Champions League, In Bloom

So great, even Eidur gets a nod
Champions League primer time. Let us do away with the mincing of words at the outset: I love the Champions League. In my mind, I hold it in higher esteem than the league and would much rather win it than La Liga, although I’d rather not have to choose. Something about the anthem (it gives me chills somehow), and all the teams coming together, and the shady draws with players from eligible teams determining who will play, and the best players from the best leagues playing against one another makes me weak in the knees. Champions of Spain, eh (not really). Champions of Europe, I love it. Like the One Ring draws Sauron, so am I drawn to European competition starting the fall and ending in the Spring, like the bookends of the best time of the year. In all seriousness, I see it as a more fitting competition for a club of our size to show its skill, because many of the lesser teams are done away with so early and the match-ups are so intriguing. It just all makes for better stories than a February fixture against Levante. On that note, it’s Champions League overall preview time y’all.

I am assuming that you, our faithful reader, are not some bandwagon jerk who only started following the club after the 2009 season and did poor research into your new club, thus having no idea that FC Barcelona has won 3 European championships (before 1993 it was not called the Champions League)–1992, 2006, 2009–tied for 6th all-time. There may be some other Old Ones here beside Kevin, who, like Cthulhu, lies in wait, who remember the 1992 team and may remember these matches. If not, that’s why we have Wikipedia, which tells me that we were hanging around for most of this party on a thing line, barely passing the second leg on away goals and then winning the Final in Extra Time on a Ronald Koeman goal. 2006 was a much different affair relying largely on the backs of Misters Ronaldinho and Eto’o before reaching a hotly contested final that featured a Sol Campbell (I’m still astounded by this) goal for Arsenal, Jens Lehmann being put where he always deserved to be (the damn locker room because he’s a cheating bastard), a final 15 minutes comeback from Barça, and our boys ruining Wenger’s best chance at Euro glory (HA!). Then of course 2009 exists more as a dream than a memory to me. It was less the continuance of a year’s worth of perfection and more the comprehensive medal that solidified untouchable status. It was Guardiola’s European coming out party, Messi’s continual climb up Mount Improbable on the way to being the best player in the world, and coming from the Third Qualifying Stage to win, a series of massive beatings followed by what is now the second greatest goal in Andres Iniesta’s career… somehow… seriously, ponder that shit for a second… his second best goal was THE Iniestazo… Oh yes, and we beat Man U, 2-0, whatevs, I guess, no biggie.

It's coming...
So what does this year hold in store for the Blaugrana? Well a group stage featuring Panathinaikos, 2010 Super League Greece champions; FC Copenhagen, 2010 Danish Superliga champions; and Rubin Kazan, 2009 Russian Premier League champions (they are in the middle of their 2010 season now, or something, what is this, MLS?) cannot hurt, as it appears to be the safest road through for any of the large clubs outside of maybe Arsenal. This is not to doubt either the Greek or Danish clubs, and most certainly not Kazan, they of the crafty Russian super defense and the home-wrecking variety. Rather, it is about simple logistics.

Every fan of course points to last year’s qualification struggle, but I would hope we’ve learned a lot from that, plus, we go from playing the best team in Italy, Ukraine, and Russia to Greece, Denmark, and Russia. Oh, and the second team in our group won the whole thing. And we played Kazan in Russia in November, meaning it was only slightly warmer than the depths of the space or the margarita I just made. I am also sure that Pep has learned his lesson about not playing down to lesser opponents, especially those built with defense and possession in mind (Kazan and Kiev). Last year many of us, myself included, predicted a tough qualification, especially due to picking up the best team of the second pot (Inter) and possibly the third as well (Kiev). Then of course there were ever present injuries facing our side and other personnel questions that plagued the side (although those occurred mostly later against Inter in the semis, but still).

This year, I believe, will be a different story, Saturday’s clusterfuck notwithstanding. A lack of hyper-talented teams in this group combining with favorable draw schedule make me think this. For all of Inter’s issues last season in qualification, Kiev’s slightly diminished status of late, and Kazan’s being an unknown commodity, that group was still head and shoulders above this one.

Panathinaikos is a classic Greek side: defensively minded leading to the attack and fairly tall. Bringing in Sidney Govou was key for them in offense and Gilberto Silva anchors a solid defensive attack. However, they play the worst defensive tendency a team can against our boys: a ridiculously high line that Xavi and Messi will obliterate. If they reduce that issue against us and play typically stingy at home, as they are wont to do, they can provide an impediment during qualification, but changing an entire style that they have played and are suited toward will likely prove difficult, especially for only two matches.

