Quick Reactions to the Champions League draw

Group G (for Guardiola) is set and it’s

Barcelona
SL Benfica
Spartak Moskva
Celtic

This isn’t a particularly tough group, but it does involve some really solid teams. It will not be a walk in the (Celtic) park.

Celtic won the Scottish Premier League by 10 points (20 officially since Rangers were deducted 10 points). That’s hardly shocking given that no team has won the Scottish Premier League other than Celtic or Rangers since, uh, Alex Ferguson was coach of Aberdeen. Celtic is, however, really solid. Their squad isn’t full of world beaters, but they’ll give us a handful. Georgios Samaras could cause our aerial blundering to prove all the more fatal in games. Lump it over the top and have him run onto it, hair streaming in the wind.

Benfica came in second in the Primeira Liga to Porto by 6 points. I admit I know little about them because they play in Portugal and I don’t happen to watch the Primeira Liga. The same is true of the Scottish and Russian leagues, actually, but for some reason I find ways to watch even less Portuguese domestic football than basically any other European country. I’ve literally seen more Guatemalan first division soccer in the last3 years than I have Portuguese teams. Still, I know some of the people on their squad: Pablito Aimar, El Payaso, who is now 32 (he is simultaneously way too young to be 32 and way too old to only be 32–and no, I have no idea how that is possible either); the Brazilian central defender Luisão is the captain–can you believe Luisão is younger than Aimar? Can you believe Pablo Aimar is older than Luisão? Unfathomable!; Argentine Real Madrid reject Ezequiel Garay is actually really solid; and NOOOLIIIITOOOOO. Nolito plays for Benfica! Oh man! I love that kid.

Heading to Russia is never fun, but going to play Футбольный клуб Спартак Москва will not be any kind of a walk in the park. Let’s hope global warming is real, eh? While I don’t want Iniesta to get a sunburn, I hope it’s 70 degrees and cloudless the day we play them. Also that their sprinklers work just fine. That’s not how it’ll be as Hurricane ICE AND SNOW will probably smite the team bus and then the team will have to jog to the stadium in negative 800 degree weather. We will lose Isaac Cuenca to frostbite. Also maybe wolves. The movie The Day After Tomorrow was actually just filmed without special effects in winter in Russia. Beyond the wall in A Song of Ice and Fire is set in Russia. Bears from Russia go to the North Pole for the warmth. It is really cold sometimes. Also the team has The Star of Euro 2012 Who Didn’t Turn Out to Be a Star Aiden McGeady. Remember Espanyol defender Nicolás Pareja? He’s now Spartak defender Nicolás Pareja. Remember Barcelona forward Javier Saviola? Perhaps you have erased his name from your list of people who exist for his move to Real Madrid, but he is now Spartak forward Javier Saviola. He is, interestingly enough, also ex-Benfica forward Javier Saviola. At least he’s consistent with his name. Chad Johnson could learn a thing or two from him about that. And probably like 80 other things too.

So yeah, it’s going to be tough, but we’re going to finish 1st in the group and move on to the knockout stages.

Also, congratulations to Andres Iniesta for winning the European player of the year award! You did it, little buddy! You beat Lionel Messi to an individual award in a team sport! Hooray! Exclamation points!

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

203 Comments

  1. nzm
    August 31, 2012

    Only 1 Yellow card in the whole match. Amazing.

  2. Roberto Senyera
    August 31, 2012

    It looks like Chel$ki will have to revert to parking the bus to be successful in Europe this year …

    • August 31, 2012

      After all they’ve spent in the transfer market. And they still won’t be successful..

    • nzm
      August 31, 2012

      They tried that in this match. It didn’t work. At. Madrid kept moving around inside the Chelsea lines and creating gaps for them to slide into.

      That was something that Barca failed to do. At. Madrid players were constantly on the move – our guys were too static last season.

