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A Closer Look at Manchester City, CSKA Moskva, and AS Roma

Four very different clubs got thrown into Group E together, so here is a deeper look in what they are all about

Clive Brunskill

The group that UEFA drew Bayern Munich into will be the toughest one they have ever faced in the current format. It is not the worst draw that the German giants could have come out with, but combination of clubs in not far off from the worst case scenario.

Familiarity is the one thing that Bayern shares with all of them though. They have faced all three of their opponents in the last five years, and they just pilfered a player from the one team that was on in their group last year. Bayern will know what's coming better than most teams in the Champions League, but that does not mean that the task is any easier.

The four teams in this group are as different stylistically and structurally as their colors. Here is a deeper look at Bayern's opponents in Group E of the UEFA Champions League:

Manchester City

Seasons in the Champions League: 1968/69, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14
Best Finish: Round of 16 (2013/14)
Record vs. Bayern: 2 W, 0 D, 2 L
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
Key Player: Yaya Touré
Biggest Gain: Eliaquim Mangala (FC Porto)
Biggest Loss: Javi Garcia (Zenit St. Petersburg)
Most Used Formation (2014/15): 4-2-3-1

Although Manchester City has spent through the nose to because European relevant, top German and Spanish teams have stood in their way. Bayern has been perhaps the most prominent one, and now the two will face off twice in the group stage for the third time in four years.

The major difference this time around is the Financial Fair Play restrictions that UEFA has handed down to Manchester City. Because of the half of a billion euros Sheikh Monsour has pumped into the club over the past 5 years, the Citizens will only be allowed to register 21 players. The ramifications may be minute, for Pellegrini only utilized 21 of his 23 registered players a year ago and advanced out of the group stage.

So far in their Premier League season, Manchester City has continued their mechanical dominance that won them the league and the Capital One Cup last season. After an out-of-sorts FA Community Shield, they have stormed past Newcastle and Liverpool, allowing just one goal in the process. Stefan Jovetic looks poised to make an impact after his transfer from Fiorentina a year ago, and Fernando has complemented Yaya Touré nicely in midfield.

Their effort in the Champions League could see them get to the quarterfinals for the first time in club history, but their timidness at times has sheltered them from advancing past some of the top teams. With their second league title in three years, they will need to come out with more of an arrogance, proving to a team like Bayern that they are the next big thing in Europe.

Projected Group E Finish: 2nd

PFC CSKA Moskva 

Seasons in the Champions League: 1971/72, 1993/94, 2004/05, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2009/10, 2011/12, 2013/14
Best Finish: Quarterfinals
Record vs. Bayern: 0 W, 0 D, 2 L
Manager: Leonid Slutsky
Key Player: Alan Dzagoev
Biggest Gain: Kirill Panchenko (FK Tom' Tomsk)
Biggest Loss: Stephen Zuber (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim)
Most Used Formation (2014/15): 4-2-3-1

To say the least, CSKA Moskva's performance in the Champions League last season was not one to be proud of. The were most memorable for the racist chants from the supporters, not exactly the best way to highlight a Champions League campaign.

In terms of resources, theirs is minuscule compared to their Group E comrades. They spend little to modest amounts of money to acquire young players that are afterthoughts to the big European teams, including ones in their own country. That talent has driven them to become consistent top of the league contenders as it has come of age, and their players are ones that are monitored for bigger clubs to poach.

They will be a very similar side to last year, with Alan Dzagoev's return to fitness tempering the loss of Kesuke Honda. Igor Akinfeev and the Berezutski twins will once again have their hands full, trying to translate their league defensive success on the international stage. Seydou Doumbia and Amed Musa will scamper about as Slutsky tries to manufacture them some space on counterattacks.

CSKA will be a tough nut to crack, especially with their friendly confines outside the comfort zones of their opponents. Their ability to keep the ball out of the net will determine whether they are indeed viable for this group, but they could surprise these big European sides with a goal or two.

Projected Group E Finish: 4th

AS Roma

Seasons in the Champions League: 1983/84, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2010/11
Best Finish: Final (1983/84)
Record vs. Bayern: 1 W, 0 D, 1 L
Manager: Rudi Garcia
Key Player: Miralem Pjanić
Biggest Gain: Juan Iturbe (Hellas Verona)
Biggest Loss: Mehdi Benatia (Bayern Munich)
Most Used Formation (2014/15): 4-3-3

AS Roma's resurgence was one of the top story lines throughout all of Europe last season. They took advantage of the declining Milan clubs and a Cavani-less Napoli to push Juventus for Scudetto. They do not have a star power that Bayern or Manchester City have, but their well rounded squad has pushed the team into the spotlight.

The club's hiatus from Europe was partially due to the ownership transition from the Sensi Family to the American investment group "DiBenedetto AS Roma LLC." Roma was a club riddled with debt, which was starting to limit what the club could do financially around 2010. Once Thomas DiBenedetto and his cronies took over, Roma was able to use transfer profits to revamp the squad into a Serie A contender.

Roma probably has the biggest age disparity of any club in the Champions League. Both ends of the spectrum are covered, with seasoned 30-somethings suppling the experience and young 20-somethings supplying the exuberance. Even with Bayern poaching their world-class defender, Roma will have a sturdy defense that the midfield can push against to build their attack.

Such a balanced squad is perfectly set up for multiple fronts, but the lack of a star could hamper them in a competition full of them. Garcia's second season will bring him even more challenges in the first, but he is a proficient enough tacticians to give the red and blue favorites a run for their spots.

Projected Group E Finish: 3rd

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