FC Copenhagen is this year’s unknown in the group. They rely on Jesper Gronkjaer and Dame N’Doye for offensive output and play a high-paced game built around quick passing meaning they are likely prone to give our boys fits if they can scrape some possession away and counter quickly. However, they also give the ball away criminally and have a tendency to become bogged down if scored upon early. A typically scrappy side that could give problems, but with their defensive setup this one might get ugly early in either game.

Rubin Kazan. What can I say about them? They gained every ounce of respect I could give after beating us in the Camp Nou last year in qualification and deserved it too. Like every Russian side there is, they just play defense and they play it well (they’ve given up 8 goals in 20 games in this Russian Premier League season). They gave Messi fits last year and hounded Xavi to the point of tears. But methinks that had more to do with a lack of knowledge about the opponent at the time, which may be blamed on the coaches, players, and the nature of today’s football with having to play internationals, league cup, Champions League, and league games in such short spans. This year, we know more about them and I’d expect we will see a win at home and a draw on the road in Siberia in September.

In the end, I think Barça takes 3 wins at home, a win at Copenhagen, and draws against Panathinaikos and Kazan away. Then again, this should be taken with a grain of salt as the showing against Hercules could have been the harbinger of something awful since we lacked pace at times, the passing was bad in the first half, and the defense got lost a few times. Or that could have just been one game and that stuff just happens sometimes, which is my contention. Areas for concern exist, but not to the extant that some are opining. With any team you have to take the good times with the bad, and unfortunately when you follow a team that rarely loses that means the backlash is always worse. Tuesday will tell more.

Group D: FC Barcelona, Rubin Kazan, Panathinaikos (Europa League), Copenhagen
Final: Chelsea over FC Barcelona, 3-2 (a.e.t.) (how’s that for an incredibly detailed prediction for an outcome that rests on roughly 37 other factors before we get there?)

Golden Boot: Messi, 10 goals

FC Barcelona Group Stage Schedule
Sept. 14 – Panathinaikos
Sept. 29 – at Rubin Kazan
Oct. 20 – FC Copenhagen
Nov. 2 – at FC Copenhagen
Nov. 24 – at Panathinaikos
Dec. 7 – Rubin Kazan

Draws Dates
Dec. 17, 2010 – Round of 16 Draw, Monaco
March 18, 2011 – Final Round Draw, Monaco

I leave you with this

Photo 1: Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe
Photo 2: Google Image
Photo 3: Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Recent Posts

Written by:

We calls 'em likes we sees 'em.


  1. james89
    September 12, 2010

    Editor’s note: This post has been edited for content, but its shell remains as an admonition. If all that you have to say to begin a post is “First,” I will delete it. Advance the debate, or say nothing.


    • csidle
      September 12, 2010

      Can we have stupid posts like this that add nothing to the thread but “FIRST”-esque replies deleted? They annoy the shit out of me.

      • jose89
        September 12, 2010

        They might be periodically, or in due time, deleted, but in the meantime I suggest you just scroll down.

  2. Eklavya
    September 12, 2010

    Sorry for being off topic but anyone knows why the US Open hasn’t started yet? Wasn’t it supposed to start 20 mins ago?

    • Helge
      September 13, 2010

      I was staying up till 3am until it came to my mind to look up in the internet what’s going on there 🙂

  3. Roz
    September 12, 2010

    So we lose in the final. Thats depressing.:(

    • September 12, 2010

      Luke is just kidding. He has finger-based reversus typus. We’re starting a fund to seek help for his malady. What he MEANT to type was 3-2 Barca, in regular time, with goals by Messi (2) and Iniesta. Yes.

      • September 12, 2010

        Iniesta scores by blasting a shot the moment the ref take the whistle to announce the end of the game as a draw.

        Chelsea trolls come accusing the referee that he paused for 6/1000 of the second giving Iniesta the chance to score.

      • Roz
        September 12, 2010

        Really hope so. Ill donate 50 bucks anything, to cure the lad 🙂

  4. September 12, 2010

    And a Weasel won the Italian GP at Monza, when his team took almost a full second longer to service his teammate, who got out of the pits just behind him. Ick. At least the dog-assed Bears pulled one out of the fire, a still-smouldering, dung smeared wreck of an undeserved win.