    • jordi™
      August 31, 2012

      How many chances like this would Aleti create on a small shitty pitch like Stamford Bridge?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-gq7zqpFLY

      Probably not many more. Its just that Falcao would have taken one of them. So would an inform healthy Villa 🙁

    • August 31, 2012

      This game was played at the Stade Louis II in Monaco, whihc is no great shakes, either. Although it did look in better shape than when we played there last year.

    • nzm
      August 31, 2012

      Camp Nou: 105 x 68m
      Stamford Bridge: 105 x 68m
      Stade Louis II (Monaco): 105 x 67m

    • Roberto Senyera
      August 31, 2012

      Last year we needed guys like Alves (and now Alba) and Tello to go all the way to the end line past the parked bus defence of Chel$ki and cut the ball back into the box. Alves repeatedly failed to do so.

  3. August 31, 2012

    It’s official:

    Chelsea: Worst. Champions League Winners. Ever.

    And also, they have ruined Mata.

    • Helge
      August 31, 2012

      Compared to Chelsea, one almost has to admire the skill of Inter during their CL win 2010.
      Chelsea is the most pathetic team ever to win the title, incredible amount of luck (Not only vs us and Bayern, they were akready inferior to Lisbon the round before).

      Tbh, the whole club of Chelsea shall burn in hell, for eternity.

  4. Jafri
    August 31, 2012

    This team won this CL?

    Wait – THIS team beat us??

    I really really hope we get another crack at them this season. VENGEANCE.

    • mom4
      August 31, 2012

      I remember when some of the silly season talk linked us with David Luiz. So g

    • mom4
      August 31, 2012

      OK, laptop froze up so badly I had to Ctrl-Alt-Del my way out.
      😡
      I remember when some of the silly season talk linked us to David Luiz. So glad it wasn’t true.

    • Roberto Senyera
      August 31, 2012

      Good going forward. Not so much defending. Typical Brasilian. We need defenders that are anti-Luis. We need defenders that can defend. Usually they do. But this past Spanish Super Copa we had many defensive cock-ups (and I’m still on a 48 hour Pepto Bismol bender because of it):

      1) VV doing his Exxon bit at the end of Leg 1 (that alone cost us the tiny trophy)
      2) Mascherano’s momentary blindness precluding him from kicking clear a ball when nobody was challenging him
      3) Piqué’s failure to clear the ball before the Portuguese Princess got to it
      4) Adriano’s lack of judgement in receiving his red card (just let the man try his luck scoring 1 v 1 instead of putting your team down a man while you’re already losing — this team can bring that game back 11 v 11 but not with 10 men when we can’t press them. Stupid Adriano. Stupid).

      Right then. I’m finished venting. Back to the Pepto Bismol bombs. Bottoms up!!!!

    • August 31, 2012

      Don’t forget Sanchez flopping, the complete lack of midfield control that allowed then unfettered runs at our defense and two excellent scoring chances spurned by Messi. Team success, team failure.

    • Roberto Senyera
      August 31, 2012

      We totally gifted that piece of silverware to them K. The did not win it. We gifted it to them. Better now than when it counts more — that would be the positive spin.

    • Jafri
      August 31, 2012

      Sideshow Bob? No thank you.

  5. Ryan
    August 31, 2012

    I don’t really get the Essien move to EE. Is he going to get any minutes on such a deep squad? I haven’t been too impressed with him lately, but back in 2009 he was pretty good. Just as long as he doesn’t save his wonder goals for when he plays against us. 🙂

  6. ooga aga
    August 31, 2012

    if essien is anything like he used to be, i dont like his going to EE. he used to strike fear in me. even before his wonder goal that almost put us out of the CL.

    • ooga aga
      August 31, 2012

      meanwhile, EE will have to deal with maicon, who has gone to Man City.

  7. ooga aga
    August 31, 2012

    so from what i can gather ronaldos sourpuss face might be due to the fact that iniesta ignored him on stage…only shaking hands or otherwise acknowledging messi. dont know, but this is what i am reading. so now, iniesta is a bad person. according to some people.

