The knockout stage continues with the rest of the lot matching up in the jostle for glory.
Defending champions Bayern Munich have travelled to London to take on Arsenal at the Emirates, while emerging power Atlético Madrid take on waning power AC Milan.
Set your DVRs, plan your late long lunches, etc. The Champions League is back. If you're a follower of European club football, you're excited as we are. If not, but you plan to watch the World Cup this summer, this is the competition you need to watch to get ready. Here are our previews of this week's four first leg matches, with a focus on which players to watch on each team (and a particular focus on players that will feature prominently at the World Cup this summer): Man City-Barcelona, Bayer Leverkusen-PSG, Arsenal-Bayern Munich and AC Milan-Atlético Madrid.
Well, yesterday’s clash of the titans turned out to be bloodbath. Bayern was favored, but no one saw a 4-0 demolition of Barcelona coming. More on that later in the week..
In the meantime, we’re looking forward to the 2nd semfinal 1st leg later today, another Bundesliga club hosting a Spanish club, with Real Madrid at Borussia Dortmund. A somewhat unusual feature of this matchup is that these squads are quite familiar with each other, as they finished 1-2 in the Goroup of Death in the group stage in the fall. Dortmund unexpectedly finished top of the group, drawing 2-2 at the Bernabeu (a game they probably should have won), and beating (and outclassing) Madrid 2-1 at home.
As yesterday, here’s a few preview links to get you ready for today’s big match:
As usual, if you have time to read only one thing, read Zonal Marking’s tactical preview. Two players to watch, as ZM highlights, are the two opposing young German umlauted star creative midfielders–Madrid’s Mesut Özil and Dortmund’s Mario Götze:
Götze v Özil
Maybe the most interesting battle, however, will be between the number tens. Last year Mesut Özil was outclassed by Toni Kroos at the semi-final stage, because Kroos was more comfortable dropping into deeper positions to allow Bayern to dominate.
They won’t literally be duelling on the pitch, of course – both will be fielded as central attacking playmakers, closely supporting their side’s main striker – but both will be charged with providing creativity from between the lines and leading quick counter-attacks.
Perhaps the style of this contest will suit Özil, but if the match becomes a patient battle of possession, Götze has the opportunity to dominate. Although a playmaker who thrives on space between the lines, and loves dribbling with the ball at speed, he’s also intelligent with his positioning, happy to drop deep into midfield to find space. In the previous round, with Manuel Pellegrini ordering Malaga to sit deep in two banks of four, Götze often retreated to extremely deep positions, behind Dortmund’s holding midfielders, to collect the ball and start attacks. You won’t find Özil doing that.
Götze’s role this week will be fascinating. He unwittingly finds himself at the centre of a very modern tactical debate — next season at Bayern Munich he’s likely to become a false nine, but in this Champions League semifinal tie, will he play as an Özil, or play as a Kroos?
The big surprising news of the week alluded to above is that Götze will be moving to Dortmund’s hated rivals Bayern Munich–the timing of which news that Dortmund’s star manager Jurgen Klopp is understandably unhappy about.
From a profile of Klopp, who, as much as any player, is the public face of this team: “Dortmund want to play football people will remember, says Jürgen Klopp: Talismanic manager has taken the club from uber mediocrity to a:
Dortmund pounced on Klopp when others hesitated. The manager was delighted to join a “football city” (although he later revealed he thought the club’s first contract offer “was a mistake” as it was less than he had earned at Mainz) and started rebuilding the squad. “I have the feeling that I will be able to work with the full support of the club here,” he said in August 2008. “Life is too short to worry about things anyway. I am 0.0% naive. I know how it works by a business. If you don’t do your job properly you lose your job.”
There has not been any chance of Klopp losing his job at Dortmund. Borussia finished sixth in his first season in charge and then fifth in 2010, having sold the club’s two top scorers, Mladen Petric and Alex Frei, in the process. The following season Dortmund won the Bundesliga, seven points ahead of Leverkusen, while still operating on a much smaller budget than most of their rivals. Dortmund had gone from the brink of bankruptcy to winning the league in six years, Kloppo style.
Mats Hummels, a Bayern Munich reject, cost €4m, Robert Lewandowski €4.5m, Neven Subotic likewise, Shinji Kagawa a measly €350,000. Lukas Piszczek arrived on a free while his compatriot Jakub Blaszczykowski joined for a reported fee of €3m. Nuri Sahin, Marcel Schmelzer, Götze and Kevin Grosskreutz all came through the ranks. Since that first league title win, Ilkay Gündogan has signed from Nürnberg for €4m and Marco Reus from Borussia Mönchengladbach for €17.1m.
