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

Who will be the next West Brom manager?

Roy Hodgson is leaving West Brom to become the new England manager and it will be difficult to replace him but that is the task that their board have been set.

When looking at Hodgson’s record at West Brom it would seem that he hasn’t done a great job with him winning only 37.04% of his games in charge but it is another example of when stats don’t tell the full story. Last season he managed to keep them up quite comfortably and with a few more additions he has guided them to 10th place this year. He won’t be easy to replace and the next manager has a tough job but he made some good signings like Shane Long, who are good enough now for the Premier League and will improve even more in the coming years.

So looking at the contenders and the favourite is Chris Hughton and rightfully so in my opinion. What he has done in charge of Birmingham City this season has been sensational and they were unlucky to lose in the playoffs. In just one season, he has took charge of 62 games which just proves that he has a good pedigree in cup competitions and I’m sure the Baggies would love a good cup run. Out of the 62 games, he has only lost 15 games. He has already proved in his short managerial career that his teams do not lose a lot of games and firstly makes them difficult to beat so he has a similar style to Hodgson. He was harshly sacked as manager of Newcastle United and there he had an even better record as he only lost 14 of his 70 games in charge and was keeping them in the Premier League comfortably.

Another candidate for the job is ‘The Tinkerman’ Claudio Ranieri who has been without a job since being sacked as manager of Inter Milan. This rumour interested me the most as he has had a lot of jobs since leaving Chelsea in 2004 and has on the whole struggled with him only winning one trophy and that being the UEFA Super Cup with Valencia in 2004 even though he has managed such huge clubs like Juventus, Roma and as previously mentioned Inter. But in his defence he does have decent winning percentages for each club however he wasn’t meeting their expectations and if he doesn’t do that at West Brom they will be in serious trouble of relegation. I like the idea of Ranieri coming back to England as he did a good job for Chelsea but personally I don’t see him and West Brom as a good fit.

Finally, the last name to put forward is Michael Appleton who is the current manager of Portsmouth and this is another strange one because they have just been relegated from the Championship. The reason why I think he could be a good choice is the positive response he gets from everyone, whenever asked a question, he always answers very openly and is honest with what is going on, which a lot of managers are not these days. He previously played for West Brom and was their first team coach under Roberto Di Matteo so he knows the club and some of the players so it will be easy for him to settle into the role. It is a long shot but who knows maybe he is in with a shout.

I would go for Chris Hughton as he has done a fantastic job at every club he has been and deserves another shot at the Premier League. He may not be able to push the club onto the next level but a bit of stability would be nice at a club that is known for going up and down the divisions. With Hughton in charge there would be no threat of relegation.