    • August 31, 2012

      Oh, don’t be ridiculous. Iniesta was so stunned he could barely get his thoughts together to make a thank you speech.

    • ooga aga
      September 1, 2012

      hey you! i was just reporting what i had been reading on the web. wanted others’ thoughts. i didnt see the gala/presentation. believe me, i love iniesta no less…

    • September 1, 2012

      Oh, I know you don’t think that yourself. It’s just so silly.

  8. simple_barcafan
    August 31, 2012

    Essien to RM. Luka, Ozil, Khedira, Essien, Alonso, Kaka, DiMaria, Lass (assuming he is not sold).Their midfield looks intimidating..Can Tito counter this?..hmmm..

    • mom4
      August 31, 2012

      Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Thiago, Cesc, Song, Masche- countered.

    • Roberto Senyera
      August 31, 2012

      Don’t worry about old man Essien. Broken down old horse.

      I did love him before all his injuries and despite the fact that he played for the Chavs.

    • Roberto Senyera
      August 31, 2012

      The same Essien who couldn’t get a game at Chelsea ahead of the likes of Mikel and old man Lampard? Okay then. My knees are beginning to shake.

    • Roberto Senyera
      August 31, 2012

      If there were two more Essiens circa 2012 I’d give them to the LWBs for free. Happily.

  9. Roberto Senyera
    August 31, 2012

    If Essien were a horse he’d have already been sent to the glue factory. Just sayin’.

  10. Roberto Senyera
    August 31, 2012

    On another note … I bought my home and away jerseys yesterday so I’m pretty stoked about that. They even have the Catalan television badge on one of the sleeves. That’s a first here in Kanadian shops. I guess I’m one of the few who likes the tequila sunrise away tops. It’s miles better than the old pink/salmon abomination. That’s one I’ll never buy based on aesthetic principles.

    Mind you, I didn’t buy the goalkeeper jersey either as I don’t want to make inexplicable drops of my lunch, groceries, laptop, etc. 😉

    • August 31, 2012

      What shop did you buy them in? I’m in Canada, but I always buy my stuff from the online shop.

  11. August 31, 2012

    Essien is a very intelligent move, similar to what I wouldn’t have minded seeing us do a few years back with Marcos Senna. He adds depth, and in the limited role he will be asked to play, he will do very well. He isn’t the man he once was, but is still a formidable option for Mou Mou.

    They have gone for quality depth, choosing numbers over absolute quality. The season should be interesting.

    • Alexinho
      August 31, 2012

      It’s a shame what injuries have done to Essien–the man was a tank in the midfield once upon a time, world class. With a resume including Chelsea and Real Madrid, I am unfortunately obliged to dislike him forever.

    • Roberto Senyera
      August 31, 2012

      The LWBs offloaded a 25 year old Granero to QPR for a well past it multiple ACL injured Essien. Wise move M*drid. More of the same please. I rejoice in schadenfreude.

  12. Roberto Senyera
    August 31, 2012

    Within the space of 24 hours the Kanadian GolTV website schedule went from displaying Messi and TB to Beckham and Frings. Talk about a massive swap to a lower rental neighbourhood. It also says a lot about GolTV’s (Canada) chances of broadcasting La Liga this season.

    Choppy inconsistent streams it is then.

  13. Roberto Senyera
    August 31, 2012

    Personally, I’m glad Essien went to the LWBs and Maicon went to Man City and not the other way around. Maicon has got to be an upgrade on Arbeloa as long as Maicon doesn’t face Maicon kryptonite (Bale).

    Funny how on deadline day managers are opting to snag their former players. Not funny really. More like predictable.

    • simple_barcafan
      September 1, 2012

      I know EE..but what does LWB stand for? Little Whining Brats? Lost White Boys? Love Without Boundaries 😛 ?

    • September 1, 2012

      I have also wondered this for quite a while but always forget to ask. Thanks for doing that so I remembered haha.

