Monday 27 February 2017

GROUP A

Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Napoli, Villarreal

Thankfully, this is one of the few groups in the competition in which most games will have an edge so often missing at this stage of the tournament.

The scale of Manchester City's spending is emphasised by the fact that they have been drawn in what on paper is one of the trickiest groups yet Roberto Mancini's side must feel confident that they can emerge as winners despite this being their first season in the Champions League. Mancini was overly-criticised last season for sending out teams with a negative mindset, but his summer business has added flair on top of a solid base and they have the quality to go far in the competition.

Bayern Munich have been quietly effective in the summer transfer marker, with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer their most expensive acquisition. They have also started the Bundesliga reasonably well but their chances of matching their 2010 achievement, when they lost to Inter in the final in Madrid, are relatively slim.

Napoli failed to impress in the Europa League games against Liverpool last season, but in Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi they have the attacking potency to cause teams a lot of problems, particularly in a raucous Stadio San Paolo.

Villarreal, back in the Champions League after a three-year gap, have lost two of their key performers over the summer in Santi Cazorla and Juan Capdevila and they could struggle to make an impact on the group.

Key player: Edin Dzeko (right)

Key game: Bayern Munich v Manchester City, Sept 27

Prediction: 1 Manchester City, 2 Bayern Munich, 3 Napoli, 4 Villarreal

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