    • Josep
      September 12, 2010

      God, it was bad. We didn’t deserve the W, at all. I mean I’m glad we got it but it took a dumb luck stupid rule to win.

    • vicsoc8
      September 12, 2010

      Get used to the Bears being underwhelming.

      Cutler has the physical tools to be a winner, but he is just too well-versed in a loser mentality (and this is coming from someone who attended Vanderbilt while Jay played there).

      • Kxevin
        September 12, 2010

        Oh, I’m used to it. Even great QBs come to Chicago and die.

        • Vicsoc8
          September 12, 2010

          You must understand that I mean no harm by saying that the Bears will be underwhelming.

          Hell, I’m a Bills fan, so I understand underwhelming.

  5. September 12, 2010

    I can’t f*cking wait for champions league. And I can’t wait to watch all the matches in HD glory courtesy of DirectTV. The loss yesterday was hard, but I think it was a momentary setback that in the grand scheme of this season. Can we seriously figure out a way to not send players to Argentina and then have them play a game three days later, thanks.

    • Kxevin
      September 12, 2010

      I think that’s the squad depth question. Seriously, I would have grabbed some B teamers for this one. Anybody could have lost 5-1. Wouldn’t have minded a midfield of Dos Santos, Thiago and Mascherano (who traveled for the friendly, and was very good, by the by).

      Squad depth is going to rear its head more than once this season, so get used to it. And I am going to blaspheme right now, and suggest that a Hleb would have been useful.

    • Pyro
      September 12, 2010

      I know how! Let’s learn from Manchester United and Chelsea and say our players are injured and are not allowed to partake in meaningless friendlies across the world but it would be useless our boys love playing for their countries.

  6. vicsoc8
    September 12, 2010

    I’m going out to buy some Heineken in preparation!

  7. Jose
    September 12, 2010

    Obviously Luke made an innocent mistake with his final prediction.

    He meant the Champions League final would be Barca over AC Milan 1-2, Milan’s goal being a long range wundershot, our equalizer from an unmarked Puyol’s header in from the corner–as the onlooking Germans and Madridistas chuckle quietly to themselves–and our last gasp winner in the dying minutes when Milan’s defense fails to clear a ball in the box and Iniesta puts in the back of the net–as the onlooking Dutch and Chelsea fans cry quietly to themselves.


    • stowe
      September 13, 2010

      haha! beautiful, i wish things like that would happen…oh…

    September 12, 2010

    wow!!alonso is my favorite driver!today was fantastic!massa is a second class driver,alonso won 2 championship with renault(no the best car)against shumacher.yes he is a moaning but is the best driver the last years.not only in the race but he helps every team to develope.respect.

    • Kxevin
      September 12, 2010

      Massa might not be the best driver on Ferrari, but his pit stop didn’t get the same service as Weasel’s, and the attendant delay ensured that he came out second best. Not cool. Team orders of a different, but more palatable (to the FIA) sort.

      And he might help develop, but he also destroys. His actions in the Ferrarigate scandal were reprehensible, and his conduct within the team and toward his co-driver was appalling. Now Ferrari has inherited that crap, and I wish them well with it. I’m still tifosi, but I cheer for Massa.

    September 12, 2010

    and about panathinaikos..they have a new smart coach..i believe they will be a little tired tuesday..they will play without their left back and witg 2 D.M silva,simao and katsouranis front of them.they want to put pressure on our defense.a formation i guess will be 4-2-1-3 tzorvas,vintra,sariegi,cante(boumsong)left i don.t know yet,simao,silva,katsouranis,leto,sisse,govou..if we play well my prediction is 2-0

    September 12, 2010

    haha and imagine i know that alonso is a madrid fan!that.s why is a moaning one!haha!but we have lorenzo in bikes a barca fan and the new champion!ole!oh and the half and more greece will support us tuesday(cause they support olympiacos the enemy of pana and cause olymp fans love barca and pana madrid!ouf!enougi said!

    September 12, 2010

    kxevin alonso was fastest today and i am sure if hamilton or webber was in the same position,button and vettel will help them.yes i said it alonso is a moaning and big ego bastard.i just love the way he drive and help the his first year in mclaren remember how before their car was and how after must have a champion class driver.after schumacher they found the best..i know you disagree so i stop!