    • Jim
      September 1, 2012

      I believe it might be “lucky White B*****ds although it’s not an expression I would use myself ( while reserving the right to agree with the sentiments !)

    • September 1, 2012

      I suspect the L stands for “Lily”, not Lucky.

  14. lyd
    September 1, 2012

    All the best to Ibi. Schalke vs Arsenal would be fun!

    Disappointed with JDS (Just Doesn’t Sign?) and Fontas tbh. Secretly I was hoping Laudrup would want to get the two on loan, or Spurs/Malaga. If I was JDS or Fontas, I’d pick a quality/stable club (qualified for CL or the Europa league, even better) unlike Chelsea, where there’d be enough playing time. So that I can come back stronger as a player at Barca.

  15. September 1, 2012

    City made some brilliant business in the transfer window. It seems popular for people to talk of all their buys as being gluttony and just buying for the sake of buying, but it was actually all very clever. Mancini’s always been good with transfers and well City being City have to pay premiums but not counting the transfers Hughes made the ones since Mancini came have been good and this season was no exception.

    They got Rodwell, who is pretty much a definite upgrade on Barry. Then they splashed for Garcia and sold De Jong, which makes for a more creative midfield (even though De Jong wasn’t a guaranteed starter, like for like options-wise). They got rid of Adebayor and Santa Cruz and got rid of their one transfer flop last season Savic off to Italy while getting a hot young defensive prospect in return.

    And they got Maicon who has plenty of CL experience and can still be class if he doesn’t have to play regularly (which he won’t, with Zabaleta and Richards in the side) for just 3 million to add depth, got a backup backup goalkeeper for next to nothing. And sold Adam Johnson who wasn’t getting any game time apparently for slowing down play by being over-elaborate with dribbles and lacking defensively and got another young player Sinclair for that role.

    So they didn’t bloat their squad further, they cut some deadweight who kept on getting loaned out, upgraded a few positions, and added depth for peanuts.

    I still think Madrid will qualify out of their group with comfort enough to irritate me massively but I’m still hoping City can give them problems (knowing how games involving Madrid and other sides always play out, hoping is often bad). But City are good with possession, have a very solid defense, and are physically massive even compared to Madrid players (Joe Hart, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Javi Garcia, Rodwell, Yaya, Balotelli, Dzeko are all 6’2 or taller and mostly built like brick houses while Khedira is the only Madrid player over 6’2, and Maicon, Richards etc are almost as tall too- apart from Silva, Nasri, Aguero and Tevez the whole team is enormous, but then like Bayern I think we can outmatch City in possession and midfield considerably so I’m not super worried about meeting them though our midgets will have a hard time there). Madrid have struggled the rare occasions they did struggle against sides that were energetic, kept possession better and defended solidly (namely us, Bayern). I think City are still too green but still let’s hope they can beat Madrid.

    And I hope Borussia qualify too and hopefully beat Madrid once at least on the way because even aside from wanting Real to go out of the CL asap Borussia are way too good for it to be fair for them to get knocked out again and it’s terrible luck that their sophomore campaign has to be in such a difficult group.

  16. andres ito
    September 1, 2012

    thanks for the summary on mancity transfer biz..very smart-looking indeed..

    whenever i hear about city..i always think of yaya..what a rollercoaster ride it must be to play there..for me..yaya is kind of the rock..

  17. just listenin
    September 1, 2012

    CL draw looks fine for us.

    On Andres win, it is so good to see a player in a game that depends so much on what happens when you don’t have the ball, who has an absolutely brilliant read of the game, and who often makes the pass or penetrating dribble that leads to the pass that leads to the goal, and can makes the killer pass himself, or come up with the occasional but decisive goal get ten recognition he deserves. Simply, there are no Messis or Ronaldos without the Iniestas of the world, and at the moment he’s the best of his class of players.

  18. September 1, 2012

    Tito on JDS:

    ““He has decided to stay here. The fact that he’s continuing will imply leaving other players out”.

