Posts Tagged ‘Champions League draw’

Champions League Draw Reaction

28/08/2009

Group A: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Bordeaux, Maccabi Haifa.
Group B: Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Besiktas, Wolfsburg.
Group C: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Marseille, FC Zurich.
Group D: Chelsea, Porto, Atletico Madrid, APOEL Nicosia.
Group E: Liverpool, Lyon, Fiorentina, Debreceni.
Group F: Barcelona, Inter Milan, Dynamo Kiev, Rubin Kazan.
Group G: Sevilla, Rangers, Stuttgart, Unirea Urziceni.
Group H: Arsenal, AZ Alkmaar, Olympiakos, Standard Liege

Big ears

Big ears

Quite an interesting draw yesterday, and the British clubs on the whole will be happy with the groups they have landed in. No obvious group of death but certainly quite a few where three teams will be competing to qualify.

Group A is quite tough to call. You have the traditional heavyweights of Bayern and Juventus joined by the Ligue 1 Champions Bordeaux. The Germans have made a shoddy start under Van Gaal this year and it remains to be seen if they are preparing to sell Ribery following the arrival of Robben, Juve have bought well this summer and should be strong while it will be interesting to see if Bordeaux have the players to compete at this level. We can safely say Maccabi will be bottom.

What price Bordeaux breaking it up?

What price Bordeaux breaking it up?

Man Utd have a slightly trickier task then usual in Group B but should still comfortably qualify. The long distance trips to CSKA and Besiktas might be a drag, and they drew the one fourth pot team no one wanted in German champs Wolfsburg. Wolsburg have kept the team that took them to the title last season (bar the manager) and Edin Dzeko will look to continue impressing scouts across Europe. Fergie’s side should come top and it will be between Wolfsburg and CSKA for second.

Group C sees Kaka go back to Milan with his new side Real Madrid but they should both be qualifying. Marseille might cause a shock or two at home but will likely fall short in third place.

Chelsea face away tricky ties at Atletico and Porto in Group D as well quite a long trip to Nicosia but their experience should see them qualify. After all wasn’t Ancelotti hired to win this? Porto and Atletico will tear strips off each other and I think that the latter’s superior strike force of Forlan and Aguero will see them join the Blues in the second round.

Group E will be scrappy and I can see both Lyon and Fiorentina causing Liverpool some problems. It could be very tight between these three even though on paper Liverpool are easily the strongest side. They seem to find compact technical teams quite difficult to break down in the group stages and it wouldn’t surprise me if they went through in second.

Group F sees Zlatan and Eto’o return to their respective former clubs with Barcelona playing Inter at the San Siro on matchday 1. Both teams should comfortably qualify though Barcelona’s away games against Rubin Kazan and Kiev are not until November onwards so the weather could play a factor. In particular Guardiola’s side will not want to go to Kiev in December needing something from their last game. I’m sure that won’t be the case though.

Swapsies

Swapsies

Rangers have a fair chance at qualifying from Group G as they’ve been paired with one of the weaker top seeds in Sevilla as well as Stuttgart and Unirea. I think it will be between them and the German side for second with Sevilla’s experience at this level seeing them through in first.

The last group (H) sees Arsenal get quite a gentle draw alongside Standard Liege, AZ Alkmaar and Olympiakos. None will be easy to beat, but all should be beaten. Liege will look to Steven Defour to try and help them get second ahead of Alkmaar but I suspect it will be the Dutch champions who end up nabbing it behind the Gunners in first.

I suspect there won’t be too many shocks overall but I’m sure one or two clubs will manage to mess things up. It all starts on September 14th, can’t wait!

T.

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Arsenal 3 – 1 Celtic (agg 5-1)

26/08/2009

A comfortable win for Arsenal this evening, and they go through into the main draw for the group stages tomorrow. Celtic might be justified in feeling Eduardo dived to get the penalty for the first goal, but truth be told they created very little in the 90 minutes to suggest the result would have been different had the spot kick not been given.

Eboue and Arshavin put a gloss on the aggregate score before Massimo Donati scored the best goal of the tie with a lovely angled volley. Despite having to come through the qualifiers, the Gunners’ recent European record means they are seeded in pot one.

Proof that Eduardo failed to clear Boruc's mini high jump.

Proof that Eduardo failed to clear Boruc's mini high jump.

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The 32 teams qualified for the main draw are as follows:

Pot One: Barcelona, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd, AC Milan, Arsenal, Sevilla, Bayern Munich

Pot Two: Lyon, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, CSKA Moscow, Porto, AZ Alkmaar, Juventus, Rangers

Pot Three: Olympiakos, Marseille, Dinamo Kiev, Stuttgart, Fiorentina, Atletico Madrid, Bordeaux, Besiktas

Pot Four: Wolfsburg, Standard Liege, Maccabi Haifa, FC Zurich, Rubin Kazan, Unirea Urziceni, APOEL Nicosia, Debreceni

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Some interesting teams in each pot and no doubt all the top seeds will be looking to avoid Inter, Real Madrid and Juventus in Pot two. Real especially have paid for three consecutive second round knockouts. What price an immediate return to Anfield or Old Trafford for Xabi Alonso or Ronaldo? Pot three has lots of very capable teams who could hold their own with Stuttgart, Atletico and Fiorentina particularly dangerous.

