We get CL soccer today! After a mildly intriguing third qualifying round dominated by Eduardo’s world-ending flop, we’re actually getting into proper CL action today as four of the groups kick off with the other four to play out tomorrow.
Of course, there are some jaded journalists thinking it’s all a bunch of boring, predictable rubbish, but I’d tend to disagree. Plus, there’s enough evidence out there to suggest that people prefer the lopsidedness of soccer over parity (something about the David/Goliath matches attracting extra attention from casual fans who want to see either a. tons of goals and attacking skill or b. the possibility of a dramatic, epic upset), so I’m rather excited to see these groups, pored over for weeks on end*, finally springing to life.
Some predictions for Tuesday afternoon’s fixtures after the jump.
Besiktas v. Manchester United (Group B)
What do you get for the English team that has everything? As if the weekend’s result wasn’t disheartening enough for the rest of the league, but they get a lazy trip to the Bosphorus and a chance at three easy points. Fergie showed against Spurs that he can pick-and-mix his midfield depending on the desired tactical result, and I’d expect him to run out a similar collection of defensively-minded middies to grind out a tempo and control possession via the short passing game. Not that you could keep Rooney on a leash for that long anyways…
Despite the swarthy powers of ageless goalie Rustu Recber, The Black Eagles will remain grounded.
Besiktas 0, Manchester United 2
WfL Wolfsburg v. CSKA Moskva (Group B)
Grafite + Dzeko + Martins = Nightmares in Russian (with German subtitles). Hitler could never march on Moscow in the winter, and CSKA will have a hard time making the reverse trip. It doesn’t matter that they have some Brazilians of their own; I fancy the Germans’ attacking dynamism to heil all evening long.
Wolfsburg 3, CSKA 1
Chelsea v. Porto (Group D)
No intrigue whatsoever here. Ancelotti will pound the Portuguese into submission with a steady approach and ankle-biting defense. Hulk brings a fair degree of menace to the Bridge, but it won’t be enough.
Chelsea 2, Porto 1
Olympique Marseille v. AC Milan (Group C)
It’s really tempting to pick a younger, fitter, happier home side, but when that fails, you take the draw. The French are loaded with goalscoring talent (Kone, Niang, Morientes, Brandao, Ben Arfa), and it might be tempting for the Rossonieri to give Oguchi Onyewu his full debut at the back. That part doesn’t scare me, but the thought of seeing Massimo Oddo trolling around the back four frightens me into submission.
Marseille 1, Milan 1
FC Zurich v. Real Madrid (Group C)
You know that phrase “this is why we play the games?” Well, this game falls outside of that adage, as this game is being played for no other reason than to electrify the stoned Swiss spectators with a glimpse of some decent, star-laden soccer.
Zurich 0, Real 4
Juventus v. Bordeaux (Group A)
The first real head-scratcher of the bunch. Juve look a lot better with Diego now fully integrated, but they’ll be without him for this visit of the French Ligue Unh champs. If FCGB opts not to play defensively against a creaky Old Lady, they have a legit chance of our first CL Matchday Upset Special.
Juventus 0, Bordeaux 1
Atletico Madrid v. APOEL Nicosia (Group D)
This is one for the gambling man. Atletico have boatloads of talent at their disposal – Diego Forlan, Simao, Sergio Aguero – but they’re as fond of self-destructing on the pitch as they are off it. Witness the current turmoil in the boardroom and rejoice the fact that it’s not your team doing the dynamite dance. Still, selling foul/PK machine Johnny Heitinga has to represent forward progress, right?
Considering the fact that they’re not likely to have scouted the Cypriots due to all this petty in-fighting, this might be a BATE special (in honor of the brave Belorussians of 2008/09′s campaign).
Atletico 1, APOEL 1
Maccabi Haifa v. Bayern Munich (Group A)
The Germans may be sputtering in the Bundesliga, but there’s nothing like the restorative power of a midweek beatdown of some minnow to help keep the juices flowing. The battering of Borussia Dortmund at the weekend put the Bavarians firmly back on track, and now that Franck Ribery and Louis van Gaal have kissed and made up, there appears to be harmony on the horizon for the awfully-nicknamed “Baylacticos.”
Haifa will never knew what hit them, but it’ll involve a scarred-up French winger, an oft-maligned Italian striker, and a homegrown forward who once scored a goal with his penis.
Maccabi 0, Bayern 5