    Sounds kind of pissed off to me. Jonathan is not only insisting on taking up space on the Barça bench, he is actively impeding the progress of others (Sergi Roberto, to be frank). I don’t know what he thinks he is going to gain from this. There is fighting for your place, and there is tilting at windmills. He is acting like a petulant child, not a professional football player. He was always one of Pep’s “pets” (yes, he had them), and it seems to me that he just can’t accept that he isn’t “special” anymore. Kind of like Bojan. I’ve never been a huge fan of JDS, but I’m now starting to actively dislike him. Can’t remember the last time I felt this way about one of our players….oh, yeah. Ibra.

    Fontas will also be staying, at least for the short-term, but his case is different. He was willing to leave but a deal couldn’t be found that was acceptable (seems Barça wasn’t willing to cover enough of his wages for whatever club they sent him to). I suspect a club will be found for him in January.

    • September 1, 2012

      JDS will also be taking playing time away from his best bud Thiago. And standing in the way of his other best bud Rafinha getting call-ups. Yep.

    • Lou
      September 1, 2012

      I disagree. JDS has a contract which means he is perfectly with in his rights to stay. If Barcelona didn’t want him to continue they shouldn’t have offered him a renewal. But they did, probably because they wanted to make money from selling him. That’s fine too but the player has to agree to a sale.

      At the same time Tito has every right to park JDS in the stands if he wants to call up Sergi Roberto or Rafinha, so I’m not sure I really understand how it will limit their playing time if Tito prefers them.

      I don’t think this is the best decision for JDS’s career, but it is his choice to make.

    • ooga aga
      September 1, 2012

      hold on, blitzen, my friend. the quote given on the official site is: “El hecho de que continúen implica dejar más jugadores fuera” or “The fact that they stay implies leaving other players out.” plural. referring to both JDS and Fontas. not just JDS.

    • September 1, 2012

      I took my quote from the English translation on the official site.

      The Catalan has “ell ha decidit quedar-se aquí”, which is singular.

      And the French has “Concernant Dos Santos il a décidé de rester. Cela fait des joueurs en plus a écarter les jours de matchs”. That seems pretty clear to me.

    • simple_barcafan
      September 1, 2012

      Legally, he is within his rights to stay…I for some reason believe this will provide him added motivation to do better and prove himself..Remember how Eto’o responded when Pep had mentioned publicly that he was not in his plans..

  19. replayed
    September 1, 2012

    It may be an odd sentiment for Tito to express, but I think I can follow his reasoning here.

    It’s not as if he really has the option to “park JDS in the stands” full time. After all, JDS is still valuable club property that must be tended to lest it become devalued. That means trying to find playing time for him somewhere, somehow. It’s just one more variable for the team to have to juggle.

    While it’s true that JDS is well within his rights, he can’t exactly be commended for doing something that appears to help neither him nor the club.

    He may well have other, more personal, reasons to resist a move away. But otherwise, the expression “cutting off your nose to spite your face” comes to mind.

    • September 1, 2012

      Exactly.

    • Lou
      September 1, 2012

      Right but leaving out JDS the midfield has much more depth than last year. Between Xavi, Iniesta, Busi, Cesc, Song, Thiago there wouldn’t be a lot of opportunities for the likes of Rafinha and Sergi Roberto to get game time anyway at least in La Liga.

      I suspect JDS like those two will get time in the Copa and late Champion’s League games when qualification is assured so I’m not sure how much this will take away opportunities from promising B teamers.

      With the squad depth this year it is going to be hard for JDS to get a seat on the bench let alone playing time. It’s a big gamble and probably not the choice I would have made but it is his career to risk I suppose.

    • Lou
      September 1, 2012

      Sorry, I just realized that my list has the same number of midfielders as last year (-Keita +Song), less if you count Afellay as a midfielder. It is still pretty deep though and with Cesc and Thiago better integrated this year I don’t think there will be a lot of time in La Liga games for B Team midfielders or JDS barring serious injuries (hopefully this season won’t be quite so injury ravaged).

