Champions League verdict 5/5 (4)

Champions League group phase is over. Majority of the expectations and predictions have been respected however there were a lot of surprises also. But what can we expect in knock-out round?

Favourite’s performances

Favourite’s for final triumph have all passed the first obstacle. Very few of them impressed but ultimately achieved the first goal. 
Judging by what we saw till now there are only 2 teams respecting front-runner tag.

Barcelona

On paper second strongest group in competition’s first phase was group B where Barcelona faced Inter, Tottenham and PSV Eindhoven. Barca eventually secured top spot before game 6 even started which was expected. Inter’s challenging Tottenham for other progression spot was also predicted however lack of duo’s challenge to Spanish domination is a bit disappointing.

Champions League Valverde

Competition

Especially from Inter! In the double confrontation with Barcelona, the neroazzurri got a point out of possible 6 but hardly deserved even that. In both games Italians looked scared and rarely troubled the Catalan giants. Perhaps difference in class is too big however you’d expect at least a decent fight!

At times it looked as if Inter didn’t even count on any points against the blaugrana and just played because they have to.
Tottenham also got a point against Barcelona however in fairly different circumstances. Even if at Wembley Spanish representative won it was also due to a false start from the home side and individual errors. But the Spurs played some good, attacking football and even threatened to snitch something out of it.
True, Barca was going through a difficult spell beginning of October, however, Tottenham showed that they can fight it out against anybody.
In group’s last game Barca had little motivation but still managed to trouble the London outfit even with a backup starting eleven. The English side eventually got the needed result and it’s only fair that they progressed in front of Inter.

Champions league Messi

Barcelona displayed ruthlessness but also diminished Messi-dependance.
When the Argentine was absent Suarez took the responsibility to guide the attack and team forward. And delivered!
Coutinho occasionally showed why Barca splashed top-dollar for him and also Dembele provided glimpses of his talents.
Arthur slotted nicely in midfield, displayed quality and personality.
He’ll never be the next Iniesta but a reliable performer for years to come. With Rakitić, Busquets and Vidal completing the midfield first choices it’s another area without particular concern.

Weak points

Defence is another story! Catalans were never admired for defensive stability and it’s the team’s weak point.
The whole team has to defend, no doubt about that, but Barcelona conceded 5 goals in groups stage and nearly all of them were scored within a few meters from goal.
Last example was last night’s equalizer; Lucas was left all alone in the center of the area while 3 players were closing Kane. It can be argued that the result meant nothing to Barca but it happened for the umpteenth time.
Bad organization and communication! And apparent lack of concentration late in the game.
In the last 3 matches Barcelona allowed opposition to score in the last 10 minutes. 2 of those goals cost them 4 points. Nothing to worry about in terms of qualification, even if it wasn’t secured yet.
Certainly something to work on.

Juventus

Never mind the last group game Juventus showed impressive ability to win and dominate games.
When Juve wants and needs they deliver! Admittedly, group competition wasn’t of the highest caliber however until qualification wasn’t achieved quality, organization and strength in depth were demonstrated.
Manchester United managed to overturn the result in Turin in closing stages but those few minutes can’t outweigh everything good showed up to then and after that.

Champions league Allegri

Italian serial champions’ biggest advantage in strength in depth. For every position, there are a least 2 valuable alternatives! Starting from the goalkeeper, proceeding through defence, midfield and attack, quality all over the field!
But they also have one weak point! And that’s themselves!
Demonstration of that is internal defeat against Man Utd. Match completely dominated, chances created, everything under control however somehow managed to spurn it all in the final few minutes.
Anyway until Ronaldo, Dybala, Douglas Costa, Mandžukić et al are there you can never write them off.
Following other European heavyweights aren’t having the best of seasons, this is Juve’s great chance to finally get their hands on the ultimate prize.

Undecided

Manchester City

Guardiola assembled a fearsome squad and developed trademark playing style which has always brought results.
Nearly without competition in domestic league rightfully tipped as one of the candidates for final victory.
However, in international fixtures, things aren’t going as smoothly as you’d expect.

