For newcomers wondering what the UEFA Champions League is all about, a simple explanation would be to describe it as the ultimate tournament in club football. It's the tournament where all the best teams in Europe meet up and compete against each other to become the champions of Europe. The current champions are FC Barcelona, who currently possess arguably the greatest team the modern football world has seen.
Gameweek 2 gets underway this evening, and even if you missed Gameweek 1, it's still very much worth introducing yourself to this tournament as soon as possible. In fact, if you read on some more I'll explain just what you've missed thus far and what you can expect during the upcoming gameweek.
When it was first drawn, Group A was tagged as the "group of death." The reason for this is because the number of strong competitors in the group is greater than the number of qualifying places available for the next phase of the tournament. Four teams are in the group, only two can progress further. Makes sense, right? The teams in this group are as follows: Bayern Munich (Germany), Napoli (Italy), Manchester City (England) and Villarreal (Spain). Gameweek 1 saw Bayern Munich beat Villarreal 2-0 and Manchester City draw 1-1 with Napoli. The current standings look like this:
As you can see, Bayern Munich currently lead the group and this gameweek they face Manchester City at home in Germany. Bayern Munich have started their domestic season on form, winning six and losing only one of their first seven games. They have scored twenty-one goals and only conceded one in the process. On the other hand, Manchester City have started their season on form too. They are currently unbeaten after winning five and drawing one of their first six games. They have scored nineteen goals and conceded five in the process.
As you've probably already figured out, this game is definitely one to keep an eye on. Specific players to look out for, you ask? Well, look no further than Mario Gomez (Germany), Frank Ribery (France) and Arjen Robben (Holland) of Bayern Munich and David Silva (Spain), Edin Dzeko (Bosnia) and Sergio Augero (Argentina) of Manchester City. Between them, these six players have managed twenty-nine goals and fourteen assists (creating a goal) already this season. Quiet remarkable statistics considering how early they are into their respective seasons.
The other game in this group sees Napoli welcome Villarreal to Italy. These two teams haven't started quiet as well as Bayern Munich and Manchester City have, especially Villarreal who currently sit 14th in their domestic league, but neither can be written off at such an early stage. You simply don't get into the Champions League if you completely lack quality. If for some reason you decide that you want to watch this match instead of Bayern Munich v Manchester City, keep an eye out for Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) of Napoli and Guiseppe Rossi (Italy) of Villarreal. These two players are regarded as two of the brightest talents in the game and it should be interesting to see if they can help their respective teams progress out of such a difficult group.
On a side note, Guiseppe Rossi was born in New Jersey, but controversially decided to respresent Italy instead of the United States at international level. Let's just say, he's not in the good books of the American regulars over in the Club Football / Soccer thread. He is, however, capable of doing a lot of this:
There's no doubting Group B isn't as fancy as Group A, but it does still contain Inter Milan (Italy), who have won the Champions League on three seperate occasions in their history. The rest of the group is made up of Lille (France), CSKA Moscow (Russia) and Trabzonspor (Turkey). Trabzonspor only qualified for the Champions League thanks to Fenerbache, also from Turkey, being disqualified due to match fixing. You would think they would enter the tournament as underdogs, right? Think again. In Gameweek 1, Trabzonspor beat Inter Milan in Italy 1-0 in the shock result of the round. In fact, the result was so shocking it cost Gian Piero Gasperini his position as coach of Inter Milan, who has since been replaced by Claudio Ranieri. Meanwhile, CSKA Moscow came from 2-0 goals behind to draw 2-2 with Lille in France. These results left the standings looking like this:
So, Trabzonspor, against the odds, currently sit top of the standings. They face Lille at home in Turkey in Gameweek 2, and should still be full of confidence after their victory over Inter Milan. On the other hand, Inter Milan face CSKA Moscow in an early kick off in Russia. It will be Claudio Ranieri's first game as coach of Inter Milan in the Champions League, and dare I say it, already a must win game in his tenure. Another defeat is simply unthinkable, but to tell the truth, not out of the realms of possibility. Games in Russia can take their toll on even the best of teams.
Personally, out of these two games, my advice would be to watch how Inter Milan fair in Russia. No offence to either Trabzonspor or Lille, but little about their match-up excites me. It would take a brave soul to watch it ahead of other games taking place, anyway. If you do decide to go ahead and watch CSKA Moscow v Inter Milan, bare in mind Inter Milan's playmaker Wesley Sneijder (Holland) is currently injured. Come to think of it, it might be best to avoid this group altogether for the time being.
This is Manchester United's group, heard of them before? They are joined by Benfica (Portugal), Basel (Switzerland) and Otelu Galati (Romania). They are odds on favourites to win the group, it would take an absolute disaster for them not to qualify for the next phase. Having said that, in Gameweek 1, they could only draw 1-1 with Benfica in Portugal. Arguably their toughest game in the group, a point isn't bad on paper, but there were signs during the game that Benfica could challenge them for 1st place overall. In the other group game, Basle beat Romanian Champions League first timers Otelul Galati 2-1. The standings look as follows:
In Gameweek 2, Manchester United play Basel at home. Without being disrespectful to Basel, Manchester United could field their reserve team and still go on to win this game. In fact, it is rumoured Wayne Rooney (England) won't play even if he does recover from a hamstring injury on time. Wayne Rooney, who has scored nine goals in five appearances domestically this season, isn't likely to be risked for such opposition. The likes of Luis Nani (Portugal) and Ashley Young (England) should be more than enough to see off Basel comfortably. Elsewhere in this group, Otelul Galati host Benfica in Romania. I'm predicting a similary comfortable night for Benfica, too.
If you are looking to watch a one-sided game of football, then look no further than Manchester United v Basel. In fact, it will be so one-sided, I'm willing to bet that Basel won't even have a shot at goal. Otelu Galati v Benfica won't be much better in the competitive stakes either, although it will be slightly more difficult for Benfica due to the game being in Romania. An early Galati goal would certainly make things more interesting.
Overall, this is another group that can be avoided by a newcomer. Manchester United are a quality team, but you are unlikely to see them in full flow until they face Benfica at home in Gameweek 5, and to be honest, even that depends on how well Benfica do before then.
Now this group is more like it. Featuring the likes of Real Madrid (Spain), who have won the Champions League a record nine times, and Ajax (Holland), who have won it four times themselves, you can be assured of some pedigree match-ups. The rest of the group is made up by Lyon (France), who aren't no pushovers themselves, and Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia). In Gameweek 1, Real Madrid travelled to Croatia and claimed a 1-0 victory over Dinamo Zagreb. Meanwhile, Ajax and Lyon played out a 0-0 stalemate in Amsterdam. Here's what that meant to the standings:
Tonight, Ajax travel to face Real Madrid in one of the matches of the gameweek. Even if Ajax are no longer the force they once were in football, this fixture promises to be an occasion to experience. With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Mesut Ozil (Germany) on show for Real Madrid, there's every chance you'll witness something truly special right before your eyes. To some, Cristiano Ronaldo is rated as the best player in the world, with only Lionel Messi of arch-rivals Barcelona making people retract that opinion. He has scored some fine goals in his career, such as this one in LA during Real Madrid's 2011 pre-season of the United States:
He is also equally capable of precisely passing a ball with his weaker foot:
Overall, if he's in the mood, he's unplayable and you can't help admire him for it. Should I even bother mentioning Lyon play Dinamo Zagreb at home?