Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
Something is either DEFINITELY right or ABSOLUTELY wrong. This player is rubbish, no question, this player is fantastic, no debate.
There are no half-measures with us football people.
But talk to anyone about the Champions League and things start to unravel. It may be widely perceived as the greatest club competition in the world, it may produce some fantastic matches and feature the best players, but it is can also be utterly tedious and predictable.
How many real surprises do you get in the group stage? There is the odd upset, of course, but the same old teams usually qualify year after year and it really only comes to life in the knockout rounds.
Anyone underestimating Champions League debutants CFR Cluj will now have to think again after the Romanians beat AS Roma 2-1 away in their Group A opener.
Having a smaller club make an impact is great for the competition after years of domination by the big sides. BATE Borisov of Belarus and Denmark’s Aalborg are two other little-known teams in this season’s group stages and they can only be spurred on by Cluj’s heroics in Rome.
I suspect most people would agree with him but here are some reasons why it might not be as simple as that:
It’s been easy to laugh at English football over the past week, what with the comings and goings at Manchester City, West Ham United and Newcastle United and then the national team’s depressingly familiar performance in a 2-0 win over Andorra on Saturday.
I suspect many fans will find food for thought in the comments of Greg Dyke, the former TV executive and board member at Manchester United, and now chairman of division three club Brentford.
Very few people believed the story that Samuel Eto’o was considering a move to Uzbekistan’s Kuruvchi.
All of sudden it turned out to be true with Barcelona’s Cameroon striker speaking at a news conference in the country’s capital. Despite mega money being thrown in his direction, Eto’o will probably not end up there but at least they got him to go out and talk. Even if it was just a publicity stunt, it worked.
UEFA officials say they don’t expect any trouble, and certainly no retaliatory attacks on Manchester United or Chelsea fans but last week’s rioting on the streets of Manchester and stabbing of a Russian fan raises wider questions about who is to blame, and whether violence can ever be completely kicked out of soccer.
I guess most if not all fans of Manchester United and Chelsea wish the Champions League final was being played a little closer to home.
The decision to waive visa restrictions should have helped a bit but with flight and hotel prices rocketing an awful lot of fans who would have made the trip to Paris, say, are presumably going to stay at home.
Scenes of riot police and bottle-throwing fans marred Wednesday’s UEFA Cup final in Manchester between Rangers and Zenit St Petersburg, who won 2-0. A Russian fan was also stabbed.
While police said it was only a small minority of supporters causing trouble, the sight of British football fans making headlines for the wrong reasons comes at just the wrong time – less than a week before tens of thousands of Chelsea and Manchester United followers head to Moscow for the Champions League final.
Typically Sunday’s 1-0 win over Deportivo Coruna came with the usual dose of nail-biting, wincing and stomach churning that have made the Calderon such a stressful place to be in recent seasons.
When Jose Mourinho burst onto the scene and Chelsea became the new force in English football, there were many who thought Alex Ferguson’s days as Manchester United boss were numbered.
Those doubters are suddenly running for cover after the feisty Scot steered United to their 17th league title and the 10th of his glittering Old Trafford reign.