Friday, December 21, 2007

Champions League Draw: Knockout Round Analysis -- England

It’s Milan-squared for England’s group-stage runners-up in the Champions League knockout round. Inter opens the round-of-16 at Anfield, while Arsenal heads to AC Milan.

Inter is arguably the best team in Europe through Christmas and it will be interesting to see how much Champions League magic the Reds have in the bag for Inter. Of even more interest will be Liverpool’s form by then, and of course whether Rafa Benitez will still be behind the bench.

Liverpool sits fifth with 30 points and a game in hand. It has lost three straight to English sides, including 2-0 to Chelsea this week in the Carling Cup, 1-0 to Manchester United and 3-1 to Reading in the Premier League. The only saving grace of late has been Liverpool’s 4-0 win at Marseille putting it through to the Champions League knockout round, where it earned its date with Milan.

Rafa, meanwhile, is working Liverpool’s American owners for a new contract and wants them to loosen the pursestrings for the January transfer window. It’s been a bone of contention between the two sides and could ultimately lead to Rafa’s departure from Anfield at the end of the season if not sooner.

Arsenal, meanwhile, lead the Premiership by a point over United and may have lucked out drawing Milan, which has been miserable in Serie A, in particular at home. It’s the biggest mystery in football given that AC Milan is the only European time yet to win a home game; yes even Derby County has this season. Milan’s misery was compounded yesterday losing the first leg of its round-of-16 Coppa Italia match against Catania.

Chelsea won its group and was drawn with Olympiacos. Avram Grant can do no wrong, still having lost only once since taking over for Jose Mourinho, and now earning a fortunate draw with the Greek side. Chelsea hosts the second leg of the tie.

Manchester United takes on perennial French champions Lyon, and already is boasting about its chances. Club secretary Ken Ramsden was quoted on Soccernet: “[Lyon] won’t be pleased getting us.” He’s probably correct. United has not lost since Sept. 26 (2-0 to Coventry in the Carling Cup) It has lost only once in the Premiership to Manchester City 1-0 on Sept. 19. United’s recent form: seven wins, one draw since tying Arsenal 2-2 on Nov. 3.


monster masche said...

New contract for Rafa? Huh?

Starting11 said...

Yes, I should have linked to it, my bad: