footy musings from a (relative) newbie

Posts tagged ‘bayer leverkeusen’

3 Things I Learned From the Uefa Champions League Draw

  1. It’s too damn long.

  1. 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.

Group A

PSG

Real Madrid

Shakhtar Donetsk

Malmo

Group B

PSV

Man. United

CSKA Moscow

Wolfsburg

Group C

Benfica

Atletico Madrid

Galatasary

Astana

Group D

Juventus

Man. City

Sevilla

Monchengladbach

Group E

Barcelona

Leverkusen

Roma

BATE Borisov

Group F

Bayern

Arsenal

Olympiacos

Dinamo Zagreb

Group G

Chelsea

Porto

Dynamo Kyiv

Tel Aviv

Group H

Zenit St. Petersburg

Valencia

Lyon

Gent

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Champions League Returns

Whenever this tournament starts a new season, it feels as if it never left. Sure it’s been 116 days since Real Madrid snagged their 10th European Cup in Lisbon. But that was last season. Thirty-one teams are now on a mission to dethrone the reigning champions and grab the cup themselves in Berlin on June 6, 2015.

The longer I watch this competition, the more it both frustrates and delights me. I love the Cinderella stories like Bulgarian champions Ludogorets’ remarkable run to this year’s Group stage; and the return of Cypriot team Apoel FC, after their own heroic run to the quarterfinals in 2012. On the other hand, it’s disheartening to see the latter stages of the competition become more and more of a closed shop.

I’ll still totally be watching, though, because it is some of the best football you’ll see anywhere on the planet. And that means I’ll also be making predictions about which teams will be celebrating passage into the round of 16 after Matchday 6. Cuz my prediction skills rock. Not.

Group A:
Atletico Madrid
Juventus
Olympiacos
Malmo
Winners: Atletico Madrid, Juventus

Group B:
Real Madrid
Basel
Liverpool
Ludogorets
Winners: Real Madrid, Basel

Group C:
Benfica
Zenit
Bayer Leverkusen
Monaco
Winners: Benfica, Zenit

Group D:
Arsenal
Borussia Dortmund
Galatasaray
Anderlecht
Winners: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund

Group E:
Bayern Munich
Manchester City
CSKA Moscow
Roma
Winners: Bayern Munich, Manchester City

Group F:
Barcelona
PSG
Ajax
Apoel Nicosia
Winners: Barcelona, Ajax

Group G:
Chelsea
Schalke
Sporting Lisbon
Maribor
Winners: Chelsea, Schalke

Group H:
Porto
Shakhtar Donetsk
Athletic Bilbao
Bate Borisov
Winners: Athletic Bilbao, Porto

Group C and Group H are pretty wide open, so I reserve the right to change my mind on which teams will advance from those groups.

It’s Baaaaack

After a two-month hiatus, UEFA Champions League returns this week. And because I never learn my lesson, I’m putting my shoddy prediction skills to work again. Here’s who I think will be celebrating when the round of 16 concludes next month.

Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich: The one everyone has been talking about since before the round of 16 draw occurred. Bayern have dominated everything they’ve done this season – losing only once (to Manchester City in the UCL group stage). And while Arsenal topped the Premier League for most of the season, they now sit second, and their form the past month has been shaky. I think Bayern will advance, but I am still not sold on them repeating as European Champions. Winner: Bayern Munich

Manchester City vs. Barcelona: Both teams bring good form into the tie, but I think the Catalans will advance easily. Winner: FC Barcelona

Bayer 04 Leverkeusen vs. Paris Saint-Germain: Even without injured Edinson Cavani, PSG should have too much for the Bundesliga’s second place club. That said, this is probably the matchup that most intrigues me in this round. Winner: Paris Saint-Germain

AC Milan vs. Atletico de Madrid: As with any tie involving Milan, this strikes me as a toss-up. Milan have performed poorly in Serie A all season and needed a Mario Balotelli wonder goal to beat lowly Bologna last Friday. That said, Atletico Madrid haven’t been any great shakes in La Liga – recently relinquishing their league lead to the Barca-Real tandem. Still, I think they will have just enough to get past Milan. Winner: Atletico de Madrid

Olympiacos vs. Manchester United: So, in December, I said Olympiacos had no hope of beating Manchester United. But Man U’s Premier League travails the last month – to say nothing of the pitiful loss to Sunderland in the League Cup – has to have given the denizens of Karaiskakis Stadium some cause for hope. Still picking the Red Devils to get through. Winner: Manchester United FC

Galatasaray AŞ vs. Chelsea FC: This only holds interest for me because of the reunion (of sorts) between Jose Mourihno and two of his former players – Didier Drogba & Wesley Sneijder. Otherwise – I got nothin’. Oh, Galatasary are currently second in the Turkish Super League. Chelsea will advance easily. Winner: Chelsea FC

FC Schalke 04 vs. Real Madrid: This should be easy for Madrid, but honestly, it’s hard to predict much with that team. As much talent as they have, they are still capable of throwing up random awful performances. I know little about Schalke’s performances this season, except to say they’re currently fourth in the Bundesliga and they just beat Bayer. This doesn’t help me predict anything, but since when has that stopped me? Winner: Real Madrid CF

FC Zenit vs. Borussia Dortmund: BvB are on something of an upswing, but even if that wasn’t the case, getting past Zenit should be easy peazy, especially with players like Henrikh Mkhitaryan returning from injury. Winner: Borussia Dortmund

Actual Rd of 16 Draw

I may have mentioned that my prediction skills are terrible. But hey – at least I got Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich right!

