Champions League Group E Preview

To Win Group E
Chelsea 1/4
Schalke 4/1
Basel 14/1
Steaua Buch 33/1

Chelsea: Eden Hazard

Winners of the Champions League in 2011-12, Chelsea failed to pass the group stage last season before landing on their feet under Rafa Benitez and winning the Europa League.

Now under Jose Mourinho the Blues are back among the favourites to challenge for a third successive European crown, and the outstanding winger will be vitally important, having seemingly become his new manager’s first choice in the attacking midfield positions.

The 22-year-old, a mixture of breathtaking acceleration, tremendous dexterity and dribbling prowess made 63 appearances for Chelsea last season, scoring 13 goals and making 20 assists in all competitions, although he did miss the Europa League final through injury.

Now, his new manager is challenging the prodigiously talented Hazard to make an increasing number of decisive contributions and to claim his place among the pantheon of world football’s very top performers.

As the former Lille creator looks to make that transition, he’ll be well worth keeping an eye on.

Schalke 04: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

Having enjoyed an outstanding 2011-12, where he helped himself to 48 goals in 48 games (all competitions), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar wasn’t quite at his best in 2012-13—to be fair injuries did play their part—though he still scored a respectable 16 goals.

A pure No. 9, Huntelaar is an excellent mover in the penalty area, always looking for space from where to strike, be it with his left foot or his right; he isn’t bad in the air either.

Now 30, the Dutchman, who boasts an excellent 34 goals in 60 international caps, will be looking to use the 2013-14 campaign to cement his place in Louis van Gaal’s World Cup squad.

Schalke under Jens Keller may not be as strong as they have been in recent times, but while they have the creative talents of Julian Draxler, Jefferson Farfan and Kevin Prince Boateng. “The Hunter” will be key to progression to the knockout stages.

FC Basel: Fabian Schaer

The 21-year-old central defender enjoyed an excellent first season with FC Basel in the last campaign, playing a key role in their Swiss Super League success and run to the semi-finals of the Europa League—where they were knocked out by Chelsea—culminating in his debut for the national team.

Strong, uncompromising and decent aerially, Schaer looks destined to go on to bigger and better things, but another season of regular first-team exposure will only be for his benefit.

He also has a more than handy eye-for-goal, having scored eight times last season and four already this.

Steaua Bucuresti: Federico Piovaccari

The 29-year-old Italian striker is something of a journeyman around the second tier of Italian football, with a 23-goal haul in 39 games for Cittadella in 2010-11 marking the most prolific spell of his career.

In the two years since, he has bounced around four different Serie B sides, before finding his way to Romanian football this season with Steaua Bucuresti.

Subsequently Piovaccari has already featured in six qualifying games ahead of the Champions League group stage, helping himself to three goals.