Thursday, September 15, 2011

Champions League Opening Skirmishes

Tuesday saw opening night in the league stage of the competition which has become almost a processional march for the traditional big guns.

Tuesday's game of the night was at Camp Nou where AC Milan provides book ends to Barcelona's usual grass work masterpiece in achieving a 2-2 draw. Much has been debated about the current brilliance of this Barcelona team and where it sits amongst the pantheon of the great club sides. It is also hard to be in anyway critical of Pep Guardiola given the sweeping of all before them in such irresistible style.

That being said, it is hard to believe that the teams they wish to emulate such as the great Liverpool and AC Milan sides would have had transfer policies that would have allowed them to start with two central midfielders - Busquests and Mascherano - at the heart of their defence in the absence of only two injured players. Barcelona have strengthened their midfield where they already had a plethora of options yet have neglected their defence badly, only time will tell if they will come to regret this.

Arsenal's draw at the hugely intimidating Westfalenstadion was a worthy one but their soft centre was again exposed by conceding a late goal. Chelsea enjoyed a routine but unspectacular victory over Leverkeusen and there were wins for Marseille and Porto.

Moving on to Wednesday, Manchester City took their Champions League bow and endured some opening night nerves in requiring a fabulous Kolarov free kick to rescue a point against Napoli. There is no lacking of quality in this City team but this years' Champions League will be a learning process for them. Bayern Munchen away await them next who themselves enjoyed a good away win at Villareal. City will probably have to win one of their away ties now to ensure qualification.

Group B was thrown wide open as Internazionale suffered a shock home defeat to Trabzonspor. In Group C, ManYoo enjoyed a highly agreeable 'friendly' in Portugal as they played out a 1-1 draw with Benfica. With only FC Basel and Otelul Galati to come it certainly looks by far the easiest of the draws.

Real Madrid took charge of group D with a solid win in Zagreb despite having yet another player sent off. Lyon usually provide tricky opposition for Real but with Ajax the other opposition in the group their qualification should be assured.

As a foot note, ManYoo fans and Sir Alex are oft prone to complaining about the fixture computer being entirely against them. It is worth noting that they have a home league fixture after EVERY Champions League game, the resultant police regulations meaning that City will follow all theirs with away fixtures, who says there aren't conspiracies in football - No Nonsense.