No wonder Brendan Rodgers said recently that he wants to build Liverpool’s squad “the Dortmund way” (although the way Sahin, now back at Dortmund after a short-lived loan spell at Liverpool “thanked God” he was no longer playing for Rodgers suggests the man at Anfield has some way to go to match Klopp’s man-management skills).
But the Dortmund way is so much more than just scouting and bargain buys. Klopp has his own philosophy of what makes a squad competitive and it is one that sums up the ethos of the city they play in. “There are certain places where you have to conduct yourself and play football in a certain way, where you just can’t be pleased with staying back and hoofing the ball upfield,” he told the German football writer Uli Hesse last year. “There are certain places where, if you do that, people will say: ‘If that is the way you are going to play then I won’t go and watch you.’
“And Dortmund is one of those places. Here people demand that the team should play with the attributes that are closest to my heart: with a lot of feeling and with intensity until the very last minute. We want to play the kind of football people remember.”
Finally, one for the hipsters: SBNation with an essay on “Borussia Dortmund and hipsterdom“.
It is upon us, a clash of the titans: Bayern Munich hosting Barcelona in the 1st leg of their Champions League semifinal tie. The German superclub and Bundesliga champions against the Catalan superclub and La Liga champions-elect. Both of them 4-time European champions (Bayern in 1974, 1975, 1976, & 2001, Barcelona in 1992, 2006, 2009, & 2011). The two great sides of our era, perhaps–with a man who won’t even take part today sitting at the fulcrum between them.
Football too often denies us the truly epic tie, the meeting of the two great sides of the age, and it’s perhaps that more than anything else that makes Tuesday night’s Champions League semi-final between Bayern Munich and Barcelona so enticing.
This has the sense of an era-defining encounter: Barcelona, who have dominated Europe for the past half-decade (it’s a remarkable fact that, even in their sixth successive semi-final, it still feels as though they have not quite achieved what they might have done in the Champions League) and Bayern, who could be the dominant force of the years to come: Pep past against Pep future in a Pep-less present that could mark the transition from one generation to the next. Or could, conceivably, were Barcelona to win convincingly, assert Barça’s hegemony and perhaps even the growth of a new dynasty under Tito Vilanova.
Staying with football’s New Seriousnessists, Zonal Marking’s tactical preview:
Even before Pep Guardiola announced he was moving to Munich in the summer, Bayern had increasingly become based around ball retention. Their 2009/10 side, which reached the final and is still similar to the current starting XI, mixed good ball retention with a counter-attacking threat, but their progress to the final that season was more based around the latter. From the first game of the following season, the 1-0 win over Wolfsburg, their possession play was much more pronounced – it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Germany’s 1-0 defeat to Spain that summer in South Africa, a clear demonstration of proactive football getting the better of reactive football, contributed, considering how many Bayern players played for Germany, and how many Barcelona players played for Spain. Louis van Gaal was also clearly a major factor.
And from the School of Unseriousness, the genius of Barney Ronay shines its light on the historical sweep of this Spain vs Germany set of semifinal ties:
It is tempting to read a great deal into the swaggeringly four-square German-Spanish dominance of this season’s Champions League semi-finals. Football loves a sweeping narrative and in Bayern v Barça and Dortmund v Real there is a sense of certain shared sporting values that go beyond mere geography, a butterfly print of matching elites from which the committed Rorschach theorist might draw all manner of overheated conclusions. But if the significance of such moments of dominance can often be overstated – exhibit one: the unstoppable rise of the Premier League (sell-by date 2011) – there is still a starkness to this semi-final lineup, a sense of a greater historical ascent in play. Something is happening here. But what, exactly?
Perhaps the most striking element of this drift towards a Germano-Iberian duopoly is the feeling not of opposed and contrasting superpowers, but of convergence and consensus, of a fraternal similarity. The dawning of the age of Iberia may have been upon us for some time, but in the Bayern supremacy it finds an answering echo: if Germany and Spain are streets ahead when it comes to player development and tactical coherence, they appear to have skipped off around the corner more or less hand-in-hand.
Read the links in the next hour–and enjoy the match!
The highly anticipated (at least in this quadrasphere (?)) CONCACAF Hex started yesterday, with three very compelling matches: the USMNT went down to Honduras and lost 2-1, Costa Rica battled back for a 2-2 draw in Panama City, and perhaps most surprisingly Jamaica left the usually forboding Estadio Azteca with a point after battling Mexico to a scoreless draw.
