- 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
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.
So, it will be Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea.
I’ll admit: these matchups do have me intrigued.
Will poor, sad Thibaut Courtois get to play for Atletico against Chelsea – the team that loaned him to Atleti in the first place? (Probably)
How will Real vs. Bayern play out after their last epic semi-final two years ago? (Hopefully without penalties!)
How far will Jose Mourihno get trying to gaslight Diego Simeone? (My guess is not very)
Will Atleti make history and get to the final 40 years after they last made it? (Possibly)
Or will we get a Chelsea (Mou) vs. Bayern (Pep) final (Ugh! Anything but that!)
Who says football isn’t soap opera, eh?
In Europa League, it’s Benfica vs. Juventus and Sevilla vs. Valencia (all-Spanish affair alert!) Juventus is winning this, right?
I’m not willing to predict the Champions League winner because at this level, there’s very little between the teams, which means the games will be decided by the smallest of margins and factors I can’t even begin to think of.
The two top European Competitions have their final fours (see what I did there).
In the Champions League, the semi-finalists are
The post-mortems on the quarterfinals are as numerous as they are repetitive, featuring headlines about Chelsea’s remarkable comeback, Bayern showing their class, Atletico being the romantics/hipsters choice and Real scraping into the semi-final round.
There are things I love about this competition, but when it gets to this stage, it often feels anti-climactic, probably because it’s usually the same 3 or 4 teams competing for the trophy every year. And as I’ve said before this is my least favorite part of the tournament because the stakes are so high that it makes the actual games fairly dull (though that doesn’t mean I won’t be watching).
In the Europa League, Benfica, Juventus, Valencia and Sevilla have made the semi-finals, with Valencia coming back from 0-3 down to beat Basel. Kudos to Valencia, but I would have liked to see Basel in the semis.
I’d like to get excited about the draw on Friday, but I know UEFA’s going to drag it out.
It eventually gets to its destination, but it sure does take a damn long time to get there.
That’s right, as the Uefa Champions League is working toward its last 8, the Europa League is just getting to matchups for its last 16. This is why the Europa League gets a bad rap. With other competitions beginning to wind down, it seems annoying that there’s still SO MUCH left of this one.
AZ Alkmaar vs. Anzhi Makhachkala
Basel vs. FC Red Bull Salzburg
FC Porto vs. Napoli
Juventus vs. Fiorentina
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Valencia CF
Lyon vs. Viktoria Plzen
Sevilla vs. Real Betis
Tottenham vs. Benfica
I’m actually looking forward to quite a few of these matches: Basel v Salzburg, Porto v Napoli and Tottenham v Benfica all have potential to produce thrilling games. And that’s before we even get to Juventus vs. Fiorentina.
Another international break beckons next week. You know my feelings.
Today’s results have me feeling good about my decision to fancy the unfancied.
Not sure how it happened, but FC Salzburg (aka Red Bull Salzburg) beat Ajax 3-0 – in Amsterdam no less. Likewise, how did Dnipro beat Tottenham.
Other teams that unexpectedly prevailed – or drew – against more well-known opposition: PFC Ludogorets of Bulgaria somehow beat Lazio 1-0. FC Chornomorets Odesa held Lyon to a 0-0 draw, while Maccabi Tel Aviv also held FC Basel 0-0. Maribor drew Sevilla 2-2 – after taking an early lead. Anzhi and Genk also played to a 0-0, which puts a dent in my only-the-Champions-League-KO-stages-are-cagey thesis. (I guess the high stakes in European competition makes everyone cautious)
Juventus easily beat Trabzonspor, and this leads me to my main prediction for this season’s Europa League. I’m not a big fan of declarative it-shall-be-so statements, but Juventus have to win this competition easily. Frankly, they are the best team left in it, and no other team should even get NEAR beating them from now through the final.
The lone surprise of this matchday was Swansea City and Napoli drawing 0-0. I can’t believe Napoli couldn’t score ONE goal during that game.