My quick thoughts on what the balls threw up in Nyon (wait, that sounds bad. Oh well).

Manchester City vs. FC Barcelona: Well, some say City’s owners have been trying to recreate Barcelona in Manchester, so I guess this will be the true test of how far along they are in that (wait for it) project.

Olympiacos vs Manchester United: Given the way United have performed this season, Olympiacos will think they have a chance. They will be wrong.

AC Milan vs. Atlético de Madrid: Atletico have been so good this season (see how they ran away with Group G?), but this Milan team – shoddy though it is – will put up a fight.

Bayer 04 Leverkeusen vs. Paris Saint-Germain: One of the more intriguing and hard to call ties of this round. Technically, PSG should easily get past Bayer. But then, technically, Bayer shouldn’t even be in this round given how poorly they performed in their group.

Galatasaray AŞ vs. Chelsea FC: The reunion of Mou and King Didier.

FC Schalke 04 vs. Real Madrid: Like Bayer 04, Schalke shouldn’t even be in this round, and I don’t know if they’ll have enough to threaten this star-studded Madrid side.

FC Zenit vs. Borussia Dortmund: I appreciate that Zenit midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk has already started the trash talking months in advance of this tie. But Zenit had better enjoy being in the knockout stages while it lasts – cuz it won’t last long.

Arsenal FC vs. FC Bayern Munchen:
My lone correct prediction. Hard to say how this one will play out. Bayern is the stronger, deeper team, but they just had their first loss of this season’s Champions League to Manchester City last week. And it was Arsenal who inflicted one of Bayern’s two CL losses last season (albeit past the point when it mattered). Another one that’s tough to call.

Rd of 16 Draw Projections

The Group Stage of UEFA Champions League is over, and to my mind, a whole new tournament begins with the round of 16 draw.

My projections for the draw before it’s revealed in a few hours:

Manchester United vs. AC Milan

Real Madrid vs. Bayer 04 Leverkeusen

Paris Saint-Germain vs. FC Zenit

FC Bayern Munchen vs. Arsenal FC

Chelsea FC vs. Olympiacos

Borussia Dortmund vs. Galatasary AŞ

Club Atletico de Madrid vs. Manchester City FC

FC Barcelona vs. Schalke 04

And So the Group Stage Ends

After six matchdays, the UEFA Champions League has whittled to 16 the 32 teams that began the Group Stage in September. Along the way, some groups threw up surprises (Ciao, Juventus), while others stayed tight until almost the last kick.

At the start of the Group Stage, I made my picks for winners and runners-up. So, how did I do?

In Group A, I picked Manchester United and Bayer LeverKeusen to prevail, and they did – though not before putting out some lackluster performances. Group B was supposed to yield Real Madrid and Juventus as winner and runner-up, respectively. But while the Spaniards did their part (progressing through the group undefeated), Juventus started the competition playing badly and were eventually eliminated on this last matchday by Galatasary. Likewise, in Group C, Benfica, my pick for runner-up to Paris Saint-Germain, are out of the tournament; Greek team Olympiacos is going to the round of 16 instead.

Group D proved to be status quo as defending champions Bayern Munich and Manchester City are on to the next round – the latter for the first time. No doubt Man City will take confidence from their defeat of Bayern on the final matchday.

Despite twice defeating Chelsea, Switzerland’s FC Basel are out of the competition after losing to Schalke 04. Honestly, this is surprising to me. Basel played Chelsea off the park TWICE, and Schalke have been weaksauce in this competition and in the Bundesliga. Yet Chelsea and Schalke are the teams that ended up going through from Group E. At least I got the winner and runner-up right for this group!

As advertised, the Group of Death (Group F) showed no mercy, as Napoli were eliminated despite beating Arsenal 2-0 on Matcday 6. Borussia Dortmund squeaked into the round of 16 with just about the last kick of their game against Marseille. Seeing Gonzalo Higuain cry reminded me of why a Group of Death stresses me out. Inevitably, hearts get broken.

Zenit St. Petersburg followed Atletico Madrid out of Group G, giving me a perfect record in this group and ensuring that I get to continue ogling the pretty that is Anatoliy Tymoshchuk in the next round.

Finally, in Group H, Barcelona won the Group and AC Milan did just enough to come out runners-up. But I ran out of fucks to give about this group when I saw that Barca and Milan were drawn together again.

So, another Group Stage ends, and draw day for the round of 16 awaits on December 16. I’ll be up bright and early for it.

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