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Friday, August 31, 2007

Champions League: English Premier League teams draw tough road. Italians receive free pass.

Let the whining begin...

We all know that the brackets for NCAA College Basketball Tournament games are created with the intent of saving the best games for the end. Which is why you don't seek Duke playing Kansas or Florida in the first round. Yet Champions League draws are a bit of a mystery with suggested collusion when it comes to deciding who plays where and when, and in which Group.

Last years Champions League quarter, semi, and finals were exciting since they paired the most talented teams (or arguably the most talented) to meet in the Spring. This year is something else since some of the best teams must survive their own grouping before advancing foward in the competition.
The downside of this is that it could be "over before its over" and the upside could be that there could be a darkhorse or two that could surprise everyone - that is - before getting squashed in the final.

Liverpool will face Porto, Marseille, and Besiktas out of Group A. Chelsea has drawn one of the toughest roads in the competition: Valencia, Rosenborg and Schalke 04 out of Group B. Manchester United out of Group F will face Roma, Sporting Dynamo, and Kiev. Arsenal will face AEK Athens or Sevilla, Steaua Bucuresti, and Slavia Prague

Sadly, the Italians pretty much got a free pass going into the first round (or real competition) AC Milan drew an easy road with Celtic, Benfica and Shakhtar Donetsk in Group D, while their rivals Inter Milan drew an easy road with PSV Eindhoven, Pernerbahce, and CSKA Moscow out of Group G.
There is probably more risk to the game by drawing out best from worst due to the sensitivities involved. But a least no one will be able to say that the English had a easy road should they advance. English teams already have the toughest schedule in the Sport - FA Cup, Champions League, and Carling Cup plus the match-ups in their weekly EPL schedule.
It's really no wonder that people are beginning to question the reasonability of the schedules, and the impacts to the players. Some argue to leave it alone since its always been this way, but I'm not sure that such is the case - the competition within the regular EPL schedule is better than its always been with once mid-tier teams now strong enough to unseat "expected" power teams like Man U, Arsenal, Everton, and Liverpool.

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