Champions league Guardiola

Opening day home defeat to Lyon followed by a last-gasp win in Germany against Hoffenheim exposed team’s weaknesses.
Apart from easy double wins against Shakhtar all other matches were perhaps too tight considering City’s squad and manager.
Without doubt nobody’s’ wish for the next round however considering group phase struggles, surely there is some hope.

Disappointments

Liverpool qualified from the toughest group, predictably on the last day with a dominant display, nevertheless hardly strikes fear in opponents! Particularly on the road!
Last season’s finalist seems unable to compete in international competitions as a visitor.
Ever since last April’s showing in Rome, through the final in Ukraine and this Autumn’s showings, Liverpool is a welcome guest.

Champions league Klopp

Not only in terms of result but also regarding personality and overall performances.
Up to a point understandable submissive outings in Paris and Naples but utterly disappointing game in Belgrade raises questions on the Reds’ actual strength and competitiveness!

Bayern Munich is the other giant, although qualified as group winner, who isn’t living up to its glorious past. At least in terms of performances!
A lot isn’t functioning as it should, Bundesliga standings show it clearly, but still, you’d expect more from such an experienced and talented group of players. 

Champions league Kovač

Possibly the amount of experience is one of the problems anyway this Bayern isn’t causing any sleepless nights to managers across Europe.

Real Madrid eventually topped group G but it’s miles away from the side that dominated Europe the last few years.
Besides the much publicized Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo departures, taking away 2 corner-stones of recent triumphs, the team lost its hunger for success! It’s visible in the so-called small games as in direct confrontations.

Champions league Solari

 It speaks loudly that CSKA Moscow ended this year’s European path victorious in Madrid. Out of 7 points gained in total, 6 of them came against European reigning champion.

Champions League proceedings

Next round’s draw will be held next week.

Group winners are seeded teams and can’t play each other in the round of 16. This also means that second, expectably deciding, game in the first knock-out round seeded teams play at home.

Additionally, teams from same countries can’t be paired. Those parameters can help us guess some of the possible clashes we’ll watch in February.

Seeded teams:
Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona, Paris SG, Porto, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Juventus.

Other qualified:
Atletico Madrid, Tottenham, Liverpool, Schalke 04, Ajax, Lyon, Roma, Manchester United.

Potentially mouth-watering pairings could be Barcelona vs Liverpool, Real Madrid vs Manchester United or Juventus- Atletico Madrid.

Regular phase didn’t offer any stand-out candidate however crucial part is yet to start and everybody will have the chance to fight for it.

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UEFA Champions League – game over? No ratings yet.

UEFA Champions League is regarded as world’s top football competition. Even better then the World Cup. And now it’s coming to an end.

Footballleaks made public documents where it is clear that some of the biggest clubs in Europe decided to part ways with the sports continental governing body and start a competition that they’ll run as they deem appropriate.

What’s the idea?

Real, Bayern, Juve, Barca

The idea is to have a league of 16 clubs from Europe’s most infuential countries playing in the Super League.

Historical continental heavyweights such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Bayern Munich decided that they have the right to confront the best in the continent no matter what some criteria might say.

Newly great clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester City and PSG, with their economical power are welcome to join the elite even if there are no traces of them in the history of international competitions. OK, Chelsea won the CL in 2012 but that’s recent history, after multi-million take-over. You might argue the same even for Arsenal but the London club at least won the Cup Winner’s Cup in the 1990’s so there is at least some trace of them.

If you want to organize a league you need sufficient participants.

Super League

Can’t be hard to find somebody to participate in a league where the big boys play so Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, AS Roma and Olympique de Marseille accepted the invitation.

Ironically Olympique Marseille won the first edition of the UEFA Champions League, and the only for France, and Inter Milan is the last Italian club to lift the famed trophy but they’re not in the founders circle.

The competition would be very similar to the current format of the Champions league but with a closed circle of constant participants and carefully selected others to fill the blanks. No more lucky entries from Europe’s eastern countries who steal the show such as Steaua Bucharesti, Crvena Zvezda Belgrade, Dynamo Kyiv,…

Proof that the league has nothing to do with historical achievements, results or performances. It’s all about money!

What about the other historicaly big clubs in Europe?