As for Pot four, Wolfsburg are German Champions no less, and have kept the strikeforce which banged in about 60 goals last season. Rubin Kazan will be a tricky side to face too, having overcome the traditional Russian powerhouses in Moscow and St. Petersburg to become Russian Champions last year. Some potentially long distance trips in that pot as well.

The draw is made tomorrow afternoon at some point and we’ll have reaction once it’s all said and done.

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T.

Champions League Preview – Arsenal vs AS Roma

26/12/2008

draw_1209300c

When Arsenal drew Roma last week in the Champions League, the general consensus amongst the British media was that the Gunners would be favourites, or at least that things could have been worse. After all, the in-form and classy Barcelona were still in the hat with only a few teams left to draw.

Arsenal fans will also remember the sumptuous Thierry Henry hat-trick at the Stadio Olimpico against Fabio Capello’s Roma team back in 2002. However, a week on and Arsenal not only find themselves outside of the Champions League places, three points behind Aston Villa, but without their talismanic captain, Cesc Fabregas, who will be injured for the next four months.

 

You won't be seing me for a while

You won't be seeing me for a while

Roma are not without their own problems, languishing down in sixteenth position in Serie A and Totti is injured again, out for two months. The Giallorossi should have him back in action in time for the tie with Arsenal but their dependency on a talented, yet injury-prone player continues to raise questions about Roma’s long-term plans.

Despite their differing league positions, Arsenal and Roma share a similar tendency to be inconsistent. Arsenal have notched up impressive wins against Manchester United, Chelsea and Fenerbahce away in the Champions League; yet followed them up with defeats at home to Aston Villa and Hull. Meanwhile, Roma managed to destroy Chelsea 3-0 but were completely outclassed 0-4 at home to Inter Milan back in October.

Arsene Wenger and Luciano Spaletti have both built teams that play quick and fluid football with the movement of their midfield key to their attacking style. Furthermore, both managers are committed to developing young talent and allowing them to express themselves in the way only a football purist would allow. Considering injuries to key personnel, Wenger and Spalletti will have to pin their hopes on other players at their disposal. So it is on these players that I will focus the rest of this preview.

464px-as_roma

Roma’s options

While Totti has spent time on the surgery table, Roma’s talented Montenegrin, Mirko Vucinic, has supplied both the creativity and goals. Arsenal fans will be hoping that he isn’t on his game, otherwise they might get to see more of Vucinic then they would have hoped for.

The young Frenchman, Jeremy Menez, has shown glimpses of his acclaimed potential since arriving in the summer, making the loss of Mancini to Mourinho’s Inter more bearable. However, it is a certain Brazilian built like a brick house who could prove their undoing.

Yes, it is Julio Baptista, or “The Beast” as he is affectionately named by adoring fans. Poor old Julio didn’t really manage to impress while on loan at Arsenal two years ago but he will always be fondly remembered for his Carling Cup hat-trick against Liverpool at Anfield.

Likewise at Roma, Baptista has found his opportunities limited with only 6 appearances. The Beast has nevertheless managed to score an impressive 5 goals when given the chance. Julio’s crowning moment so far this season was a winner against Lazio in the Eternal derby. This would of course win the hearts and minds of any Roma fan, shown by this ever-so-slightly OTT Youtube tribute.

Baps could provide the deep-lying forward role mixed with a physical presence that could unsettle Arsenal’s disorganised and fragile backline…..probably not though.

arsenal_newlogo

Arsenal’s options

Read through any Arsenal fan blog and you will come away with no doubt about what Arsene needs to do when the January transfer circus / sales open – BUY, BUY, BUY. It is unlikely that Wenger will try to single-handedly revive the British economy with excessive consumption, so Gooners may have to settle with the options available inside the current squad.

The long-awaited return of Eduardo Da Silva should excite football fans across Europe. The Crozillian is a lethal finisher with the tactical nous and intelligence to link up well with his team mates. He certainly brought out the best of Emmanuel Adebayor this time last year. The big question is whether he will be the same player. My feeling is that he will be after a few run outs against the likes of Blackburn and Bolton (or back on the injury-table). Provided he gets back into the team, Dudu could make the difference against Roma. Arsenal create chances against the best of sides but all too often wastefulness in front of goal has marked their downfall.

Tomas Rosicky’s return in the new year will give Arsenal the width and creativity they have been lacking with his and Walcott’s absence, as well as Samir Nasri’s battle to stay fit.

Bollocks to that, I am not convinced that Tomas Rosicky even exists anymore.

With Fabregas certain to miss the games against Roma, it appears that one of either Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere will have to step up to the mantle of providing creativity from central midfield. Wilshere is 16 and Ramsey was described as having average technique by Wenger when he signed from Cardiff. Arsene clearly isn’t sure about deploying either of these undoubtedly talented youngsters but I believe they may well be needed against a tight Roma midfield.