(Each of the 10 matchdays between Wednesday and October 15 will consist of three matches featuring the six teams in the Hex, for a full home-and-away round robin among the squads. Actually that’s not quite true–for some reason Jamaica-Mexico’s return fixture in Kingston is scheduled on its own on June 4, and there are only two matches on June 18. See here for the full schedule.)
We asked our team of correspondents to send in their thoughts on the matches.
Here are Coach Larry’s in-game observations on Honduras-USA:
Worse it’s Ray Hudson. And it’s like they never tested for sound levels.
USA very narrow. Honduras working to switch fields quickly. USA backline SO inexperienced, and doesn’t Cameron play right back for Stoke?
Some nice one touch from each side, but USA definitely sitting back. Pitch very slow. Tempo very slow.
First real chance at 28th minute, quick counter from the US. Michael Bradley collected a Cameron header at top of box, dribbled away from pressure, laid into Clint(u) Dempsey in circle, couple dribbles toward right side, dropped off to Jermaine Jones (?) who one-touch passes through to Eddie Johnson. Cross just tipped over by Jozy Altidore’s reaching foot.
USA back line keeps presenting Honduras with opportunities from their general nervousness and ragged-iness.
Jones through ball chip for Dempsey to volley across into far post: 1-0 for USA in 35′. Good presence from Bradley and Jones in the transition. Final two touches reminiscent of Alex Song to RVP last season for Arsenal.
And that bicycle kick [by Juan Carlos Garcia in 40′] doesn’t need any explanation, except USA couldn’t clear a corner and gave the corner away unnecessarily.
USA switches to two up front. Match played in bursts as neither team seems happy with weather conditions.
USA surrenders possession easily again, but two just barely offsides despite continued ragged-iness keeps Honduras off board. Kljestan and Edu come on to try and solve that possession issue.
Honestly like a couple of times there has been quality one and two touch moves from the US.
And then USA back line and their problems finally gives Honduras their second [via Oscar Boniek García, of the MLS’ Houston Dynamo]. Cameron beaten on speed to a through ball and Gonzalez did not cover at all, actually looking to see if a player was nearby.
Disappointing, but really what is gonna happen paying that back line in the first road match in the Hex?
Here is our man Professor Simon‘s post-match open letter to Klinsmann:
Sorry Jurgen, but that was a starting XI that should have been tried out in a friendly, not the first round of the hexagonal! Benching Bocanegra??? The back 4 were saved several times by offsides and mis-hit final passes. And the final third is still as much a disaster as ever, but that group of MF sure didn’t help, with 3 guys that are holding MF. And I just don’t think Dempsey pairs well with Johnson–Gomez or even Altidore is a better match.
Better step it up Jurgen, b/c El Tri is going to really spank you if the squad continues to play like this!
and a followup clarification:
I’m not disrespecting the Hondurans at all, I thought the US would get a tie, and I think they are a bit better than “horrible” much less “not deserve” to be in the hexagonal. Mexico is clearly the class of CONCACAF. And while Bocanegra is OLD, his experience in organizing the back line and coordinating with the holding midfielder(s) would have been extremely helpful in this setting–precisely BECAUSE the Hondurans are strong in the attack particularly in their home park. Moreover, Klinsmann “claimed” he was going to install an aggressive, attacking style, but that starting XI seemed to be the opposite of that with 3 holding MF’s essentially and then Dempsey and Johnson up top–it looked to me to be playing for the draw.
Larry follows up on Simon’s comments regarding Klinsmann’s starting XI:
Simon, don’t forget about Altidore in the starting lineup. However, clearly, Klinsmann saw he had erred, cause he brought on experienced, control players in Edu and Kljestan right after the Hondurans had a goal disallowed. Sure they were offsides, but the horrendous loss of possession that led to it was the problem. There were a couple of moments of the football everyone likes to see, but Simon is right, opening match, on road is not the time for the a back line with 10 caps between the four. Plus the center backs had never played with each other. Plus Cameron doesn’t even play there for Stoke, nor does Stoke even play the style Klinsmann wants from the US.
Tommy chimed in with some colorful commentary:
Where is our Forlan, Suarez, or Chicharito (I won’t even dream of a Messi, Rohaldhino, or Ronaldo)? Probably playing in the NBA or NFL. Donovan has been a class player, Dempsey serviceable, but until the US finally has someone that can own a match verytime they step on the field, they’ll be playing for scraps.
