Would it not be fun if Stuttgart the the football world a favour and pulled off the shock of the competition by defeating CF Barcelona in the Champions League second round?
How about French Ligue 1 leaders Girondins Bordeaux going all the way and lifting the last Champions League trophy competed for in this Millennium’s first decade?
And by the way, that Bordeaux win would come at the expense of an enterprising, yet unlucky FC Sevilla that came back from two goals down to force extra-time at 2-2, go ahead early in extra time, only to allow the Frenchies pull off a comeback of theirs and win 4-3 after 120 exhilarating minutes of football?
It would be lovely to see all that and a few more happen after watching draws for the knock-out phase of the competition made but thing is…most of it won’t (if not all) unless of course we get a re-run of FC Porto and AS Monaco from ’04.
In my opinion, Real Madrid looks sure bets for an umpteenth second round exit; Olympique Lyon may not be performing as well as they are used to in Ligue 1 (down in 4th place) but Real; with all the talent, didn’t quite inpress (me) in the group phase and Marseille could’ve got the ticket instead but they aren’t made of the stuff Lyon is and I count on Lyon to continue its good UCL record against Real.
As for the Italians, pity! Be not deceived by Chelsea’s current form. We’re talking of February; a time Drogba and Essien should be back from the African Nations Cup just as the league title race heats up (which is when Chelsea really get to stride).
Manchester United also get their stride at that period. Besides, Leonardo’s got no fan in me and recent Anglo-Italian history just doesn’t favour a fair return to Old Trafford for David Beckham and the rest of Rossoneri.
Truth is, everyone wanted to avoid the English sides (except if Liverpool had made it….actually, no!) so FC Porto (with one win in, what…a dozen visits to Queensland) joins the club of “oh dear” when they square up with Arsenal (who, hopefully for all Gooners, have acquired a forward or two by then).
Everyone also failed to list Bayern Munich on the Christmas wish list but Fiorentina was unfortunate…or are they now? the Viola did pretty well in the group stage and (to me) seem a most appropriate opponent for the Germans who I think are getting to their best.
In all, we’re in for some cool football (as usual) from the knock-out phase and sentimentally, I’d love for Arsenal to go all the way but the favourites for me are Barcelona while rank outsiders are Bordeaux…they’ve really impressed me!