The Untold Champions – A closer look at the new entries to the Champions league this season.
The Champions League group stage kicks off soon and it would not feature the likes of Inter milan, Udinese, Liverpool, Lyon and Roma. The groups look like this.
Group A : Porto, DynamoKiev, PSG, Dinamo Zagreb
Group B : Arsenal, Schalke, Olympiakos, Montpellier
Group C : Milan, Zenit, Anderlecht, Malaga
Group D : Real Madrid, Man City, Ajax, Dortmund
Group E : Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, FC Nordsjaelland
Group F : Bayern, Valencia, Lille, BATE
Group G : Barcelona, Benfica, Spartak Moscow, Celtic
Group H : Manchester United, Braga, Galatasaray, Cluj.
The surprising qualifiers are Belarusian Champions FC BATE Borisov, Croatian Champions Dinamo Zagreb, Danish Champions FC Nordsjaelland and Romanian Champions CFR Cluj. Hope the underrated and the unnoticed Champions have a decent run just like APOEL Nicosia who were eliminated in the Quarter finals against Real Madrid.
FC BATE Borisov
FC Bate Borisov are the reigning Belarusian Premier League champions and they’re the only Belarusian team to qualify for the group stages of UEFA Champions League in 2008, 2011 and 2012.
Their home ground City Stadium has a capacity of just over 5000 which doesn’t match the expectations of UEFA. So, the Champions League matches are played in Dynamo Minsk stadium.
They have already played against top European sides such as AC Milan thanks to their back to back Champions League qualifications. FC BATE have produced the likes of Alexander Hleb, Vitali Kutuzov and Yuri Zhevnov and in 2008 became the first Belarusian football side to make it through to the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.
Dinamo Zagreb are the reigning Croatian champions having won the Prva HNL title for the seventh consecutive time. Their name was changed to Dinamo Zagreb in 2011 which was formerly called as Croatia Zagreb.
Dinamo Zagreb have won thirteen Croatian Leagues, ten Croatian Cups and four Croatian Super cup. They are grouped along with French moneybags PSG, Portuguese giants FC Porto and European competition regular Dynamo Kiev. The European football regulars eliminated Maribor on their way to the group stage.
The Croatian club are playing in the top division since their inception in 1945. The club also had two successful campaigns inthe Inter-Cities Fairs Cup during this period, reaching the final in 1963 and 1967 and winning the latter by beating England’s Leeds United.
FC Nordsjaelland became the Danish Super Liga Champions last season which won a spot in the Europe’s most prestigious tournament. FC Nordsjaelland was formed in 1991 and is one of the youngest clubs to participate in the UEFA Champions League. The capacity of their home ground is just above 10,000. The Wild Tigers have got a gist of European tournaments as they have participated in UEFA Cup a few years ago and they went on to make back to back appearances in UEFA Europa League between 2010 and 2012. This is the first time that the Dutch champions would be making their mark in Champions League.
They’re grouped along with European Champions Chelsea, Italian Champions Juventus and Ukrainian powerhouse Shakhtar Donetsk.
CFR Cluj were a team who played in the third tier of Romanian League till they found a ambitious owner in Arpad Paszkany. He brought The Railwaymen to Champions League status just like Roman Abramovich with Chelsea. The total money involved in the transfers is just below the loan fee of Nuri Sahin combined with his wages.
Following the promotion to the Liga 1 in 2002, they have gone on to win thirteen major titles that include eight Liga 1 titles, three Romanian Cups and two Romanian Super cups. They won their first ever UEFA Champions League promotion in 2008 as they pulled off a surprising victory against Italian giants Roma in the opening game.
They are grouped alongwith Manchester United, Turkish Champions Galatasaray and Braga who defeated Udinese in the two-legged Champions League qualification round.
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