That came after some even more colorful commentary:
Ima pull a Denny Green here about Mexico, “If you want to crown them, then crown their ass!” The Mexican side I watched suck out a tie with a physical but not terribly skilled Jamaican squad doesn’t instill much fear in me away from Azteca. Could have easily been a 2-0 game w the Boyz taking the 3 pts. Defense was spotty during its best run, more often was pukey. Offense had zero flow and looked disinterested outside of a couple decent through balls into the box. Midfield was disconnected, unorganized, and listless. But things will get sorted out and settled down by October, w US, Mexico, and Honduras or Costa Rica taking the top 3 spots.
Also worth listening to is Beyond the Pitch’s podcast on “The Honduran Standoff“. But we’re looking forward to seeing if the USMNT and Klinsmann can sort stuff out for the next Hex Matchday–Friday, March 22, when the US hosts a talented Costa Rica side in Colorado. In fact, our Rocky Mountain High man Tyler will be at that match, and the NYC CultFootball crew plan to get together to watch that together, so look for extended coverage from us next month.
Some CultFootball roundtable reactions to a Telegraph piece on Ba leaving Newcastle for the money (and why shouldn’t he?):
Roman and Demba, cut from similar cloth?
The Cunning Linguist:
That article reeks of the old love of the game mentality and “where are English players in the EPL” rant. Ba went to a club that may play Champs League and will get paid more money while slotting into the lone striker role in a 4-2-3-1 set up as opposed to the 4-3-3 of Newcastle.
Football’s a business, a money business. 7.5mm quid for a 13 goal scorer is good business. That said, I’d have preferred to see a recall for Lukaku as I think he can spell a clearly tired and out of confidence Torres.
Also, Newcastle put the release clause in the contract whilst not guaranteeing him money if he didn’t play because of his suspect knees. He didn’t engineer the move, merely agreed terms when Chelsea matched the price Newcastle had set for him.
I agree with Cunning Linguist that football is a money business, up to a point. If we can get all Clintonian up in here, it depends on what your definition of “is” is. (This also recalls, I think, a class THC & I took together at UofC in analytic philosophy…remember that Tyler? More on that topic to come soon.)
I’d agree if you say professional club football at this moment in time (what some people call “modern football”?) is a money business. but certainly we can agree (can we?) that it’s not been true of club football at all times, and certainly not of our Saturday morning “Mario’s Incredible Liga Fabulosa” matches.
So actually I suppose it depends on what you mean by “football.”
“Of sense and reference“, Frege I believe. Can’t recall the course title.
No arguments against any of the above. Could have easily replaced “Roman” with Walcott/RVP/Nasri. Ba seems risky to me but I think that’s due to his poor form second half of last season. It’s certainly not a bad deal given the relatively low price for him (depending on one’s definition of “low”).
The link was in an Arsenal blog about transfers and I had only skimmed before posting it. After reading further, there seems to be a decent amount of conjecture about team dynamics at Newcastle. Not mentioned in the piece, unfortunately, was that Ba reportedly has 5 agents that will benefit from the deal, which I think was the “what the fuck” moment that made me want to send the link to begin with.
That’s actually a pretty fair point. The side “business” of holding shares in an individual and multiple business consortiums engineering moves to churn fees is pretty disgusting. Remember the Mascherano and Tevez deals that were churned through West Ham by Kia Joorabchian? Wasn’t Pardew boss at WH back then, or am I misremembering? That agent shit is outta control. Didn’t Big Sam’s son have some involvement with agent fees or some shit?
Arseblog has mentioned repeatedly that Theo is being led astray by his agent. He’s getting everything he wants, he’s been the striker and scored or assisted in each of the last four games, he’s the team’s leading scorer, and he’s paid pretty well. But still no new contract. No legit title contender (Manchesters) will sign him, he probably wouldn’t start for Chelsea, and Liverpool will barely miss out on the top four this season. So it’s not about trophies, it’s about money. He’s a decent and honest guy it seems, but he’s young and marketable, so the money-grubbing agent influence is believable.
Digress… I like the Lukaku idea, and I will be paying attention to Ba’s integration into his new team. After all, isn’t Chelsea the soccer world’s favorite science experiment?
Gu, I think the course was actually called, “Introduction to analytical philosophy”. Is the morning star the same as Venus, unicorns do and don’t exist, etc.