The likes of Perrotta and deRossi are tough and unforgiving midfielders, making it more imperative that Wenger add a defensive midfielder to his squad. However, the ability to keep possession and distribute accurately will be paramount qualities in this encounter.

Eduardo

Predicted Outcome

My intelligent, yet biased mind tells me Arsenal will have the quality to see off the Italians. The Gunners usually thrive against teams that like to play football. However, this tie will be a very tight affair, especially with the second leg in Rome. Arsenal cannot afford to waste their chances at home.

If it remains level after the two legs, I suggest an alternative way to settle the tie – a dance off/ sing off. If my recommendation is taken up, these next few Youtube clips might give us an idea as to who the winners might be:

The dance / sing off

It's a dance off

It's a dance off

Arsenal

First up is Emmanuel Adebayor, known for his ridiculous fashion sense and intimate boogie downs with Thierry Henry. But this time round, Ade decides to go for the singing option.

Result: Miss – that was awful, what is he trying to do? (side-note for Amer, at least Arsenal4Arabs is good for a laugh)

Roma

Now for Roma is captain fantastic, Francesco Totti, known for his ridiculous Italian fashion sense and funnyman antics. But he too goes for a sing-song.

Result: Miss – what was that? Oh wait, here he goes again (1.55 minutes in). Even worse.

Arsenal

It’s Arsenal’s final chance to score and it’s Adebayor again but this time joined by his team mate Emmanual Eboue in a dance routine.

Result: Miss – Good timing to the moves but Adebayor couldn’t leave his funny noises (singing?) behind and it comes crashing down.

Roma

So can Roma win the contest? Up steps ex-Arsenal player, Julio ‘The Beast’ Baptista (known in some circles as ‘lead boots’) with a song and a bit of banjo playing.

Result: Score – As former Arsenal team-mates Denilson and Gilberto look on, ‘The Beast’ steals the show. Gooners should have known he would come back to haunt them!

 

Who da man? Who da man?

Who da man? Who da man?

 

P.

Champions League Thoughts

18/12/2008

Tomorrow sees the draw made for the first knockout stage of the Champions League. It’s meant to be at 11am but knowing UEFA, we’ll see at least 45 minutes of backslapping, pointless awards and shuffling of feet before we get round to the shuffling of balls. There could be some interesting ties even if the big boys are kept apart. Lets have a look at what could be in store for the Big Four.

 

Arsenal:

How they qualified: Second place in Group G behind Porto.

Who they could face: Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Panathinaikos, Roma.

Who they would like: Panathinaikos look the easiest on paper and now have former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto. Roma and Juve have both been beaten in recent years.

Who ITV/Sky would like them to get: Barcelona over two legs would provide some great football and also a revenge angle following defeat in the 2006 final. Bayern Munich beat Arsenal in the second round in 2005 and will provide a stern test. 

But who will they get?

But who will they get?

 

Chelsea:

How they qualified: A slightly nervous second behind Roma in Group A.

Who they could face: Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Panathinaikos, Porto.

Who they would like: Again, Panathinaikos  look the easiest on paper but Chelsea should be reasonably confident against anyone but Barca.

Who ITV/Sky would like them to get: Barcelona and Chelsea have recent history having played in both 2005 and 2006. The lack of Mourinho means there would probably be less antipathy between the two this time but it would still be a showpiece occasion with Barcelona showing Chelsea exactly what being a big club means.

 

Liverpool:

How they qualified: Comfortably topped Group D ahead of Atletico Madrid.

Who they could face: Inter Milan, Lyon, Real Madrid, Sporting Lisbon, Villarreal. 

Who they would like: Lyon, Sporting or Villareal. All good teams but all probably not strong enough to beat Liverpool over two legs. 

Who ITV/Sky would like them to get: Liverpool v Real Madrid would be see the teams play each other for the first time since the 1981 final when Liverpool won 1-0 with Alan Kennedy’s late goal. However I think we all know what is going to happen. Liverpool will blatantly draw Inter meaning Rafa Benitez will face Jose Mourinho for about the 436th time in the last four years. Not even a move to Italy for Jose can keep them away. Expect bitter sniping, boring football and a tie decided by goal off Dirk Kuyt’s hand with ten minutes to go in the second leg. Can’t wait… 

The game will be this close too...

The game will be this close too...

 

Manchester United:

How they qualified: Top of a weak (well it contained Celtic) Group E.

Who they could face: Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, Lyon, Real Madrid, Sporting Lisbon.

Who they would like: Lyon wouldn’t hold too much fear and it would give Fergie a chance to tap up Karim Benzema.

Who ITV/Sky would like them to get: A reunion with Mourinho and his Inter side would provide some good quotes, if perhaps not as much hatred as Liverpool v Inter. Real Madrid however have provided some classic moments against United in the past few years. Namely Redondo and Raul making fools of Henning Berg and Co in 2002, the real Ronaldo’s hat-trick at Old Trafford in 2003 and finally this great clash below from the 1960s…

 

T.


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