Champions League Group D profile: Atletico attractive but hard to look past Ancelotti’s Bayern
Robbie Purves | September 5, 2016
Champions League Group D profile
With European football back on our screens this September, Coral experts give Champions League Group D tips, as we examine all eight pools for the best punts and profile the teams, players and coaches.
Despite there being no Premier League interest is this pool, the group is highly interesting with heavyweight German giants Bayern Munich and last year’s Champions League finalists Atletico Madrid set to slug it out for superiority.
Munich come into the competition as understandable favourites to claim the group’s top spot, while Diego Simeone’s Atleti are a close second. That leaves PSV Eindhoven and Russians Rostov to battle for the pool’s scraps.
The Bavarian outfit are five-time winners of the competition and have made its final three times in the last six years.
When Pep Guardiola took over in 2013, many had the German giants as nailed on to lift at least one Champions League, but fell short three years on the bounce. Guardiola took the Allianz Arena outfit to three consecutive semi-finals, but failed in his endeavour to transfer his Barcelona European form to Germany.
However, now under the calming presence of Carlo Ancelotti, Bayern need to be taken seriously as challengers for the top prize.
Ancelotti is a serial winner and collector of European trophies, the Italian is the only manager to have won the Champions League three times and reach four finals. As a result, Bayern are 4/1 with Coral to lift the prize this term.
Bavaria’s best have finished top in each of their last three Champions League groups, and are odds-on at 1/2 to do it again this term with their rejuvenated squad.
The summer saw two quality additions to Bayern’s squad. Mats Hummels is widely regarded as one of the best centre backs in the world, and switched from rivals Borussia Dortmund to bolster an already solid defensive line. Medhi Benatia therefore, went on loan to Juventus after a difficult spell in Germany.
Meanwhile, Mario Gotze returned to Dortmund, going back to the Westfalenstadion after three years in Munich.
In midfield, Bayern acquired one of the winners and young stars of the Euros, Renato Sanches.
Diego Simeone’s side will be out to avenge yet another Champions League final defeat at the hands of city rivals Real Madrid. Atleti have made the final twice in three years, both times beaten by Los Blancos – the first of which was after a five-year absence from the competition.
Simeone is a manager that can beat any team over two-legs, shown by his semi-final away goals victory over Bayern – indicating that this group is not a foregone conclusion.
The effect El Cholo has had on the Madrid club has been huge. Once almost a joke to rivals Real, Simeone’s side have well and truly stepped out of the Los Blancos shadow, with their 2014 La Liga title win and formidable records against top teams.
This Vicente Calderon club had an injection of well needed fresh blood this summer. Kevin Gameiro, signed from Andalusian side Sevilla, scored 29 goals last term and is likely to be paired with Euro 2016 top scorer Antoine Griezmann if Simeone opts for 4-4-2 or, in the centre of a 4-3-3.
Gameiro is a solid acquisition, with his excellent link up play and finishing. Meanwhile, Luciano Vietto went the other way to Sevilla on loan and Borja Baston was sold to Swansea for £15.3m.
Another signing, Nicolas Gaitan, recorded 11 assists and 20 goals for Benfica last term and will be an arrival to keep an eye on this year.
Atleti have topped each of their last three Champions League groups and could be a great shout to pip Bayern at 7/4.
Once a winner of the European Cup, PSV haven’t had a particularly stellar time in Europe since. The Eindhoven outfit have failed to make the quarter-finals since 2007, but come into the competition this year as Eredivisie champions – securing the title on the final day of the season.
Former player and now manager Phillip Cocu, is an exciting talent that already has two consecutive Dutch league titles in three years as a senior permanent manager.
Great players do not always become great managers as the old cliche goes, but the early signs of Cocu’s career bodes well. He seems certain to be linked to huge European clubs in the near future with his flowing, attractive football and is reportedly already being looked at by Barcelona – one of his former clubs.
In terms of outgoings, only centre back Jeffrey Bruma’s tranfer to Bundesliga side Wolfsburg for £9.78m was the big departure. However, he was replaced swiftly by experienced defender Daniel Schwaab from Stuttgart.
Siem de Jong returned to the Eredivisie with a loan move from English Championship side Newcastle United. The former Ajax man joined his brother, Netherlands international and PSV captain Luuk.
Their big signing of the summer however, came with the transfer of Bart Ramselaar from Utrecht for £5.1m. The attacking midfielder recorded eight goals and seven assists last term, and will look to form a partnership with Luuk de Jong.
The Philips Stadion side are outsiders to qualify from the group at 9/2.
Rostov narrowly missed out on the Russian title last term finishing second by two points, their highest ever finish. This will be the first time the Russians will have been in Europe’s top club competition since being founded in 1930.
Kurban Berdyev, the manager that guided the side to its most successful league season and Champions League place is now gone.
Dmitri Kirichenko, assistant boss last term and current caretaker manager, is now in charge for the time being and managed to advance the club he played for as a player to the Champions League group stage through the play-offs, after Berdyev resigned half way through qualifying.
Unfortunately for the club, they lost two key players during the summer window. Centre back Ivan Novoseltsev was crucial in Rostov’s remarkable season and moved to Zenit St Petersburg for £8.50m. Miha Mevlja was subsequently bought to replace him.
Meanwhile, right back Timofey Margasov left on a free after playing 25 times last term and Striker Sardar Azmoun joined from Rubin Kazan for £1.96m after scoring nine last year.
Rostov are big outsiders at 11/1 to qualify and may find it difficult fighting on both fronts after their heroics the previous season.
Champions League Group D games
All matches unless stated are at 19:45 UK time.
Tuesday, September 13th
Bayern Munich v FC Rostov
PSV Eindhoven v Ateltico Madrid
Wednesday, September 28th
Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich
FC Rostov v PSV Eindhoven
Wednesday, October 19th
FC Rostov v Atletico Madrid
Bayern Munich v PSV Eindhoven
Tuesday, November 1st
Atletico Madrid v FC Rostov
PSV Eindhoven v Bayern Munich
Wednesday, November 23rd
Atletico Madrid v PSV Eindhoven
FC Rostov v Bayern Munich (17:00 GMT)
Tuesday, December 6th
Bayern Munich v Atletico Madrid
PSV Eindhoven v FC Rostov
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