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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Player of the day- Steven Gerrard plus My hatred for ITV!

England have won Group D after beating Ukraine while France couldn’t get the win they needed as they lost against Sweden however they still qualified.

France decided to play a few of their fringe players with Hatem Ben Arfa and Yann M’Vila who have hardly kicked a ball this tournament getting a start and Laurent Blanc’s gamble did not pay off. For me the big mistake was leaving out Yohan Cabaye who had been in superb form so far and is someone who I consider to be undroppable at both club and international level. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sebastian Larsson scored the goals and they sent their fans home happy. France will now face Spain in the quarter finals.

The England game wasn’t the most exciting and their fans will take confidence from the result however their performance still wasn’t great going forward even with the returning Wayne Rooney in the starting 11. The first half showed England struggle to break down teams that aren’t the best at defending and when they did take the lead early in the second half, it was largely down to a mistake from the Ukrainian goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov. However, it is worth saying that the cross from Steven Gerrard was fantastic and Wayne Rooney had to be in the right position to header home. It wasn’t the most exciting game but England were very lucky when the ball seemed to cross the line before John Terry managed to clear. How the fifth official missed it I will never know and it just shows that they actually are pointless and do nothing. Also, it looked as though the ball hit John Terry’s hand later in the half but that also wasn’t given.

Man of the match- Steven Gerrard- It wasn’t the greatest performance from England but their captain showed his worth by supplying the cross for the goal and putting in a number of other threatening crosses. He linked up well with both Rooney and Danny Welbeck at times and that will be important against better teams. Plus, his partnership with Scott Parker is getting better and better by the game as they know where the other is on the pitch and if they should go forward or sit back and protect the back four. It is refreshing to see Gerrard playing well after all the years of seeing him struggle alongside Frank Lampard. He has easily been England’s stand out player this tournament already and he is finally showing his true ability at international level and is a fantastic example to everyone when he is on the pitch.

Gerrard is closing in on his 100th cap for England

Finally, I would just like to say I really hate coverage of the England games, especially on ITV as the commentators aren’t impartial at all and try to claim that England are the best thing in world football. They are not and they think every player is brilliant. They don’t even care that much about the opposition and will not even give them that much credit. They hardly talked about Ukraine when their shot crossed the line, instead they focused on how well John Terry did to get back into the right position but who cares about that, he didn’t stop the goal and if the fifth official was awake or we used goal line technology then it would have been a goal so why praise him? Then instead of saying that would have changed the match, they talked about the Germany game at the World Cup. Football doesn’t revolve around England and it is no wonder England fans are always naive and think they can win big tournaments. I support England but I hate the way ITV portrays the players and it really makes me hate watching the national team and that is without even mentioning Adrian Chiles.

Players of the day- Franck Ribery and Theo Walcott

Sweden are the second team to be knocked out of Euro2012 after their 3-2 defeat to England while France beat Ukraine.

The first game was suspended after the fourth minute because of terrible weather conditions and it eventually got under way almost an hour later. The first half saw both teams come close but neither could really take control of the game, although France had more of the possession they couldn’t quite carve the Ukrainian defence open. However, early in the second half the game was all but over after two goals in three minutes from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye. Both goals were finished off brilliantly after some wonderful passing. Cabaye deserved his goal and once again was sublime in the centre of the midfield and along with Andrea Pirlo, has been the most consistent player in the tournament. Ukraine had a few half chances but couldn’t find a way past Hugo Lloris in the French goal.

Man of the match- Franck Ribery- The Bayern Munich winger was in and out of the game but whenever he had the ball he frightened the life out of the Ukraine defenders. His pace was crucial in the first goal and he looked the most likely all through the first half to open the scoring. France’s other flair players were slightly disappointing in my opinion with Samir Nasri never getting out of first gear and Menez being very wasteful at times. Ribery was the one that added some much needed creativity to the game and outshone the rest.

Ribery made his international debut in 2006

England managed to beat Sweden in a thrilling game with both teams pushing forward for the win. Andy Carroll gave them the lead with a good header from an accurate cross from Steven Gerrard and England seemed in control without every really posing a threat. The second half was very different as the Swedes knew that defeat would mean they were eliminated from the competition and when Glen Johnson couldn’t clear an Olof Mellberg shot, they looked confident and were forcing the issue a lot more and then Mellberg once again popped up from a free kick to score a header. This left the England fans with a feeling of oh no not again but Roy Hodgson made a positive substitution and brought on Theo Walcott who scored with one of his first touches. Goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson should have done a lot better though. The winner was scored by Danny Welbeck who flicked in a Walcott cross with an inventive effort that not many other players would have been able to pull off or even try.

Man of the match- Theo Walcott- He may not have been on the pitch for that long but he changed the game and proved to be the difference between the sides. James Milner hadn’t been able to get much out of the fullback Martin Olsson but he looked awful against Walcott. His goal may not have been the best but at least he had a try and it lifted everyone. For the Welbeck goal he was vital as he picked up the ball and was very direct, driving at the defence and pulling the ball across for the Manchester United striker. He may not have been involved a lot but when he did have the ball he caused problems and maybe will get a chance to start in the next game.

Walcott now has four goal for England

Players of the day- Yohan Cabaye and Andriy Shevchenko

England kicked off their European Championship campaign against France and co-hosts Ukraine took on Sweden in Group D.

The England fans were not the most optimistic before the game but afterwards they should be quietly confident they can beat both Ukraine and Sweden to qualify for the knockout stages. France had more of the ball and looked the more threatening but on the counter attack Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck caused problems for the French defence. Joleon Lescott scored the opening goal from a fantastic Steven Gerrard free kick and this capped off an impressive first 30 minutes for the team. James Milner had went close after rounding the keeper but he could not finish but after the goal France took control. Samir Nasri grabbed an equaliser with a long range effort which Joe Hart arguably could have done better with. The second half was all France and Karim Benzema had two efforts from distance that needed saving.

Man of the match- Yohan Cabaye- The Newcastle midfielder ran the show and has added another couple of million pound to his price tag after such an impressive performance. He may not have stood out to some people as he didn’t take players on or get into really threatening positions but he kept the ball for his team and stopped countless counter attacks. He completed 43 of his 46 passes which is impressive by anyone’s standards and he certainly wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Spain side with his intelligent passes. He was unlucky not to score when his volley was just deflected wide but he was also lucky to escape without a booking as he did commit quite a few fouls.

Cabaye scored four goals in his first season in England

Co-hosts Ukraine are now top of the group after beating Sweden 2-1 and looking very impressive, they kept the ball brilliantly and very imaginative in some of their play. Wingers Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko were impressive and they tried to take on their fullbacks and put crosses into the box. But it was Sweden who opened the scoring with a goal from the inconsistent Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He finished off a move he started, and it looked as though they would go on and win the game comfortably but Ukraine had other ideas. Two headers from Andriy Shevchenko changed the game around and it left Sweden desperate to find equaliser towards the end with Olof Mellberg and Johan Elmander missing very good chances.

Man of the match- Andriy Shevchenko- He was already a national hero and now he will be considered a god in his homeland. The striker showed his fantastic ability and his movement was second to none in the tournament so far, the way he got away from Mellberg for his first was wonderful and getting in at the near post was genius from the former Chelsea man. His best days may be past him but he showed that if he is given a chance he will put it away, so France and England need to make sure they don’t give him a sniff.

Shevchenko has scored 48 goals for Ukraine