SAO PAULO (AP) – Group F
Arsenal, Marseille, Olympiakos, Borussia Dortmund
This is perhaps the least predictable of the eight groups, and not because it's a "group of death." Three of these four teams are carrying self-inflicted wounds that should make this one pretty tight.
Let's start with Arsenal, which as we write this, have just lost 8-2 to Manchester United. They look broken, and even if they were to spring to life, they have nowhere near the squad depth needed to make a run in Europe. Consider also that the beleaguered Arsene Wenger has to take the Carling Cup seriously - do you honestly think these Gunners can win anything else? The steady grind of weekend/midweek football is going to stretch their meager resources beyond breaking point. As long as Theo Walcott, Robin Van Persie and Gervinho stay healthy, Arsenal should squeak this. Lose one player, well, they'll lose here, too.
Then there is Marseille, one of those fickle French teams that always promises far more than it delivers. It has huge home support in the Stade Velodrome, a stylish, smart boss in Didier Deschamps, and a great football history. It also has a habit of blowing points in Europe and winding up far short of it should be. That trend will continue here.
Olympiakos is the best in a lousy Greek league deeply troubled by finances, crowd violence and match-fixing accusations. (In fact, one of the qualified sides (Volos) was already tossed out of Europe this year.) Although the Piraeus side has a great history, none of that heritage is likely to help on the field.
Which leaves Borussia Dortmund, one of the youngest sides ever to win the Bundesliga, an exciting, attack-oriented team that will be just fine until it discovers it is in Europe. Does Dortmund have the spine needed? That's the huge question hanging over this bunch. Even so, Dortmund is the most talented side of the four.
Our prediction: Borussia Dortmund are group winners; Arsenal are runners-up. Marseille into the Europa League.
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