hernandez not quite replicating his first season form last year, Sir Alex Ferguson may just want to bolster his attacking options.

Liverpool are also linked with Huntelaar and he could easily strike up a good partnership with Luis Suarez. However the Uruguayan’s future at the club is also in doubt and he may be on his way this summer. I don’t see this as a bad thing and Huntelaar would be an ideal replacement, plus he may fit into new manager Brendan Rodgers’ style of play. He usually only plays one up front and he can play this role very well as he can hold up the ball very effectively. He is a lot better than Andy Carroll, so if they can sign him, it would be the end of the Geordies’ career at Anfield.

Finally, Tottenham Hotspur should definitely be looking at him as they only have one recognised striker in their squad at the minute in Jermain Defoe so they need more firepower for next season. They had Emmanuel Adebayor on loan last season but to sign him permanently they would have to pay his huge wage which they don’t seem to want to. Huntelaar, in my opinion is a better player anyway and would give them more than Adebayor. Plus his national teammate Rafael Van Der Vaart would help him settle in and would already have an understanding with him.

Players of the day- Cristiano Ronaldo and Bastian Schweinsteiger

The first round of Group B games only produced two goals but the second games had much more action and goalmouth action.

Denmark kicked off their second game against Portugal feeling very good about themselves after beating Holland while the Portuguese needed to win to have a realistic chance of staying in the competition. The moment that changed the game in my opinion was the injury to Niki Zimling who had been playing very well and was outstanding in the first game against Holland, when he went off the team seemed to lose a little bit of their shape and the Portuguese capitalised on it. Pepe scored with a bullet header from a corner and then Helder Postiga scored from a Nani cross and it seemed as though Denmark were sinking without a trace. But Nicklas Bendtner pulled a goal back just before halftime after one of the best build-ups I have seen all tournament. The second half turned into a very tactical affair and Cristiano Ronaldo missed two one on ones, then Bendtner scored from a powerful header and the scores were level. However, Silvestre Varela had the last laugh and scored with his second attempt to break Danish hearts.

Man of the match- Cristiano Ronaldo- He may be remembered from this game for missing two one on ones but he shouldn’t be as his movement was sensational and every time he had the ball he created panic in the Denmark defence. He even put in a shift defensively and constantly tracked back against Lars Jacobsen, if he had took his chances it would have been a 10 out of 10 performance and everyone would have been saying he is the best player in the world.

Ronaldo scored 60 goals for Real Madrid last season

The second game was one of the most anticipated in the group stages with Holland taking on Germany. The Dutch really need to avoid defeat after the result from the earlier game and decided to start Robin Van Persie once more instead of Klaas Jan Huntelaar. They missed a few early half chances and Mario Gomez made them pay with a fantastic turn and finish from a Bastian Schweinsteiger pass. Gomez followed that up with his second of the game and his third in the tournament but goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg should have done better and not been beaten from that angle. In the second half the Germans were just strolling to victory until Robin Van Persie scored with a powerful finish and should have set up a tense last 15 minutes however the Germans didn’t allow it to happen and comfortably saw the game out.

Man of the match- Bastian Schweinsteiger- Mario Gomez may have got both the goals but the Bayern Munich midfielder set up both the goals with precise passes and ran the central area of the pitch from start to finish. When the game got scrappy he was in their battling and when it needed composure, he put his foot on the ball and dictated the play, sometimes picking up the pace and then other times, particularly towards the end, slowed it down.

Schweinsteiger has been at Bayern Munich his whole career

Players of the day- Simon Kjaer and Mario Gomez

Group B took centre stage in the European Championships with Holland taking on Denmark and Germany playing Portugal.

The first game of the day provided the first real shock in the tournament with Denmark playing superbly and beating Holland after a terrific goal from Michael Krohn-Dehli. The Dutch side had a lot of attempts but were unable to score with Robin Van Persie in particular being very wasteful. The Arsenal man had a few chances but his finishing wasn’t up to the standards we now expect and his control was also off at times. A big question for the manager is, does he start Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in the next game which has now became a must win? Arjen Robben hit the post and Denmark rode their luck and on another day they could have conceded two penalties however the luck was on their side and maybe they deserved it.

Man of the match- Simon Kjaer- This was a really difficult one to choose because anyone of their players could have won it. Simon Poulson at left back was fantastic going forward and for the most part he kept Robben quiet. Daniel Agger, showed everyone how good he is and the Liverpool player was always there with a crucial tackle or block. Niki Zimling and William Kvist combined well and stopped the Dutch team playing through the middle of the pitch forcing them out wide. Michael Krohn-Dehli obviously scored the goal but it was his all round performance that was particularly impressive, he was confident on the ball and every opportunity tried to take on his fullback and succeeded regularly. But I went for Kjaer, because he marshalled Robin Van Persie and then Huntelaar very well and when he had the ball he never gave it away and was quick to start counter attacks for his side. Dominant in the air and showed enough pace to deal with any threat as well as having almost perfect positioning for most of the game.

Simon Kjaer is only 23 and will have a good career ahead of him

The next game was one of the most anticipated games of the tournament but it didn’t live up to its billing with Portugal deciding to play for a draw and rarely threatened going forward. Despite that, they almost took the lead just before halftime when Pepe hit the underside of the bar. Germany couldn’t find much space and their better players were unable to get into the game much. Lukas Podolski on the left wing hardly had a touch, Thomas Muller sent in a few crosses but most of them were poor and didn’t reach one of his own players. Mesut Ozil was always trying things but he couldn’t find a killer pass. In the end the goal from Mario Gomez who managed to power home a header from a deflected cross.

Man of the match- Mario Gomez- Like in the first game it was difficult to choose but for a completely different reason. There were no stand out players and nobody really looked on form. Cristiano Ronaldo could have been in with a shout because every time he had the ball at least he tried to make something happen. But I gave it to Gomez as he did what nobody else could do and that was put the ball in the back of the net. He hardly had a touch, but he did his job better than anyone else and to me he has won the game for Germany, he was probably the only player on the pitch that could have scored that header so the match winner gets the vote for me.

Mario Gomez scored 41 goals for Bayern Munich this season