06 December 2006

Onto the next round...

Group stage of the Champions League is done. For the first time in recent memory, all the British sides in the round will advance.

Group Winners, Runners-up:
Chelsea, Barcelona (A)
Bayern Munich, Inter Milan (B)
Liverpool, PSV (C)
Valencia, Roma (D)
Lyon, Real Madrid (E)
Manchester United, Celtic (F)
Arsenal, Porto (G)
AC Milan, Lille (H)

Every single team qualifying is the #1 or #2 team from their group. No real surprises in the knockout round at all, save maybe the fact that Barca and Real finished second, but looking at it that way only detracts from how well Chelsea and Lyon played them head-to-head. In addition, Spartak Moscow and Shakhtar Donetsk were the only #4 seeds to qualify for the UEFA Cup; all six others were the third seeds.

I couldn’t really tell you whether or not it’s a coincidence or if the Champions League really is that much more predictable this go around. It seemed there were a number of surprising results during the group stage: Copenhagen and Celtic over United, Bremen pushing Barcelona until the last match, Eastern Europe teams (specifically CSKA, Shakhtar, and Spartak) playing better (and getting wins) against established European sides. But at the end of the day, all the big teams are through. And Michel Platini was complaining about how the teams who win their country league are having a hard go of the CL…

The draw for the knockout phase takes place Friday the 15th. Group winners will be drawn against runners-ups, and teams from the same country or same group cannot play each other. Liverpool's possible opponents are Barca, Inter, Roma, Real, Celtic, Porto, or Lille.

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