CL Preview

Off and running with that most global of all sports, football or err soccer.  Before the preview, first a primer on all things Champions League.

How, why and when?

Teams qualify for this season’s CL based on last season’s results.  The top 2 finishers in the big leagues (Spain, England, Italy etc.) automatically qualify for the final 32 spots in the CL.  The winners of the smaller leagues (from Romania to Wales) along with the 3rd and sometimes 4th place finishers in big leagues have to up to 4 rounds of games before placing into the final 32. 

The Last 32 (Group Stage)

This is when in the CL kicks off in earnest in September.   Teams are split into 8 groups of 4 based on a complicated series of rankings and are country-tied.  This avoids the problem of having the top teams play each other right away and ensures that teams like Chelsea and Manchester United (or Real Madrid and Barcelona) are not in the same group.  Teams play each other twice (home and away) with the top 2 advancing to the knockout stages.  3rd gains an entry into the UEFA Cup (another post entirely) and 4th places receives a nice cutlery set.  A complete round-up of this year’s groups is here

Last 16 or Knockout Stages

The 8 1st place finishers and 8 2nd place teams are put into a hat and drawn against each other.  Seriously.  The only caveats being teams from the same group will not draw each other nor will clubs from the same country.  Again, no hot Madrid-Barcelona match-up or even Ajax-PSV Einhoven games allowed.  The teams play home and away with the team ahead on total goals after two games advancing.  One huge thing to keep in mind is the away goals rule.  For instance, Liverpool beats Bayern Munich 2-1 in Munich and then Bayern wins 1-0 in Liverpool.  The aggregate score is 2-2, but since Liverpool scored 2 away goals to Bayern’s 1, Liverpool advances.  This is designed to make the visiting teams attack instead of simply playing for a tie.  If teams are still tied at the end of the 2nd game (or leg in Eurospeak) then it goes to Extra-time and penalties.  Which brings us to tonight’s games, the 2nd leg if you will. 

Liverpool v Barcelona.  (Home team is always listed first and all games are at 20:45 CET or 2:45 EDT)

Battle of the last 2 CL winners as LP (2005 Champs) and Barca (2006 Champs) battle at Anfield.  LP won 2-1 at Barca so they hold a huge advantage going into tonight’s game.  The Third Leaf (TTL) fully supports LP (along with the Cubs, Illini and Bears) and doesn’t have any real insight into this game besides huge nerves.  Expect Anfield to be an absolute cauldron of noise and Barca to attack at will since they need at least 2 goals to advance.  Having rested Thuram, Deco and Et’o on the weekend Barca is primed.  Hopefully LP will strike back on the counterattack.   And if they leave Crouch on the bench and go with the Porn Star Kuyt and the Punk Ass Bellamy up-front instead,  TTL can barely sense a great celebration of a memorable LP victory. 

Valencia v Inter Milan

Valencia twice recovered from a goal deficit to tie Inter 2-2 in the first leg.  Inter has been storming through a weakened Italian domestic league but Valencia are a step-up in class.  Valencia boasts an excellent home record but its extremely doubtful they can hold on to a 0-0 tie and go through on away goals.  Prediction is that this one is headed penalties after a 1-1 tie and Inter hold their nerve to win it. 

Chelsea v FC Porto

Special game for the Special One as Chelsea manager Jose Mourniho tries to eliminate  the club he guided to the CL title in 2004.  Good money says Chelsea will win easily despite the absence of English captain John Terry in defense.  Luckily they have all-world Michael Essien to fill-in for Terry.  Plucky Porto need to score after the 1-1 tie in the first leg and Chelsea excels at the counterattack.  Stroll in the park for the Chelsea lads.  And for those who say soccer is a non-contact support here is Terry’s frightening injury from the Carling Cup Final against Arsenal.  Thankfully Terry will be back soon.  

Lyon v Roma

5-time defending French Champs Lyon attempt to reach the CL quaterfinals for the 4th consecutive year.  Lyon were the trendy pick to win the CL before it started (ok TTL’s pick) but have played poorly in the past 2 months.  Still think Lyon will be too much at home for Roma to handle, but after a 0-0 tie in the 1st leg a Roma goal would turn this game into a mouth-watering affair. 

On paper this looks like a fine night of viewing.  LP-Barca could be an absolute cracker as Barca needs to score twice.  Soccer games like these are great to watch when teams throw everyone forward in order to get those precious goals.  Situations like these don’t happen very often, so enjoy. 

Tomorrow TTL will have a recap of tonight’s action along with a preview of Wednesday’s encounters.  And to fulfill contractual obligations to speak about David Beckham in every soccer-related post, it looks as if his knee injury will keep him out for 6 weeks.  Great news for the MLS but terrible news for Becks, as there is no way he will be called up to the National Team in April for the important Euro 2008 qualifying games.  

As always, enjoy the games. 


3 Responses to “CL Preview”

  1. Bar Centrale Says:

    Unfortunately Fox Soccer does not have the Champions League (Sentana does) so will be unable to watch. Just months after being the reason why the Dutch were ousted from the WC, you are predicting Kuyt will be the reason why he pushes Liverpool through? No way.

  2. Bar Centrale Says:

    ESPN2 actually picked up the game so am set to go. Liverpool looks real good to start. Riise with a couple great opportunities. BArca cannot hold possession, will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  3. flair2 Says:

    It played out beautifully with a LP win. After casting a harsh gaze on the Porn Star Dirk Kuyt I’ve grown to admire his game. Makes run, finishes well, closes down defensively and is an excellent teammate. Wanted Rafa to go with quick strikers upfront rather than the lumbersome Crouch. My only gripe as would have brought Fowler on for Kuyt to keep 2 strikers rather than the midfielder Pennant.

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