The group phase of the Champions league tends to bore the tears out of most viewers. The primary phase of the competition has been diluted due to the inclusion of just about every team in Europe. Of course that is an exaggeration, but with the exception of a couple of matches most games tend to offer little or no excitement on paper. Obviously thats why they play the games, but even if FK Rubin Kazan were to beat Barcelona at home, the chances of them maintaining that form to qualify to the knockout stages is slim to none.
Now i grew up elsewhere (Europe) but i believe there is no finer competition/cup setup for excitement and drama than the college bball NCAA tourney. Yes the FA Cup, Copa del Rey etc… are great competitions with a similar win or you’re out format but it takes place over a very long time. March madness takes place over a month, pretty much the entire country gets involved, the players die for their teams and its just plain awesome. The best team or at the very least the team that can maintain a consistent form usually wins the whole thing. There are ALWAYS upsets.
With the current champs league format, where as you might not be able to predict each and every game, you can be fairly certain which teams will progress. Some teams pretty much win their group with 1 or 2 remaining games and then field out weaker teams so that their fringe/younger players get a run out. That’s great for them but do fans really want to see no names like Michael Owen when they paid to see Wayne Rooney etc…
I propose they go back to the way it was when it was knockout competition only. That way the chance of upsets are much more likely and every team will have to be at their best to progress. Have them in a neutral venue like they do the final…example Barcelona versus Dynamo Kiev could be held at Anfield, Real Madrid versus AC Milan in Germany etc.. This way people get to see teams and players they usually don’t. Yeah i get that people will have to travel to see their teams play but they do anyway. Just a thought.
The champions league doesn’t get interesting until February anyways when it’s in elimination format…If you get the 32 teams and bracket them up, seeded etc… and do home and away games for every game but the final you get almost as many games (someone else can do the math) as the current format except it is much more exciting. You will get as much TV money cause more people will tune in as every game counts.
Anywho, right now we are stuck with group stages and where as most seem boring, there are a few match-ups which on paper could be interesting.
Fiorentina v. Fernando Torres
This game is only interesting because Liverpool’s striker Fernando Torres is in AMAZING form. Whether you like Liverpool or not, he is just a joy to watch…plus this game is on TV today so you don’t have much of a “live” choice.
Rangers v. Sevilla
Actually any game in this group will be interesting as the three “known” teams are fairly equally and the Romanian team can hold their own. Sevilla on their day can be top class and have another in form striker on their books, Brazilian Luis Fabiano, but they are playing at Ibrox which certainly can give Rangers a 12th man advantage. Rangers first game, a draw away to Stuttgart was a success and the Glaswegians will certainly look to build on that.
Bayern v. Juventus
This is a match up of storied european greats from the past. By no means are they done, but both teams have been out of the european spotlight for a while. I’ve seen Bayern a couple of times this year and their attacking force with Ribery, Robben and Mueller will be an interesting and tough test against the usual stingy defense of Juventus lead by Italian keeper Buffon. Where as this could be a nil nil draw, it will certainly be an exciting match, if not for the fact that Howard Webb is refereeing and he ALWAYS makes it interesting.
Manchester United v. Vfl Wolfsburg
United are in top form in the premiership and we all know what they can do. Wolfsburg are not as glamorous or sexy but they play very nice football and are a tough team to beat. The game is at Old Trafford so Man U have the advantage but i wouldn’t be surprised if Wolfsburg get a result here…maybe (and hopefully) a win!
AC Milan v. FC Zurich
Gooch watch!!! If Milan were serious about Oneyewu becoming a starting defender this would be a perfect time for him to get some much needed experience. Zurich surprised Real Madrid with some fight in the first round and maybe they can pull off the huge upset but either way, this would be a perfect opportunity to start one’s fringe players.
Hopefully i will be proven wrong and this group situation will provide to be interesting but for now, enjoy week two of the champions league…if not catch up on sleep, read a book or go outside ;)