Monday, February 23, 2009

Vintage European Football in 16 flavours

The Champions league is back and there are some mouth-watering ties to look forward to it. Interestingly 6 match-ups stack up evenly given the opponents domestic league standings.

1) Arsenal vs Roma

Arsenal currently lie in 5th place in the EPL 17 points off the top. While Roma lie in 6th place in Serie A 16 points off the top. Both teams possess enough talent on their lineups but unfortunately both have been off key in their respective domestic league season. Roma had an awful start to the domestic season when they found themselves lingering near the relegation zone. The Roman club have recovered since then but still can be found putting in below par performances.

2) Inter Milan vs Manchester United

Inter are 9 points clear at the top of Serie A while Man Utd are 7 points clear at the top of the English league. Essentially both teams have the fate of their respective domestic titles in their hands. For Inter the European trophy represents that elusive holy grail as they seek to improve on the two titles they have won, with the last one coming back in 1965, and continue to live in the shadows of their rivals AC Milan who currently have 7 European titles. The tie promises to garner enough attention because of the Jose vs Fergie mind games but it also brings together the meeting of football’s highest paid player (Zlatan) vs the current world player of the year.

3) Chelsea vs Juventus

Chelsea are 3rd in the EPL 10 points off the top while Juventus trail Inter by 9 points and lie in second place. Both have produced some average performances throughout the season but Chelsea are now under a new manager and might be on their way up. Juventus got some good news recently with the return of Trezeguet after his long injury lay off and do still have Del Pierro who certainly turned it on against Madrid in the group stages.

4) Real Madrid vs Liverpool

Both Madrid and Liverpool lie in second place in their respective leagues 7 points off the top. But Madrid are on the way up and have won 9 straight liga games and gained 5 points against Barcelona in the last two weekends. Liverpool on the other hand have dropped key points in the league since January with 4 draws and have given up their lead.

5) Lyon vs Barcelona

Lyon have been the top team in France for almost an eternity now but this season they briefly slowed down a bit to let other teams believe they had a chance before pulling ahead with a 6 point lead. Barcelona were on an amazing run with 10 straight liga wins until their 2-2 draw with Betis 10 days ago. This weekend’s shock home derby loss to Espanyol certainly has shown Barca to be human. It will be interesting to see if Barca can put the loss behind and regroup.

6) Sporting vs Bayern

Both teams are 4 points off the top in their domestic league with Sporting in 3rd place in Portugal while Bayern are in 4th spot in Germany.

7) Atletico vs Porto

Despite having some very talented players on their squad Atletico Madrid’s domestic season has been a huge let down as they trail Barcelona by 24 points after 24 games. While Porto are where they normally find themselves in the Portuguese league, at the top.

8) Villarreal vs Panathinaikos

Even though Villarreal have been another let down in Spain they still manage to produce some decent results. Robert Pires has shown that he still has some flair left. Panathinaikos trail rivals Olympiakos by 9 points in the Greek league so they will be looking forward to their European tie. The tie also brings together some former Gunners in Cygan, Pires and Gilberto.

Even though all match-ups look promising, they also might end up producing some cautious results because each team has a unique reason to win the Champions league. Still hoping for some great games.

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