Category: Archive

Champions League already producing must-win matchups

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Although Newcastle moved into third in the Premier over the weekend with a good tie against Arsenal, it looks like they have a mountain to climb in the C.L. Indeed, Bobby Robson’s team is bottom of Group A with zero points and with a minus-5 goal difference. They travel to the Bay Arena to take on Bayer Leverkusen, also without a point on the scoreboard. Leverkusen is struggling in the German Bundesliga, hovering over the relegation zone after a 2-1 loss toVfL Bochum. Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmoeller just about held onto his job after his side edged amateurs SpVgg Unterhaching in a penalty shootout. Although Lever are now in the German Cup semifinals, the club is on the brink of a crisis. Still, that’s when the Germans are at their best.
Newcastle’s form and domestic league position give them the vote at least on paper. Can Robson and Alan Shearer pull another miraculous comeback out of the bag, like they did in the first round of the C.L., when everybody wrote them off? It’s a must-win for both teams, otherwise it could be C.L. history. It doesn’t help the Toon that Craig Bellamy is banned for both the home and away legs against Lever. However, the real mountain that both teams must climb is getting past Inter Milan and Barcelona, who top the group with 6 points a piece. Inter travel to Camp Nou to take on Barca and both teams will realize, even at this early stage, that a draw will not hurt them. But with firing power like Christian Vieri, Gabriel Batistuta and super-sub Mohamed Kallon Inter will find it difficult to go to Spain to play a cat-and-mouse game.
Inter top Serie A after Kallon scored a double against Reggina in a 3-nil win. Vieri scored the opener but had to exit the game due to a knee injury, Kallon replaced him. Nonetheless, Inter has found a consistency that has been missing for many years. Barca, on the other hand, is falling behind and are dangerously close to relegation. They tied 2-all with Athletic Bilbao last time out, with goals coming from Javier Saviola and Dutch veteran Marc Overmars. Joining the attack for Barca is Patrick Kluivert, who can be an extremely effective player, only and if he hits form. Club performance suggests that if Leverkusen and Newcastle are going to make the last eight of the C.L., Barcelona may be the team to catch.
Group B, meanwhile, is wide open, with Arsenal and Ajax on 4 points each and Valencia on 2. Roma are bottom of this group and if they are to survive they must beat Valencia. While Roma is at home in Olimpica, Valencia are now one of the toughest teams to beat in the C.L. Arsenal could easily put themselves in the driving seat in Group B by beating Ajax at Hghbury. Thierry Henry is unstoppable at the moment and Dennis Bergkamp seems to get better with age. Arsenal is on fire in the EPL while Ajax is in second place in the Dutch Eridivisie. Valencia is still going strong in third place in the Primera Liga, while Roma are only mid table in Serie A.
On Wednesday Feb. 19, Group C will tell a tale or two when Real Madrid is expected to beat Borussia Dortmund in Santiago Bernabeu, in Spain. After a very poor start to the year, the Real players vowed to get their acts together for the C.L. They hold their own in second place in La Liga as Roberto Carlos describes just how confident they have become. The Brazilian full back believes AC Milan is Real’s strongest challenger. He expects to face AC in May’s C.L. final in Manchester. Bold words from the dynamic defender and Dortmund, second in the German League, might have something to say about that. Real have 1 point and is rock bottom of Group C alongside Lokomotiv Moscow. AC Milan are on 6 points and playing Moscow in San Siro will probably be enough for the Italians to book a place in the last eight. ilan is playing some great stuff and Carlos might find AC knocking his Real out of the C.L., not meeting them in the final as he expects.
Juventus without Alessandro Del Piero face Manchester United in Old Trafford. A win here for United will see them through the final stages of C.L. The Red Devils are playing a different style in Europe as opposed to their domestic league game. And it’s working. Roy Keane is back in the United side and the Old Trafford intensity for this game will be challenging for Juve to overcome. The Italians went off the boil in the last few seasons and still have a little ground to make up to be C.L. winners. United this year fell into a bit of a rut but it sure looks like their game is back on track. Juan Veron has been outstanding for United in the C.L. and it will be interesting to see if he starts with Keane back. Man. U. and Juve look favorites to go on while Deportivo La Coruna is more than capable of taking advantage of any slipups. Finally, there they are, Basle, the team that beat Celtic, still in the C.L. A team that has been written off a lot, but this time around it looks like they are out of their league. Early days it is in the C.L, but next week is a must-win for some teams.

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