The deal with the agents is that there’s not much incentive in them telling the player “you’re happy here, there’s no reason to move and generate a fee from which I’ll take a nice 10% cut.” They can’t do it so often that they run afoul of the player through particularly bad advice, but the move argument is certainly good for a couple paydays.
Then with Ba and others where there may be more than one agent (he’s the only one I’ve heard of, but I imagine there are others), one is a family member, one is the guy they brought in because what real experience does the family member have except for the ear of the player, and so on–I can see where it gets really convoluted really quickly.
Then for Arsenal players, they bring on Darren Dein (of Henry, Cesc, RvP & Song departure fame, and son of someone or other), and it’s history.
Piggybacking on what Cunning Linguist said earlier about an old view of club loyalty vs. a modern view, when it comes down to it the globalization of the Premier League in terms of audience, but especially in terms of talent pool, it means that few of these guys are playing for their boyhood clubs. They won’t be retiring after many years of service and reentering the town community, running into fans at pubs for the rest of their lives–or running the pub–as once it may have been. Ba is from Senegal, he’s probably supporting/subsidizing a huge contingent of family, he grew up neither a West Ham nor a Newcastle fan, and if his knee had detonated on him, he would have been cut loose on the spot. I get wrapped up in my hopes for what certain players will do for Arsenal, but with Adebayor, for example, I now respect the fact that he refused to lower his wage demands or fall for any sympathy plays. I think he’s delusional on some levels, but on a money level, he’s right on. I didn’t like it when he did it to us, but I understood his position more when he messed with City (which, really, was just awesome to witness). He wasn’t going to make it easy for them, because he knew he didn’t have to. He has a couple years to make cash, his country is a mess, he knew his negotiating position. Even if he’s not a grade-A humanitarian, building hospitals around Togo (although I think he did fund one), he knows where his allegiances lie: to himself, his extended family, and then far later in the list people like Wenger, Mancini etc.
I used to really dislike Drogba until I learned more about his off-the-field persona. He’s actually an awesome dude. And then I could see how awesome he was on the pitch after shedding my dislike of his diving or continual single-handed reaming of the Arsenal defense year after year.
Anyway, this is a rare moment of perspective. I’ll be fuming about how disloyal some departing player is soon enough, I’m sure.
One quick note–the bit about “few of these guys are playing for their boyhood clubs. They won’t be retiring after many years of service and reentering the community, running into fans at pubs for the rest of their lives, as once it may have been” echoed, ironically, Jonathan Wilson’s column about the Zenit fans’ open letter.
The opening paragraphs, in case you didn’t read it before:
Let’s imagine that fans of Sunderland (and I use the example purely because that is who I support), tiring of the constant churn of the transfer market, decide that enough is enough and they want their team to do things differently. They get together and hammer out a manifesto which they then post as an open letter to the club hierarchy. Among a number of points about the need for absolute commitment and an abhorrence of cheating, they suggest they would rather the club focused on local players.
How would the world regard that? Some might argue that is not the most efficient way to run a club in the modern game but most would surely accept that, if nothing else, a strong local identity can help foster a sense of common purpose. Athletic Bilbao select only Basque players while Barcelona are proud of their Catalan core; why shouldn’t Sunderland fans dream of a team built around half a dozen Wearsiders?
I have just one question. Without Ba’s presence already at Newcastle, does Cisse sign there?
Y’all can think wishfully all you want to, hark back to the good old days of club and community loyalty, but the political economy of modern football will ensure a tiered class system of wealthy clubs amassing known talents, mid-level clubs with canny ‘value’ hunting managers (like Wenger) punching above their weight, and the rest pitifully swearing to virtues of local talent as an excuse for their empty coffers. But rather than lamenting this unequal state of football affairs, I forfeit bourgeois sympathy for the underdeveloped clubs and embrace the opportunity for beautiful football that unfettered markets create in the elite level. Who cares about Leeds role in Yorkshire talent development – I wish a rich sheikh would buy it and fill it full of Drogbas and Messis so I can watch the best football that money can buy.
You guys did that. It was called the 2000/2001 season. Fat Aussie wanker.
But does a class system not truly offend us at some level? Yes, sport is not intended to celebrate mediocrity. As much as the super rich clubs have injected quality into the game by assembling an array of talent until then only imagined in school yards (or fantasy soccer leagues), the gulf between the haves and have nots is so large that it’s a fantasy to think someone other than the big 3 will win it. “Hey, you never know”. That tagline sells a lot of tickets–and I guess the EPL hopes so too.
