Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Champions League: It's Like Lotto, You Gotta Be In It To Win It*

*annual obscure Beastie Boys sample reference when talking about CL play in games: check.

You know how the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament play in game is totally lame and no one really watches it or cares who wins?

Well imagine if March Madness {go ahead, Viacom, sue me} only had 32 teams, and there were several play in games to get to the official tourney of the final 32. That would be much more interesting and have several pretty good teams in it and some matchups worth watching.

Well, that is kind of like the Champions League, which has 32 teams each year, but several levels of qualifying to get to that final 32. The top teams in the top leagues qualify automatically, filling 16 of the 32 spots in the main event, and others have to qualify at some point. The final round of play in ties, aka the 3rd qualifying round, starts today, and pits 32 teams against each other to fill out the other 16 spots. This round features lots of big name clubs- Barcelona, Juventus, Liverpool, Arsenal, etc. The seeding usually favors the big clubs by pitting them against lesser competition, but anything can happen in these matchups that fall somewhere on the David-Goliath scale. For the Davids it is a chance for glory, knocking off a big name, and getting to the 'promised land' of the CL proper- not to mention a ton load of cash. For the Goliaths, it is viewed as more of a must win, both to be in the competition that they are expected to be in, and for the fact that the cash windfall is seen as more of a necessity than a bonus- hard to keep up with the Joneses without the cash and just being in the competition. The estimated cash windfall for a club who makes it is between 20-30 million pounds, so making it versus not making it is a pretty big deal on more than just the prestige front.

That being said, there are also some pretty good matchups of semi big time clubs: Schalke 04 v Atletico Madrid for example, or Sparta Prague-Panathinaikos.

In still other matchups two lesser known teams matchup with 1 guaranteed to get through to the main event. AaB v FBK Kaunas? I watch/follow alot of soccer, and I've never heard of either of these teams. Whomever wins that one will be the team that all the big clubs hope is drawn in their group in the group stage of the main event.

Anyhow, these teams are basically all in a home & home play in situation to make the Champions League Proper. The games are today and the return legs are in 2 weeks.

**Update- final scores***
Fiorentina 2-0 Slavia Prague {yesterday}
Spartak Moscow 1-4 Dinamo Kiev
Levski Sofia 0-1 BATE Borisov
Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb
Anorthosis Famagusta 3-0 Olympiakos
AaB 2-0 FBK Kaunas
Galatasaray 2-2 Steaua Bucharest
Sparta Prague 1-2 Panathinaikos
SK Brann 0-1 Marseille
Schalke 04 1-0 Atletico Madrid
Twente Enschende 0-2 Arsenal
Juventus 4-0 Artmedia Petrzalka
Partizan Belgrade 2-2 Fenerbache
Standard Liege 0-0 Liverpool
Guimaraes 0-0 FC Basel
Barcelona 4-0 Wisla Krakow

So there it is. I know I'm pulling for BATE Borisov to make it to the Champions League proper on their name alone.

You can follow all the action at UEFA's official site. BBC's always entertaining live commentary of Twente-Arsenal and Liege-Liverpool here. Or there's always Soccernet if you like your live commentary of the "Throw in- attacking" variety.


Holly said...

Kanu Kanu Dawg, gettin' live on the spot!

Kanu said...


Unknown said...

Nice draw to start things off, 'pool.

Kanu said...


COuld have been worse. Liege has a legal goal disallowed- it crossed the line but was not given, and Pepe saved a penalty.

So as bad as they allegedly were, 0-0 is much better than 0-1 or even 0-2.

Surely they'll scrap through in the end- that's the LFC way.

Unknown said...

My 2 loves, Michigan football and LFC are both masters of squeking by while having great players.
I think it's a cruel ploy of anti acid companies or something.
I have faith in Rafa. If one person knows how to do the UEFA, it's that man.