  20. Lev
    September 1, 2012

    Then again…Tito should not have made that comment in public, imo…

  21. nzm
    September 1, 2012

    Anyone watch the Zaragoza vs. Malaga match?

    The Zaragoza pitch was downright hazardous. It had so much sand in it that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the odd Bedouin camel train pass through.

    There’s pitch doctoring and then there’s pitch mismanagement. This was the latter. Luckily our guys don’t play there until next year when I’ll pray that it will be in better condition.

  22. Bill
    September 1, 2012

    JDS witnessed first hand what happened to his brother when he left Barca, so who can blame him? He might leave for a team that’s going to bench him and he won’t learn anything, or he can stay and keep learning from the likes of Xavi. I think after what happened to his brother, he would prefer to stock around and fight for his place. Besides, if 2 or 3 of the midfielders end up not playing either because of injuries or suspensions, he might get his chances. I can’t blame him for deciding to stay and patiently wait for his chance.

  23. andres ito
    September 1, 2012

    yeah-that field at zaragoza l..it looked like they were playing on a beach..i was shocked at the poor condition..

    watching milan now..hoping to see a bojan debut:>

    • ooga aga
      September 1, 2012

      he played came on as a sub in the 67th minute but i did not see. they scored 2 while he was on the field, though he wasnt involved…

  24. lyd
    September 1, 2012

    There is the January transfer window for JDS. Take it easy ppl 😛 Besides, more midfielders in training is always better.

    Potential suitors @ winter transfer and reasons:
    1. Sevilla.
    2. Schalke – Ibi starts blazing with all guns and Schalke management thinks JDS would reinforce things.
    3. Mallorca- Same ^ Just replace Ibi with GDS.
    4. Man City – They discovers soon that Javi Garcia is crap.
    5. PSG – Just for the sake of spending.
    6. Chelsea – To have the sadistic pleasure of having JDS watch Romeu ruin his career and vice versa.
    7. Swansea – Because Laudrup is cool!

  25. mom4
    September 1, 2012

    Again, it won’t be ’til Monday when I can watch the game. Working and then downloading. Soooooo, here’s my linup:
    VV
    Monti, Pique, Masche, Alba
    Xaviniesta, Busi (Song sub 60 min)
    Pedro, Messi, Villa
    99.9% sure Villa will start—it’s Valencia, after all.

    Oh, and hooray! New Doctor Who episode tonight! #happygeekymom

    • hansh
      September 2, 2012

      So many people have told me that Doctor Who is really good, so I started watching it last Friday. I’ve watched a season and a half already! I’m too busy for there to be addicting TV in my life!

  26. September 1, 2012

    Word from Comcast is that BeIN gets added in SD to the Latino Multi packages next week, with English version to come later.

    So by next weekend, folks like me with the Comcast Spanish language pack will be streaming no more.

    • Ben
      September 2, 2012

      I thought it was going to get added to the sports tier as well. Did you hear anything about that happening?

    • September 2, 2012

      No specifics. Got info from the Xfinity page on Facebook, posted by a Comcast rep. Was going to dig deeper, but was put off by the xenophobic comments from people who still don’t realize that the Spanish-language market drives footy programming for Comcast. The English vs Latin viewership stats for GolTV showed a staggering disparity.

      Not that such things stop anyone from snarking about “America’s first language,” etc.

  27. Judas Pissed
    September 2, 2012

    Victor Valdes is fast becoming Spain’s second-choice keeper, simply by Pepe Reina’s ‘goal-keeping’ this week…

  28. replayed
    September 2, 2012

    Uh-oh.

    Modric is looking like brilliant for Madrid right now in the Ozil slot. I know he’s a superb player, but I didn’t expect him to settle in so beautifully and so quickly at Madrid.

    He’s putting in his bid to be considered their best signing since Ronaldo.

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