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