It’s that time of year again…
…when we all get giddy at the sound of this theme song.
Matchday 1 is in the books. What have we learned?
- Not only is Angel Di Maria loving in life in Paris, he got the honor of having the first Vine-able goal of the Champions League season
- AS Roma might could maybe be my Serie A team after Alessandro Florenzi’s delicious long-range goal against Barcelona. I’ve been feeling Roma since they beat Juventus a few weeks ago, but we’re still just talking. We’re not going together yet.
- Also, Premier League gonna Premier League in Europe.
Speaking of which, on the shade front, Soccer Twitter was in rare form
As the season goes on, I’m sure there’ll be more where that came from.
Onto Matchday 2!
- It’s too damn long.
- Arsenal can’t never get a break.
3. You CAN go home again.
I can’t predict anything until a ball is kicked (how’s that for hedging), but here’s how the groups shook out.
Zenit St. Petersburg
It’s that time of year again when teams once excited about being in the Champions League see their hopes of more Great European Nights™ swiftly dashed (So long, Liverpool. Fare thee well, Atletic Bilbao.) This is also the time of year when I tend to get philosophical about the Champions League and its much maligned sibling, the Europa League. Because this week’s match reports will invariably talk about how a team’s elimination means it’s been “relegated” to the Europa League. Often peppered in are references to the horror of having to play on (gasp!) Thursday nights.
What is with this belittling of the Europa League?
As I’ve written before, the Europa League – particularly in the knockout stages – can feature genuinely competitive matches played by teams who are truly hungry to show their quality on the European stage. I love the Champions League as much as the next fan, but let’s face it – the UCL increasingly features only a handful of teams who can hope to genuinely compete for the title, making the Europa League a far more attainable goal for the vast majority of European football clubs.
So, why denigrate it?
There are certainly aspects of the competition that can – and, IMO, should- be tweaked (For instance, teams exiting the Champions League at the Group Stage shouldn’t be allowed to join the Europa League) But it’s still a worthy competition and shouldn’t be diminished in an attempt to mock teams that have failed in the Champions League.
*steps off soapbox*
Anyway, draw day for both competitions is a few days away. I’d look forward to it more if I didn’t know Uefa was going to find new, dumb ways to drag out the draw ceremony.
With the World Cup behind us, it’s time for European clubs to prepare for their seasons, which begin in mid- to late August. This means we USA-based fans get to see some of our favorite teams and players on our shores, as they arrive for pre-season tours.
These tours have been known to give us treats like training sessions open to the public and ripe for ogling; European players trying to understand and/or master baseball (who can forget Cristiano Ronaldo’s throwing out the first pitch at a Dodger’s game during last year’s pre-season); showboating antics that lead to scolding from their coaches, and the like.
This year, the last two UEFA Champions League winners – Real Madrid and Bayern Munich – will be here, as will AS Roma, Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan, Manchester City, A.C. Milan, Manchester United and…well, I could just name 90% of the squads from the Big Four European leagues, but I’m too lazy.
I’ll be watching as many of these matches as I can, though I confess: I still can’t get myself terribly excited about that International Champions Cup Fox Sports keeps flogging.
So much for my prediction skills.
Real Madrid are the Champions of Europe, clinching their 10th European Cup by beating city rivals Atletico Madrid. For a while there, it did look like Atletico were on their way to springing the upset. And that wouldn’t have been a complete surprise. Not only have Atletico defied all sorts of expectations this season – winning La Liga and getting to the Champions League final on a budget that can only be described as lean – they’ve pretty much bossed Real Madrid and Barcelona all season long.*
So Atletico winning wouldn’t have been a total shock. But I guess the prospect of losing was enough to prompt Sergio Ramos’ stoppage time equalizer and Real’s subsequent comeback victory. However it came, Real now have La Decima – the trophy they’ve coveted more than any other since 2002.**
And with that, the European season is officially over (until qualifiers for Europa League and Champions League begin in July, that is). Congrats to all the league and European completion winners.
Next stop: the World Cup!
*Copa Del Rey notwithstanding
**No doubt, they will move on to their next obsession shortly.
All the European league seasons are done, but the World Cup is still a few weeks away. A Europa League champion has been crowned (congrats to Sevilla). But there is still the little matter of the Champions League final to be played this Saturday in Lisbon. I never learn my lesson, so I’m going to once again make a prediction (*cracks knuckles*)
Atletico Madrid will win the 2014 Uefa Champions League*
They are already La Liga Champions, and they’ll be keen to get another cup final win over their rivals Real Madrid to crown what has been a fantastic, remarkable season for them. So, why not?
*Believe me, I know it’s not a big leap.
Welp! Here we are. After 9 looooong months, the finalists for the two European competitions are
Champions League: Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid
Europa League: Benfica vs. Sevilla
I need to get this out of the way: I do not understand how the Europa League final will be contested in Juventus Stadium, but not by Juventus other than to once again lament my terrible prediction skills.
As for the Champions League, the road to Lisbon apparently goes through Madrid.
With Real and Atletico advancing to the Champions League final, it’s that time of year where football pundits declare this or that footballing approach to be dead. Because football pundits apparently have the attention span and perspective of over-caffeinated teenagers.
Can we just say that the footballing approach that is deemed superior is usually the one that is currently being employed to win? Can we also admit that different approaches to the game can win in different circumstances?
When Barcelona was cleaning everyone’s clock a few years back, tiki taka was all the rage, and folk were falling over themselves to praise it. Fast forward to 2013, when Bayern Munich was winning everything in sight, and their brand of football – counter attacking, with a focus on physicality – was being lauded as the best EVAH!
I’d love it if everyone – pundits, fans, players, managers – just owned that they were reacting to who and what was winning in a given moment.
And failing that, it really is ok to just say Team A played better than Team B on the night.