I don’t know what happened/went wrong with the likes of Preston North End and Huddersfield Town. Perhaps this current crop of champions will be a memory in years to come. I can only hope.
Without going back through each and every post, I don’t think there has been much yearning for the good ole days in our posts. Cunning Linguist and Rob have made valid points with regard to agents and self-preservation/securing one’s and one’s family’s future.
I too used to HATE Drogba the Gunner Killer, then read about what he’d done for his country, saw him mature on the field, watched him beat Munich, and now he’s a sporting hero of mine. The only problem I have with him moving to China is that now I can’t watch him. Maybe I’d be more upset if I supported Chelsea, but I doubt it. He left at his peak.
That says something about loyalty, I suppose. I shouldn’t like him, right? But at the end of the day sport is, among other things, entertainment and glory and he provided ample amounts of both.
What is loyalty? I chose Arsenal because I discovered FSC and the first thing I saw was Henry change direction and cause two defenders to lose their footing and fall. Then I saw that year’s squad was Invincible. I rooted for France and recorded every WC game of theirs because of Henry, I had recently been to France, I watched more Arsenal the next year and loved what I saw. I know nearly nothing about North London; the most time I’ve spent in England was sleeping on the floor of Gatwick airport, but that’s my team and it always will be.
(I’ll pause and wait for the scoffing to end.)
When some of us complain about player loyalty in this era, we might feel scorned because we expect that the player knows us like we know him. We forget he’s not our buddy, we spend money and set aside our time to watch him while he makes more and more money and has so much time to enjoy a rich and famous lifestyle while never knowing us. We think he should repay our loyalty but he has his own loyalties.
So I sent the Ba link with no comment save for a comparison between him and Abramovich. At least we know where they stand as individuals who want to be successful financially and competitively no matter who gets in their way. The issue we Gooners have with Nasri is that he used the team to get where he is then trashed the team and its fans. So he’s a disrespectful juvenile who we thought was our buddy but he wasn’t, and we moved on (but we love that he was ejected last game because we thought he was once our buddy). Our problem with Adebayor is similar; he has character and temperament flaws and he really provided a reality check for sure–oops, not our buddy! We moved past it and now he just seems sad.
RVP, Theo, Wenger, Arsenal as an organization, the problem we have with them is that they say one thing and do another, but they want us to stay their buddy. Or, they actually say nothing and let us guess, pretending to hope we are their buddy while secretly not caring? Yet they give us just enough to hold on to and because we want entertainment and glory we put up with it, rationalize it, and somehow love it no matter how dysfunctional it gets. We hope!
The reason we’ll never question Cesc or have a problem with him is that we knew where he stood. He proved his loyalty by chastising Spanish press for misquoting him against Arsenal. Henry won everything he could with Arsenal and left to win that one last trophy. We understood and he proved loyalty by returning. They gave us beginning and end and were a bit clearer about it than the others.
Years ago I decided, only half-jokingly, that for fairness and entertainment’s sake, the MLB and the Olympics should offer two separate competitions, one for the purists and one for the dopers. Entertainment and glory would abound, and we would know where they, and we, stand.
A “super fantastic Blatteristic Euro league” full of the big money teams? Why not? (Ahem, next roundtable topic?) Entertainment and glory for sure, talent and competition through the roof. Just don’t expect anyone you’re watching to be your buddy.
Loyalty… I once hated Peyton Manning simply because he was THAT good, a Broncos killer. (For the same reasons as Kobe to the Nuggets but not nearly as vile. Sports heroes are villains because they’re heroes to someone.) But now Peyton is totally my buddy! He’s curious about what I’m having for breakfast and I’m pretty sure we’re going to see “Les Mis” after the Super Bowl. I’m sure of it!
Spartak-Barcelona and BATE-Lille are already underway, in Moscow and Minsk respectively. The other six matches kickoff at the usual 2:45pmET.
The MOTDs are Valencia-Bayern at the Mestalla (tied atop Group F with 9 points apiece), and Juventus-Chelsea in Turin. Chelsea pulled even with Shakhtar Donetsk at the top of the group, with 7 points each (click here for all the group standings), thanks only to that last-touch headed goal by Victor Moses at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago. On the other side, calcio’s Chuck Norris will be looking to school Chelsea with another master class today from his position deep in the Juve midfield.
Indeed, a good portion of the CultFootball brain trust will be meeting in midtown Manhattan this afternoon for Juve-Chelsea, with an eye on Valencia-Bayern if the viewing venue so allows.
God we love Champions League.