Thursday, December 10, 2009

Champions League Group Stage Results

The group stages are done in the UEFA Champions League, here is the list of teams advancing:

Group A: Bordeaux, Bayern Munich
Group B: Manchester United, CSKA Moscow
Group C: Real Madrid, AC Milan
Group D: Chelsea, FC Porto
Group E: Fiorentina, Lyon
Group F: Barcelona, Inter Milan
Group G: Sevilla FC, VfB Stuttgart
Group H: Arsenal, Olympiakos

For those of you scoring at home, the teams break down as follows: 3 English, 3 Italian, 3 Spanish, 2 French, 2 German, 1 Russian, 1 Greek, 1 Portuguese, 0 massive surprises.

Yes there were maybe two or three small surprises. Fiorentina finished tops over Lyon and Liverpool, which was a surprise. But you'd have to be naive to have thought going in that Liverpool was a shoe-in to advance. They were so obviously flawed, and Fiorentina is better than most people realized.

Bordeaux advancing rather than Juve is also a small surprise, but under their current situation, again it's not a big surprise that Juve was knocked out. A good Europa run could be good for them. However, it was a bit of a shock to see them capitulate at home to Bayern. This blog on ESPN said it wasn't a surprise, and even I warned that Bayern could be finding form. And considering Bayern's firepower, a victory surely wasn't shocking.

However, I would like to point out, purely because I like pointing out blatantly absurd things, that the previously linked blog based the idea that it wasn't a surprise victory on the theory that the Castrol Index Rankings of footballers foretold that Bayern was far more talented than Juve. These "rankings" are laughable at best. All you need to see is the number one player - Thierry Henry. That's right. Apparently hand balls are the triple word score here. I didn't even bother with checking out how the rankings are devised other than seeing that it's supposedly based on how they actually perform in-game because I could pull names out of a hat and do better. Rafa Marquez is tied for #5. I almost puked. Luca Toni at #10?? He doesn't even play and Bayern is just dying to offload him. OK, granted some ratings are right (Messi and Ronaldo at #2 and 3). But then Gigi Buffon is ranked #163? That puts him tied for 10th in Italy among goalkeepers. Are there even 10, no 5 keepers in the world better than him right now? Anyhow...

OK, back to the whole no surprises point. So there are really two, maybe three teams here that you'd normally be surprised to see. Olympiakos stands out, but they were in the pee-wee group compared to the Barca-Inter-Dynamo and Juve-Bayern-Bordeaux groups of death. The only surprise remaining is seeing CSKA advance above the German champs, VfL Wolfsburg. Spanish apologists will be disappointed Atlético Madrid didn't advance, but then again they've sucked balls this year.

On the winning side, I was encouraged by Man U beating Wolfsburg at the Volkswagen Arena despite lacking a starting defense and playing a team of might mites. Still, Michael Owen scores a hat-trick and everyone in England suddenly wets themselves thinking they could have a second striker to use in South Africa. I will say I've been impressed with Gabriel Obertan even though he's been used mostly as a substitute. If they were somehow to prise Edin Dzeko away from Wolfsburg and preferred destination Milan, they could be formidable next year with young developing wingers like Obertan and Antonio Valencia, Wayne Rooney, and other youngsters Macheda, Walbeck, and Gibson down the pipeline. Center midfield reinforcements still needed though.

Finally, a shout out to David Moyes for getting Landon Donovan on a two-month loan for injury plagued Everton. Hopefully Donovan will get a fair shake with the Toffees and we may even see him play against some of the aforementioned Champions League failures in the Europa League. Good luck LD.

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