Sep 30, 2009

Champ's League roundup: (Most) favorites assert themselves

With one (Red) exception, all major favorites won their games in the Champions League's second round of group play. Then there was AC Milan, who have already struggled so much this season they barely deserve to be favorites of anything. Case in point: FC Zurich came away 1-0 winners from their visit to the San Siro today. Leonardo's club has one solitary point from its last three games, a stretch where they scored zero (0) goals. They've actually scored just five times in eight games all season. This from a club whose roster includes Pato and Fippo Inzaghi, among others? Pathetic. Still, the rossoneri could very well go through from this group. Zurich have been losing games to clubs named Young Boys (said to be Michael Jackson's favorite Swiss team) and Xanax Xamax. Olympique Marseille managed a scoreless draw with French champions Bordeaux back on Aug. 30 and have not been heard from since. They were trounced 3-0 by Real Madrid at the Bernabeu today. Expect them to fight out the third spot with Zurich while the Milanese get their junk in order. It may take firing their Brazilian coach, who despite all his charms as a player, does not appear cut out for the job of managing.

Once again, the biggest game of the round ended in a scoreless draw. Last week it was Barcelona and Inter Milan, this week Juventus and Bayern Munich. But there were plenty of goals elsewhere. Olympique Lyon and Sevilla rang up four each on hopelessly overmatched opponents in Hungary and Scotland, respectively. And to think we had Rangers as a top 25 club last week? Shame on us! Though with Unirea Urziceni and VfB Stuttgart, the group is even worse than Milan's (by far, actually), Rangers may just manage to advance to the quarterfinals. All they really need to do is play Stuttgart to a scoreless draw when the teams meet at Ibrox, while hoping they match the German side's record in other matches. Though we really can't see Stuttgart losing 4-1 at home to Sevilla. So 'Gers may need to win against the Swabian side when they meet in Glasgow on Nov. 24.

Other favorites had a harder time of it, but came out winners nonetheless. At Old Trafford, Manchester United went down a goal to German champions Wolfsburg, but managed to turn the game around with a pair of late strikes from Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick, respectively. (Yes, Ryan Giggs is not only still playing, but also still scoring goals and still turning around Champions League matches). Maccabi Haifa managed to hold onto a scoreless draw for 82 minutes at the Parc de Lescure before French champions Bordeaux got the winner from Michael Ciani. Group A could be a real dogfight, with Bordeaux, Juventus and Bayern slugging it out for the two spots. Impossible to handicap their chances at this point, but the next matchday could be telling: Bordeaux host Bayern and Juve host Haifa. If there is a winner in the Bordeaux match, they will be in the driver's seat with seven points from three games, followed by Juventus with five points (assuming the Italian side beat Haifa, which is certainly expected).

Then there was Liverpool, who were defeated 2-0 by Fiorentina in a game that was nowhere near as close as the score might indicate. This is typical stuff from Reds at this stage of the season (and unlike Milan, Fiorentina aren't terrible, though they aren't great either). Despite the loss, we still see Liverpool advancing to the Round of 16. It will be close, and will likely require them to defeat Lyon at Anfield in three weeks' time, but Rafa Benitez' club are used to these type of situations. A team that could be in trouble, however is Inter Milan. Tuesday's draw at Ruben Kazan leaves them third in the group with just two points from their first two games. But they get a chance to pass Dynamo Kiev, whom they face at San Siro on the next match day, on Oct. 20. It all depends on what the Ukrainian side are capable of. Judging by their performance at Camp Nou, not much. Though that too, could of course change. They play these games for a reason, after all.

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1 comment:

  1. Great post. Agree with everything. Must say that with todays Sevilla-Real Madrid result that Sevilla are going to have something to say as both season go on..