    • Bundy
      September 12, 2010

      I hate Olympiakos, they stole the championship from AEK two/three seasons ago, and at the time they lost to kalamaria my friend was playing for that team. I can’t memba, but if Olympiakos didnt take it to court, Kalamaria would have stayed in first div.

    September 12, 2010

    yeah bundy something like that happened.but here in greece football is a very dirty story.i
    am not supporting any team.

    September 12, 2010

    and congrats to you for the world championship in basketball(the u.s.a people here)!

  14. September 12, 2010

    Finally watched the whole match. Terrible terrible display. Nothing much to add as people had all the points covered.

    But one thing.

    Pique kinda touched my heart when I saw him played so hard. He has been attacking since we are down 0-1, and didn’t stop doing in the second half. its true, he had a part in the goals we conceded, but it was more like a collective deficiency. He shed blood all over his face after that horrendous head collision. Still man the hell up by getting up quickly and coming back on the field with an onion head. Huge involvement in the attack and was the only areal threat we had. We all knew he could play like a striker, but he did more than just that. Covering a large area of field, storming forward with and without the ball. win balls in midfield and whatnot. He wasn’t at his best in defence, but at the moment when I saw him laid down with blood all over his face, I was so touched because he really played his heart out for the team by doing everything he could.

    I say this will be Bojan’s last season with us.

  15. barca96
    September 13, 2010

    So monkey= nadal and weasal= alonso 😆
    Any other nicknames for world’s best sportsmen?

    I do agree with Kxevin that Mascherano was good yesterday. I was impressed with his ball control as well. Never noticed he had that in his game.

  16. Eklavya
    September 13, 2010

    Poor pique has had 14 stitches in the last 3 months, according to Barcastuff. Poor guy, he was getting injured in almost every Spain WC match.

  17. Vj
    September 13, 2010

    O’Shea seems so excited about Messi scoring that goal doesn’t he?

    • Luke
      September 13, 2010

      He was probably thinking the same thing I was at the time… wait, how is a 5’5″ guy getting a header over me, Vidic, and Van Der Sar?

  18. Jnice
    September 13, 2010

    Read a couple of comments under Sid Lowe’s newest article. The criticism of Mascherano is funny to me. People love to hate, don’t they? Makes me wonder if people actually watched the match or just took note of the fact that he was substituted at halftime.

    I fail to understand how Mascherano was the reason we lost the match, especially considering the fact that we were miles better in the 1st half than the 2nd. Strange.

    Anyway, here’s the article: *

    • Kxevin
      September 13, 2010

      Mostly because people aren’t very bright, Jnice. Actually, I should amend that. They let player like or dislike instigate myopia. We see it in these spaces as well, so it isn’t something foreign to us. It’s the psychological equivalent of beer goggles, if you will. 😀

    • September 13, 2010

      i was so surprised by Mascherano’s performance. he was so much better than i thought.

    • Kari
      September 13, 2010

      *sheepishly raises hand*

      Guilty. But he really wasn’t as horrible as I thought he would be. I still have my reservations since it’s been only one game, but he wasn’t the worst player in that crapfest and dude was making his debut. That’s saying something IMO.

      Hopefully, we’ll get our arses in gear tomorrow and we’ll see the best of SMasch.

      • September 13, 2010

        I think we have a nickname for our newest addition. Nice one, Kari.

    • Diego S.
      September 13, 2010

      What goes into their heads “He received a yellow card on 20th minute and Barca lost 2-0” = “He’s terrible”

  19. Nick
    September 13, 2010

    Far from all Russian teams play defensive football. I’ll through Zenit at you, for example.

  20. Lev
    September 13, 2010

    nice preview, Luke.

    anyone notice how on the photo john o’shea is smiling while la pulga’s header is burying man u’s hopes of a comeback in the final?

  21. Kxevin
    September 13, 2010

    Guardiola at practice:

    “The match against Hercules we have to forget right away because on Tuesday we have a big game against Panathinaikos. We must forget the past because we can not live off the six Cups.”

  22. Kari
    September 13, 2010

    The weekly English tabloid [Daily Star] bull**it. Messi’s the target again.

    Messi: “I have been speaking with him and he wants the fans to know that they were great and Liverpool will always be in his heart.”

    “They struggled with the culture, had no friends and he told me he used to come home from training to find his wife crying.”

