Glamour ties + Grudge Matches = Great European Nights
At least we hope so. I’ve written before that Champions League matches at this stage can be so cagey as to drive away any semblance of enjoyment for us fans.
That said, the balls in Nyon have spoken. My initial reactions to the quarterfinal matchups:
Manchester United vs. Bayern Munich: Um…
Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid: A big European test for the Digeo Simeone project
Real Madrid vs. Borussia Dortmund: A rematch of last year’s semi-final, which Dortmund won impressively.
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Chelsea: Is it wrong to call this the Oligarch’s Invitational? If so, I don’t want to be right.
Now that the field has been whittled to the best of the best, we’re due for a “shocking” upset. All of the above teams should beware.
So, we have our Europa League quarterfinal matchups.
Juventus v Lyon
Benfica v AZ
Porto v Sevilla
Valencia v FC Basel
I stick by my prediction that Juventus will win this tournament. They’re still the best team left in the draw, and the final will be played at Juventus Stadium. How could they NOT win this?
Manchester United survived Olympiacos – and many a gloom & doom prediction – to advance to the Uefa Champions League quarterfinals. Time will tell if this good result is a turning point for David Moyes and his team or just a blip of good fortune in their season of misery.
Rounding out the quarterfinal lineup is Borussia Dortmund who survived a (sort of) comeback from Zenit St. Petersburg.
This Friday’s quarterfinal draw should be interesting.
FC Bayern Munich
The only prediction I feel safe in making is that Chelsea will have to play one of the Madrid teams.
Thanks to goals from Samuel Eto’o and Gary Cahill, Chelsea advanced to the Champions League quarterfinals. But the big story of the night was the love-in the Chelsea fans had for Didier Drogba who was returning to Stamford Bridge for the first time since he helped Chelsea win the Champions League in 2012. The match may have been boring, but it had one of my favorite things: futbol moments – those little nuggets of human connection that bubble to the surface of the cutthroat sporting competition. Jose Mourihno & Drogba embracing before the match, Drogba being marked by his former teammates John Terry & Gary Cahill. I live for that stuff – even when it involves the hated Chelsea.
As for Chelsea’s chances in the CL, I’m putting them in the team-no-one-wants-to-face category, though I wouldn’t put it past Mourihno to park the bus all the way to Lisbon and win it all.
Only 2 more CL matches – Manchester United vs. Olympiacos and Borussia Dortmund vs. Zenit St. Petersburg – left to determine the remaining quarterfinalists.
The machine that is Bayern Munich advanced to the Uefa Champions League quarterfinals. Nothing left to say really. Even when they’re not playing that well, Bayern win. Run at them, park the bus, counter attack. Doesn’t matter.
In other no-surprise news, Atletico de Madrid are moving on after eliminating AC Milan. Given their current position in Serie A, it’s hard to see Milan getting back into the competition next season, and I have to admit, it will be odd not seeing them in it.
I wish I had more fucks to give about Barcelona vs. Manchester City tomorrow.
Oh wait. No, I don’t.
This round of international friendlies had some meaning – not least the one played between the US and Ukraine in Cyprus. Of course the match was slated to be played in Kharkiv, Ukraine, but was moved to Cyprus due to the current crisis in Ukraine. (I don’t feel comfortable speculating on what the Ukrainian players felt before or during the match, though.)
Ukraine just missed going to the World Cup, losing to France in a playoff. But they were good enough today to beat the U.S. (though NOT, as ESPN’s commentators kept saying, the best side to miss out on the World Cup. That’s Sweden).
All of the World Cup-bound sides were in action today. For me, the two highlights were Ivory Coast and Belgium drawing 2-2 (with Romelu Lukaku fanboying hard over Didier Drogba) and Switzerland and Croatia also drawing 2-2.
Happy that internationals are done (for now), and club football can return.