Friday, December 15, 2006

"On The Road To Athens..."

So begins the song "Chickenman" by the Indigo Girls. They are of course referring to Athens, Georgia, while the yet to be made Eurotastic Champions League remix will me musical inspiration, albeit over a shittastic techno beat, for the remaining 16 teams looking to get to the Champions League Final on May 23 in Athens, Greece.

Someone needs to make a CL 2006 Euro remix,
complete with a horrible techno beat

And that, my friends, is what I am referring to as I give you the draw for said competition that was completed this morning:

Champions League Round of 16 Draw

(England) - PSV Eindhoven (Holland)
Chel$ea (England) - FC Porto (Portugal)
AC Milan (Italy) - Celtic (Scotland)
Man Utd (England) - Lille (France)
Lyon (France) - AS Roma (Italy)
Liverpool (England) - Barcelona (Spain)
Bayern Munich (Germany) - Real Madrid (Spain)
Valencia (Spain) - Inter Milan (Italy)

The #1 seeds are all listed first, and they have earned the advantage of playing their 1st legs on the road and 2nd legs at home. The 1st legs will be played Feb 20 & 21, and the 2nd legs will be played March 6&7.

After the field is reduced to 8, another draw will be held which is completely blind (no restrictions on whom you can or cannot draw like in the round of 16 draw), and also 'locks' in the 'brackets' if you will, the rest of the way. In English that means that once the quarterfinal draw is made then teams will know who they will face in the semis if they win (they don't throw the 4 semifinalists back into the pot and do yet another blind draw).

Given that they could have drawn Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Roma, PSV, Celtic, or Lille, they have to be pretty pleased to have drawn PSV and avoided Barca, Real, and Inter (of course, Lille would have been nice but ManUtd won that lottery). Arsenal have played PSV 4 times in the Champions League in recent years and have never lost, and in one match back in I think 2002 they demolished them 4-0 in Holland. That being said, PSV are the defending Dutch League Champions and are leading the league again this year in runaway fashion. Plus I am sure that they will be fired up for the chance to put an end to the hoodoo that Arsenal have had over them recently.

Chel$ea - Porto will get a lot of pub since Mourhino coached Porto to the 2004 Champions League title in somewhat cinderella fashion, before anointing himself "the special one" and moving to Chel$ea to manage the mercenary millionaires (and become one himself). But Porto have lost alot from that team and given Chel$ea's resources they shouldn't have too much trouble going through.

Liverpool-Barca is, on paper at least, the tie of the round. The 2006 Champions against the 2005 Champions. Liverpool have in Rafa Benitez a Spanish manager who is very familiar with Barca from his days coaching in La Liga, and Liverpool have several Spanish players who will be uber motivated to take on the Spanish Champions, especially at the Nou Camp. Liverpool have won the European Championship 5 times and Barcelona twice, to this is quite a tilt.

As is Bayern Munich (3 times Champions) against Real Madrid (record 9 time European Champions). I think that all of the ties will be very good, except for ManUtd-Lille, which I expect ManUtd to win handily. AC Milan should actually take care of Celtic, who are great at home and awful on the road in the CL. Don't be suprised to see Celtic take an exciting lead in the first leg at home, where they have only lost 1 of their last 19 CL matches, only to go to Milan full of hope and see it all go pear shaped (0 wins, 1 draw, 11 losses in Champions League away matches).

Feb 20 is a long time to wait for the playoffs to start, but it will be here soon enough. I guess it is better than college football fans, who have been waiting for a playoff for over 100 years and might be waiting for 100 more.

1 comment:

thistle71 said...

for liverpool v barca - not sure. i like barcelona away from home more than i like liverpool. basically, barca's game is kind of simple - 4 in the back, 1 hold, 2 create in the middle, 2 create wide, 1 up front with lots of pretty passing. man mark the 2 out wide, use 2 to hold the midfield, and disrupt their passing game by any means necessary. formations aside, barca passes and moves forward. stop them from passing so much and make sure that the guys that maintain prolonged possession aren't ronaldinho or deco and you have a good shot. at least that's my BS theory...

for man u v lille - don't write off lille so easily. maybe not a powerhouse, but teams not vying for a domestic championship can pull it out in the CL

celtic v ac milan - i am calling this as the dark horse upset of the round. realistically, as stated above, i think lille is a good bet for that category, but i am going to put celtic's horrible away record aside. however, if milan go through, it will be on away goals (celtic 2 - milan 1; milan 1- celtic 0). in essence, your prediction is accurate and likely for celtic - surprise home win, disasterous away loss (they are a scottish team after all), i just think that they are going to pull it out in this round. i'm not convinced about milan.