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Liverpool hopes of one more great Champions League escape were dashed on Tuesday night, as Fiorentina sealed their place alongside Olympique Lyon with a 1-0 win over the French side, leaving the English team’s 1-0 success against Debrecen irrelevant.
Liverpool, of course, only have themselves to blame for leaving their fate in the hands of a team that had already secured their own qualification.
There will doubtless be a lot more criticism of Rafa Benitez, his transfer dealings and the perceived failures of man management, but the analysis of exactly why Liverpool failed to progress can wait for another post.
For now, consider one question: Might this result actually work in Liverpool’s long-term favour?
Out of eight Spanish and English teams playing in the Champions League this week, only Arsenal were victorious.
Was this a blip for the two powerhouses, or is it another indication that Europe’s top club competition is becoming more balanced?
Bayern Munich directors must be feeling very uncomfortable at the moment. Their team are sixth in the Bundesliga and almost out of the Champions League.
So far their chosen successor to Juergen Klinsmann, who was sacked a few weeks before the end of last season for failing to secure any silverware, has had a worse run than the former striker.
Resurgent AC Milan host Real Madrid in the Champions League later having beaten the Galacticos 3-2 at the Bernabeu two weeks ago.
Meanwhile Inter Milan are seven points clear in Serie A after just 11 games. All would seem to be rosy in one of Europe’s greatest soccer cities, but in reality Italian football is in the doldrums.
A memorable 3-2 victory for AC Milan at Real Madrid on Wednesday as much for the goalkeeping howlers as great play.
When Milan keeper Dida produced an all too frequent error to give Raul the chance to equal Gerd Mueller’s record of 66 goals in the three main European club competitions, it looked like a familiar story for a struggling Milan this season under new coach Leonardo.
Has Lady Luck deserted holders Barcelona as their players suggested or did Rubin Kazan coach Kurban Berdyev and his players pull off the tactical masterstroke that has eluded so many others since Pep Guardiola took over at the Nou Camp at the start of last season?******It was probably a bit of both that led to Barca’s 2-1 defeat on Tuesday, their first Champions League reverse in 10 matches and a first home defeat in any competition since they lost to Osasuna last May when they had already secured the La Liga title.******The match was reminiscent of last season’s semi-final first leg against Chelsea, when the visitors defended stoutly in numbers and several times came close to grabbing a goal on the break.******Rubin went one better than the London club, exploiting the indifferent form and lack of pace of Barca’s Mexican central defender Rafael Marquez for Gokdeniz Karadeniz’s excellent winner on the counter attack.******The wily Berdyev, an intensely private man, watched impassively from the sidelines fingering his prayer beads, and Barca’s rivals, both in Spain and beyond, will doubtless try to learn from his success.******Whatever the reasons for Barca’s shock defeat, the hacks at the Madrid-based sports sheets were rubbing their hands on Wednesday, gleefully pointing to last weekend’s goalless draw at Valencia in La Liga and proclaiming the demise of Guardiola’s record-breaking side.******“Russian revolution at the Nou Camp!” trumpeted Marca.******“The ‘Pep Team’ lost their identity and were unable to produce the rhythm the match required. This Barca is not the champion,” was the headline in As.******The Barcelona-based papers preferred to focus on the fact that the European champions remain top of Group F after three out of six matches and have their fate in their own hands ahead of the trips to Kazan and Dynamo Kiev and Inter Milan’s visit to the Nou Camp.******“Crisis? What crisis?” asked Gabriel Sans in El Mundo Deportivo. “Barca have lost some fluidity and tactical freshness but their fate still depends on their own results.******”The glass is half full and they’ll drain it in Russia and drink to the health of whoever wants it.”******“Damn woodwork!” wrote Sport, referring to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s acrobatic volley that shook the crossbar in the second half and Yaya Toure’s header at the death that crashed against a post.******Guardiola seemed to take the loss in his stride, although he had a minor altercation with a Russian journalist at the post-match news conference when he was bizarrely asked if he even knew Berdyev’s name.******“This is why football is special,” he said of the match. “In any other sport, with our statistics, we would have won.”******PHOTO: Barcelona’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic reacts as Rubin Kazan’s Vital Kaleshin (R) gestures during their Champions League soccer match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, October 20, 2009. REUTERS/Albert Gea
A half empty San Siro didn’t even whistle after Inter Milan’s 2-2 draw with Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League.
The Nerazzurri faithful are very used to average performances in Europe, they’ve not won in eight games and haven’t triumphed in the competition since 1965.
He looks a bit like Screech from that U.S show “Saved by the Bell”, but there is nothing clumsy about Fiorentina striker Stevan Jovetic.
With a glorious crop of shaggy hair, the Montenegro striker destroyed Liverpool in the Champions League on Tuesday with two first-half goals that probably even shocked the Florence faithful.
from Left field:
Italian soccer club AC Milan played the famous music from the Champions League in their dressing room on Sunday to try to motivate the players. The only thing was they weren't playing in the Champions League -- it was a domestic match at home to Bologna.
Milan have stuttered in Italy for a few years now but they won the Champions League, Europe's top club trophy, in 2007 and had produced a good performance to beat Olympique Marseille in the same competition the previous week.
Having spent 250 million euros on reinforcements and with the final due to be staged at their own Bernabeu stadium, winning the Champions League is seen almost as an obligation for Real Madrid this season, at least by much of the Spanish media.
Kicking off their campaign, perhaps appropriately, in one of Europe’s most expensive cities, Real showed flashes of what may be to come, both in terms of attacking inspiration and defensive vulnerability, as they beat Swiss champions FC Zurich 5-2.