Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Champions League Returns

Well the exciting bit does anyway, the group stages that don't generally concern the teams from minor former states of the old Soviet Union, former Yugoslavia or Scotland returned last night with matches involving last seasons Belgian, Croatian, English, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish champions. That's 10 out of last nights 16 teams, the odd ones out  being Arsenal, Schalke, Dynamo Kiev, Malaga, PSG and Milan

Tonight sees the champions of Denmark, Italy, Scotland and Turkey compete against the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Benfica and Manchester United - four of the greats of European football - Chelsea and the other teams who qualified despite not being champions of their respective leagues.

Having had a start-stop-start to the domestic season caused by the international breaks it's good to get some momentum going at club level and last nights matches certainly offered contrasts between the haves and the have nots. You'd have to say that of the sixteen sides competing in Groups A, B, C and D there are seven (Dinamo Zagreb, Dynamo Kiev, Montpelier, Olympiacos, Anderlecht, Zenit and Ajax) who are only their to make up the numbers and trouser some television money, the interesting thing about the 'group of death' - Group D is who will take the most points off Ajax and whether or not Man City will again be let down by naive defending and poor tactics.

Watching Man City play against Real Madrid last night, particularly when leading 2-1 with five minutes remaning, was like watching a team run around like Corporal Jones shouting 'Don't panic!" City were outclassed in every department against a team that was apparently self destructing just forty eight hours earlier. The winning goal from CR7 summed up the whole evening. Zabaleta who had come on to replace Maicon (surely the strangest transfer of a very strange transfer window) decided that rather usher Ronaldo to the corner and make him use his left foot let him come inside onto his right and shoot, Vincent Kompany then explicably decided to duck leaving Joe Hart a nano second in which to react, which he did by shaking his head in diselief as the ball nestled in the back of the net. Dortmund beat Ajax 1-0 in the other Group D, it could have been 2-0 had Mats Hummels not missed a penalty. Dortmund fans are fearing a big exodus next summer of some of their star players and Hummels is a player who could walk into any English Premier League side, Arsenal and Man United are apparently the two sides most likely to compete for his signature.

Over in Paris the new money bags on the block (PSG) have finally started to look like a team rather than an expensive collection of professional athletes who meet up every weekend for a kickabout. PSG really are getting it together and the Champions League draw has been kind to them. Thiago Silva is fit, Pastore looks like the player everybody thought he was and Marco Verratti looks years older than the 19 year old he is.

The team that beat PSG to last seasons Ligue 1, Montpelier, have begun the defence of their French title in fitful and pitiful style and it showed against an Arsenal side who played nervously themselves. Arsenal have one of the most impressive first match records of the current Champions League teams but last night they played for long periods as though they had gone to France for a point, Schalke will be more of a test for the Gooners but they have too much quality not to progress to the knock out stages again.

Milan are going through a second transitional season, they lost at the weekend to Atalanta, and looked hopeless against Anderlecht for long periods of the match. Malaga and Zenit are the other two teams in this group, two of Europe's big spenders in recent years both are having problems financially at the moment but Malaga need the money more and their opening 3-0 win put them top of the first table. 

I didn't get the chance to watch any of the following matches: Zagreb v Porto (0-2) or Olympiakos v Schalke (1-2) - there's only so much football you can watch in one evening using the remote and the red button!

Tonight sees the first matches in Groups E, F, G and H. Barcelona v Spartak Moscow, Bayern v Valencia Celtic v Benfica and Chelsea v Juventus look the more promising/intriguing of the eight matches - Braga v CFR Cluj just doesn't do it for me somehow.

7 comments:

Span Ows said...

Paul I was hoping the Olympics and Paraolympics may (a) help improve the de-main and the attitude of the spitting, spatting, falling, acting, footy slebs and (b) dent the joy of the return of EPL and CL football.

I was wrong.

Paul said...

Olympics? What Olympics?

Span Ows said...

LOL...exactly!

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