There are some clubs from other countries that made football history. Clubs like Glasgow Rangers and Celtic from Scotland, Benfica and Porto from Portugal, AFC Ajax and PSV Eindhoven from Netherlands, Anderlecht from Belgium.

Well, the idea is to have also Super League 2, or whatever it would be called, in order to have promotions and relegations, just to make everything more interesting. Naturally, league’s founders couldn’t be relegated.

Which clubs would be there isn’t clear yet but my guess is that clubs such as Sevilla, Valencia, Napoli, Lazio, Tottenham, Zenit and Shakhtar Doneck would be added to some of the other teams that made history in the game.  

What does UEFA think of it?

It’s not something new. UEFA changed the competition’s formation several times and increased prizes in order to please the biggest money-makers is the sport.

In 1992 started the competition as we know it today, the Champions League. Before it was named Champions Cup and included only domestic league winners. Since the richest clubs wanted to compete in the top European level every year, UEFA had no chance then to make it happen. And duly organized a competition that didn’t include only the winners but also other top-seeded teams from respective countries.

Number of teams from each country was decided by UEFA’s coeficient which is calculated based on success in international competition in last 5 years.

It silenced the elite for a while but once Germany surpassed Italy in the ranking and got 4th club in the competition at the expense of the Italians, again everything was wrong.

So UEFA decided that the most influential countires would have guarenteed number of spots in the competition.

But as UEFA always promoted equal chances for everybody had to introduce fair-play regulations. Primarly regarding finances in order to maintain a level of competitivity between the rich and the others. The principle was to spend what you earn.   

However at every opportunity helped cutting corners to giants and ruthlessly slammed the others. Just ask Rubin Kazan about the punishement for not sustaining to the FFP rules. And what was the treatment of PSG and Manchester City?

AC Milan was also under investigation last summer and threatened with international exclusion but somehow convinced the authorities that everything will be fine.

UEFA basically did everything the giants requested and yet could be cut out from a multi-billion business.

UEFA, Čeferin

What can UEFA do?

That’s a good question. The clubs that desire to compete in the international competitions need to apply and follow some strict rules regarding infrastructure (stadium) and organization (youth sector).

If the biggest clubs don’t send their application, what can UEFA do? Exclude the club? Well, they already auto-excluded themselves so it’s not an option.

Penalise the national assosiation? For what? If a club doesn’t want to participate in a competition you can’t force it. Even if you could, they could play the reserve team. And then what?

Could they ban the related countries from the next European championships? Perhaps, but who would be at a loss? Who could prevent the assosiations to organize a Super League for national teams?

UEFA already organized the Nations League to satisfy the biggest countries. To save them from travels to the end of the world and possible humiliation of defeat to footballing excotics. It’s OK for now, but what will happen once a heavy-weight will be relegated to 2nd or even 3rd tier?

When would Super League start?

In 2021 the current agreement with UEFA on the CHampions League format and revenue sharing expires. The best time to start something new is when the existing is over.

Leak or strategical PR and negotiating advantage?

Is this really leak of confidential information or a strategical move? Perhaps initial discovery was the help from FIFA and UEFA to oil magnates in pumping the money into PSG and Man City not caring about FFP and the Super League story serves as a distraction?

Al-Khelafi

Perhaps it is strategical PR in preparing the audience for something new and exiting? Building the expectation and turning on the heat? In ideal circumstances UEFA’s revenues would drastically decrease due to these rumors and elite clubs would come as the Mesiah’s to the sport.

Could be that the clubs are looking for a better negotiationg position? Bigger slice in the next agreement?

Real Madrid won the last CL and got app. 80 mio € from the continental top organization for their effort. In the Super League their share could rise up to over 500 mio € per season.

Only Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich denied any implications, probably because the story was lunched by a German media, Der Spiegel.

And by rejecting the idea of an exit from the Bundesliga are they sending a message to the German national football association?

Rummenigge

A lot of questions are arising due to the leaks and surely the dust won’t settle for some time. And while everybody’s discussing about it, what other surprises are being prepared?

Whatever the truth behind these leaks is it won’t change the one that makes the world go round; rich will get richer on the back of the poor who’ll get poorer.

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