footy musings from a (relative) newbie

Posts tagged ‘european competition’

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.

Finals…finally!

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.

Almost Home

Juventus is really trying my patience losing to Benfica in the Europa League. They should be winning this competition easily.

In the Champions League, we had four very expensively assembled teams and they managed to come up with ONE goal in two games. So the less said about that the better. Say what you will about the Europa League, but at least Benfica, Juventus, Sevilla and Valencia scored some goals in their games.

1st leg done

Not sure what to make of Real Madrid’s win over Schalke 04 today. Does it confirm them as Champions League title contenders or solidify their status as flat-track bullies? Time will tell, I guess.

As for Chelsea, their draw with Galatasary was textbook Jose Mourihno. They got the away goal but didn’t try to do much else. That’s why he gets the big bucks and why he’s won this competition twice.

The festivities resume on March 11/12.

More European competition fun with tomorrow’s Europa League matches.

An actual CL shock?

Manchester United lost to Greek side Olympiacos in today’s Champions League action – totally validating the shakiness of my prediction skills. But can we really call this a shocking loss?

Yes and no.

As Olympiacos and its fans would no doubt remind us, beating Manchester United in a major European competition is still a pretty big deal. And the Greek team should revel in this win with no asterisks or qualifications attached to it.

But the fact remains that this was a bad performance in a season full of them for Manchester United. And I’m not entirely sure they’ll be able to recover when the tie resumes at Old Trafford in a couple of weeks.

Europa League – it’s fun too!

Now that it’s been whittled to 32 teams, and with me making an effort to learn more about those unfancied teams, I have more reason to pay attention to the Europa League. While I’m not yet ready to pick a winner, I will have my eye on the following matchups:

  • Juventus (ITA) v Trabzonspor AŞ (TUR)
  • NK Maribor (SVN) v Sevilla FC (ESP)
  • Swansea City AFC (ENG) v SSC Napoli (ITA)
  • SS Lazio (ITA) v PFC Ludogorets Razgrad (BUL)
  • Esbjerg fB (DEN) v ACF Fiorentina (ITA)
  • FC Viktoria Plzeň (CZE) v FC Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)
  • Europe League KO Draw

    Thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you?

    But no. This season, I’ve resolved to give the Europa League its due. With that, here’s the round of 32 draw

    FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (UKR) v Tottenham Hotspur FC (ENG)

    Real Betis Balompié (ESP) v FC Rubin Kazan (RUS)

    Swansea City AFC (ENG) v SSC Napoli (ITA)

    Juventus (ITA) v Trabzonspor AŞ (TUR)

    NK Maribor (SVN) v Sevilla FC (ESP)

    FC Viktoria Plzeň (CZE) v FC Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)

    FC Chornomorets Odesa (UKR) v Olympique Lyonnais (FRA)

    SS Lazio (ITA) v PFC Ludogorets Razgrad (BUL)

    Esbjerg fB (DEN) v ACF Fiorentina (ITA)

    AFC Ajax (NED) v FC Salzburg (AUT)

    Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC (ISR) v FC Basel 1893 (SUI)

    FC Porto (POR) v Eintracht Frankfurt (GER)

    FC Anji Makhachkala (RUS) v KRC Genk (BEL)

    FC Dynamo Kyiv (UKR) v Valencia CF (ESP)

    PAOK FC (GRE) v SL Benfica (POR)

    FC Slovan Liberec (CZE) v AZ Alkmaar (NED)

    Now, admittedly, I don’t know my Maribor from my Makhachkala, but I’m hoping to change all that in the next couple of months. Yup – I’m going to attempt to educate myself about all the unfancied teams making their way through the Europa League. We’ll see how that goes.

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