Reuters Soccer Blog
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from Left field:
There was the usual hushed silence and then sudden intake of breath heard in Nyon on Friday, though not for the Champions League Round of 16 draw but the first two ties of the Europa League Round of 32.
Holders Porto will play mega-rich Manchester City, they were the first two names out of the little plastic balls when UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino was finally able to open the second after Davor Suker had tried and failed, and Ajax Amsterdam will take on Manchester United.
So what about the Champions League draw? Well, here it is in full:
Olympique Lyon v APOEL Nicosia
Napoli v Chelsea
AC Milan v Arsenal
Basel v Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona
CSKA Moscow v Real Madrid
Zenit St Petersburg v Benfica
Olympique Marseille v Inter Milan
Some first legs will be played on Valentine’s Day, so gentlemen start making your excuses. Mind you, AC Milan v Arsenal, Napoli v Chelsea, Olympique Marseille v Inter Milan and Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona aside, the above matches are by no means the most mouthwatering.
What do you make of the two draws? And do you think Manchester’s two powerhouses will field strong teams come February next year when they begin their Europa League quests?
It is all because UEFA believes head-to-heads rather than goal difference in all group games should be the first deciding factor.
UEFA’s plan to spread out fixtures during international weeks makes perfect sense and should bring an end to those strange weekends during the season with no top class soccer, when I find myself watching rubbish old B-movies and darts.
The idea would see a national team play on Thursday for example and then Sunday, or Friday and Tuesday like now or Saturday and Tuesday.
The first day of the fourth month means April fools day, so we would really love to hear from you if there are any dubious stories doing the rounds.
The sport is more global than ever, highlighted in December when Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup ahead of the United States, Japan, Australia and South Korea despite the fact a Middle Eastern country has never before hosted a major global sporting event.
It’s one of the most farcical scenes I’ve ever seen in soccer. Real Madrid duo Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos taking ages to take kicks in the 4-0 win at Ajax and getting second yellow cards for timewasting and hence being sent off.
Deliberate? They face automatic one-match suspensions in the final group game against Auxerre, which is a dead match for Real with the Spanish club already assured of first place in Group G and qualification for the last 16.
Michel Platini’s Gallic shrug said it all. “I’m not bothered. What do you want me to say?” he said.
The UEFA President and former France captain had just been asked for the third time in a few minutes on England coach Fabio Capello’s decision to strip John Terry of the captaincy because of something which happened off the field.
Half Europe’s leading professional clubs are losing money, according to UEFA, and the forthcoming Financial Fair Play initiative will be a concerted attempt to tackle the problem.
The new financial framework will mean that from the 2013-14 season, clubs must break even or face the threat of exclusion from European club competition.
APOEL Nicosia, Olympiakos and FC Zurich’s performances in the Champions League this year may have done enough to strengthen the case for more group stage places to be kept open for teams from smaller soccer countries.
Earlier this year, UEFA decided to split the qualifying contest into two halves — one for teams who are champions in their countries, the other for non-champions.