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My Dream Champions League Quarterfinals Draw

The real Champions League draw for the quarterfinals, semifinals, and final will take place tomorrow in Nyon, Switzerland, and for the first time in the competition, teams from the same group or country can be paired against each other. It’s likely that we’ll get a few duds and also a few exciting ties; that’s just how it usually turns out. UEFA says that these draws are random, which I’m not necessarily questioning, but it seems like the same teams are always drawn against each other and things have appeared a little fishy at times…

For now though, he’s my dream draw for the next round of the Champions League:

1. Arsenal-Fenerbahçe: Both teams play an attacking style and are capable of scoring multiple goals in any given game, something that can’t be said about every team left at this stage in the competition. I’d be interested to see how Arsenal handles the raucous crowd in Istanbul, which is a different beast altogether than than the one they encountered at the San Siro last week. I don’t doubt that the Gunners would go through in this tie, but Fenerbahçe would certainly give them a good game in Turkey and both legs would have goals in them. The winner of this tie would go on to face the winner of…

2. Manchester United-Roma: A rematch of last year’s quarterfinal which Manchester United won 8-3 on aggregate, using a 7-1 thrashing at Old Trafford to overcome a 2-1 deficit from the first leg. This is a different Roma team though, and their leader, Francesco Totti, is playing out of his mind right now, and Manchester United looked pretty shaky at times against Lyon in both legs of their Round of 16 encounter. Would Roma have the firepower to overcome United? I’m not sure, and a lot would depend on how Totti performs.

3. Chelsea vs. Barcelona: The Special One, Mr. Mourinho, would look at this tie with special interest as his old club, Chelsea, takes on his possible new club, Barcelona. It would certainly be a contrast of styles as the Premiership side doesn’t exactly play a visually stunning brand of soccer, and Barcelona has four or five players who seem like they can score almost at will. This competition is likely the last chance for real silverware for both teams, and that sense of desperation would liven this tie up quite nicely. The winner of this tie would play the winner of…

4. Liverpool vs. Schalke: Ok, I’ll admit, this isn’t a dream pairing, but these are the only two teams left. Ideally, I’d like to see Liverpool play another English team in this round and have Schalke play Fenerbahçe so that one of the two underdogs could reach the semifinal, but I’d more rather see Fenerbahçe and all the English teams play the opponents I already talked about. The bonus? Well, Liverpool would likely win this tie and then the ensuing semifinal against either Chelsea or Barcelona would be quality.

Schalke are currently in 5th place in the Bundesliga and need to finish in 3rd to get back into the Champions League. Places 2-7 are separated by only seven points, so it brings up a dilemma for the German side: Do they want to go for it all in the CL this year and risk tiring out their players for the stretch run of the season, or do they want to kind of mail it in right now and put all of their efforts into simply getting back into Europe’s top club competition?

As I said previously, the real draw will be conducted early tomorrow morning here on the East Coast. I’ll be in class until 10 but should have brief capsules for each tie before noon.

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  1. Michael

    March 14, 2008 at 9:19 am

    You bring up a fair point, and I still stand by my comments. Here’s why:

    While I do believe that Benitez is the most tactically sound manager in Europe, I don’t think winning the Champions League is what Liverpool’s goal is as a club and if you polled their fans, most would choose winning the Premiership over the CL since they haven’t won a league since 1989-1990.

    Benitez has proved that in the Premiership, he doesn’t have what it takes to mount a serious title run despite the fact that he’s spent a lot of money and the current team is made up of his guys; there are no holdovers from the Houllier era that Rafa didn’t want to keep. Over a 38-game season, I think Liverpool is suspect due to a lack of quality depth on the roster and Benitez hasn’t helped matters with some questionable tactical decisions; playing Kewell and Riise earlier in the season, sticking with Kuyt even though he was not playing well at all, bringing Crouch off the bench too late in games, etc.

    In the Champions League, Rafa knows exactly how to pick a team and a formation that will get the job done. I’ve always said that the CL is easier to win then the Premiership because not only do you have to play more games in the domestic league, everyone plays the same schedule. In the CL, a lot depends on the luck of the draw and who you get in the Group Stage and beyond.

    I think it all depends on what you want as a club. Liverpool’s primary goal, and Rafa’s stated goal before the season, seemed to be winning the Premiership this year. I’m not sure that a deep Champions League run should disguise the fact that Liverpool have been out of the title race before winter and are miles behind United and Arsenal. In Europe, I think Liverpool are better than any team in England; in fact, I’m picking Liverpool to beat Arsenal in this quarterfinal. In England, Liverpool are in a race for 4th place, and I just don’t think that’s good enough.

  2. TheScout

    March 14, 2008 at 8:34 am

    Michael, I like your speculation on the matchups but I do have to question you on one point and please don’t take this as a personal attack, I’m just raising a point for discussion.

    You seem to have flip-flopped on Rafa Benitez. It was just last month that you said he should be fired from Liverpool? If he is the “most tactically sound manager in Europe”, why would Liverpool want to fire him?

    In a post last month ( you wrote: “I have criticized Rafa Benitez in the past and my position that he should be fired this summer (or resign) still stands.”

    What has changed your mind about Rafa since then?

  3. Michael

    March 14, 2008 at 6:49 am

    BD Condell,

    I’m not sure if you’re trying to make a joke or you were being serious, but Liverpool is NOT an underdog in this competition. As I’ve said before, I believe they are England’s best hope to win the Champions League; they have the most tactically sound manager in Europe out of any English team and have more players with significant Champions League experience than any of the other English teams.

  4. BillE Shears

    March 13, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    I’m hoping for a Liverpool-Chelsea match so that there is a guarantee of at least one clunking team to go out.

    Though, from an appreciation of the beautiful aspects of the game, can you imagine the final four being Arsenal, Man U, Roma, and Barca?

  5. BD Condell

    March 13, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    “I’d like to see Liverpool play another English team in this round and have Schalke play Fenerbahçe so that one of the two underdogs could reach the semifinal,”

    You’re confusing yourself. Liverpool v Schalke WOULD ensure one of the two underdogs would get to the semi’s!!

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