Friday, March 14, 2008

Champions League Draw: Arsenal-Liverpool Overload

Any major tournament draw is always met with the same levels of excitement and cynicism. Today, for instance, we have the quarterfinal and semifinal pairings for the Champions League, and with four English teams, there were bound to be eye-openers.

The spotlight pairing clearly is Arsenal-Liverpool, but shockingly, Manchester United and Roma were paired. ManU and Roma were in the same group, and this has to be disappointing to both sides and their respective fans; surely they're tired of each other. This matchup is worthy of a final; both teams are in top form and it will be interesting to see who survives this one and what the winner has left going forward.

The other two matchups feature Barcelona meeting Schalke and Chelsea taking on Fenerbahce. It would seem the two glamour sides here got the better of this deal. Barca won't have Leo Messi when it takes on the upstarts from Germany who handled Portuguese leaders Porto. Chelsea, meanwhile, are real sleepers in the Premiership, in spite of the pressure on their coach Avram Grant.

Back to Arsenal-Liverpool for a second, not only does the guarantee one English side in the semis, but it sets up three matches between these two teams in a week's span: April 2, 5 and 8. WOW. Rafa and Arsene will certainly earn their money that week, not only strategy wise, but in human capital. Who sits, who plays and how often? These are three high-pressure matches and this could be advantage Liverpool. Arsenal would likely need the Premiership match much more than Liverpool, which could take advantage of its fourth- or fifth-place standing and sit some players for the domestic match and focus on Europe.

Cynical view: UEFA's out to get Arsene here (just kidding).

The semifinals, meanwhile, shake out this way:

Arsenal-Liverpool winner vs. Chelsea-Fenerbahce winner
ManU-Roma winner vs. Barca-Schalke winner

Spare us another Liverpool-Chelsea semi, but if that's the price to pay for a titanic ManU-Liverpool final, then so be it.

Oh You Beauty has more on the draw.
101 Great Goals has a brief reaction too.
Abeloa didn't get his wish; read Anfield Talk.
Champions League Talk has some early predictions.

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