    “His family was deeply unhappy in England. A man has to put his family first and Javier put his wife and daughters before football.”

    Javier will reveal the truth in detail one day. For now, he is just happy now he is in a Spanish-speaking country.”

    “The coach is saying that Javier held Liverpool to ransom when it’s not true.”

    Something really needs to be done about this.

    “Mascherano has a clear conscience but I wonder if the Liverpool coach has.

  23. September 13, 2010

    I like how Guardiola rolls. Witness these comments from, for example, Bayern players/coach:

    “It is no wonder that we have not found our rhythm yet,” he told German newspaper Bild. “From the 14 players who (coach) Louis van Gaal fielded, 12 of them have spent the last fortnight with their national teams. We will not accept this anymore in future. It is pure cheek on the part of FIFA. I appeal to FIFA to show more respect and solidarity with coaches.”

    “It is neither good for the clubs nor for the players that the league starts so soon after the World Cup and then we are straight back with our national teams,” said Bayern captain Mark van Bommel. “We have got to talk about this.”

    On the other hand, Guardiola says “No excuses. We lost. Now we move on.” I like that.

    • Abhinav
      September 13, 2010

      well drawing with bremen is just a small lapse that can be attributed to one thing… but losing to a newly promoted team … no one can justify it with one excuse…

      • CreddyC
        September 13, 2010

        I am sure Pep would not have made any excuses even we would have lost to a better team. Its not his nature.

        • Abhinav
          September 13, 2010

          i agree with you… i was saying this because captain’s comment was also posted and i certainly believe some of ur players would cite the excuse…
          i am not a barca fan so i might not see things in ur light but i respect guardiola .. peace…

    September 13, 2010

    what do you excpect?our boys(valdez,alvez,pique,puyol,xavi,messi,abidal,iniesta)play from 08-09 season almost all the games.with international games,friendlies,trips s the start of the season and it s normal not be in the best fit and form.we have to give time to our it s not only s also spirit,form,fitness,clear mind.ramzi make great work but forget sometimes that the players are not robots.

  25. barca96
    September 13, 2010

    So all of a sudden we are in for David Luiz and Sotiris Ninis coincidentally from Pana, our next opponent…
    I’m not really surprised with the link to Luiz but Ninis? I’ve never see his name appearing on Barca’s radar

  26. Luke
    September 13, 2010

    In the long run over the season the team will be fine. Early season jitters, squad changes, not enough practice time, and other such maladies affected the boys during the Hercules match. Honestly, I hate “excuses” but we were super slow in the match, which leads me to believe that we were just tired out and hopefully some practice time and rest at home will cure what ails us by Tuesday.

    Like I told Isaiah, Pana is coming up against us at the wrong time, there’s a realistic chance we pound them like never before.

  27. Dave
    September 13, 2010

    Anyone know where i can watch NFL Hard knocks on the internet?

    • Jnice
      September 13, 2010


      Register, it’s free. Do a search and the episodes should come up.

  28. barca96
    September 13, 2010

    Hercules watched the Inter match before playing us and according to Nelson Valdez, they were better than Inter and I concur with him.
    Don’t you guys agree?

  29. Jim
    September 13, 2010

    Gone a little quiet in here. Sign of tension ? I’m looking for the standard line up

    Valdes, alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal ( or Maxwell),
    Busi, Xavi, Iniesta
    Messi, Bojan, Villa

    Yes, I’d give Bojan another shot. I think we need to give him a run to finally establish if he can hold down that position. We’ll go through from this group so its no big deal. It doesn’t do any good to put him in then out. Only reason its him and not pedro as i want to see him playing through the middle, holding the ball up and still looking for diagonal runs through defence. Villa needs to return to the LW, imo and whisper it, but I’d like to see Messi at least start the game out wide.

    • Jnice
      September 13, 2010

      I don’t think Pedro deserves to start on the bench 3 matches in a row.

      I would rather Bojan be a sub, because as of right now, starting him isn’t going to work, IMO.

      I like the rest of your lineup, but like I said before, I got a feeling Keita will find his way in there.

    • stowe
      September 13, 2010

      put villa as the striker and pedro out wide. villa shifts out there and pedro plays narrow. so they can switch back and forth. Messi is more involved when playing wide, whereas in the middle he just stands around waiting on the ball. why would you want your best player standing around?

Leave a Reply