30 August 2007

Champions League Draw

Sorry to be tardy to the party. Stupid work commitments.

So Liverpool’s paired with Porto, Marseille, and Besiktas, huh?

As usual, Sven’s more than on top of the ball. However, I am more optimistic about the group than he is. Liverpool could have done a lot worse, and although my optimism is probably a cause for concern and I’m furiously knocking on wood as I type this, they really should progress.

Yes, Porto and Marseille are teams with a European legacy. But Porto’s lost a few key players over the summer (including Pepe, Hugo Almeida, and Anderson), although Lucho Gonzalez and Quaresma are still in the squad. Marseille will be interesting as Liverpool will get to welcome former players Cisse and Zenden, and honestly, after Toulouse’s performance, the French league’s gone down a bit more in my eyes, although Nasri and M’Bami (among others) are excellent players. Besiktas will be a tough trip and are somewhat of an unknown, with the most notable names being keeper Rustu and Brazilian midfielder Ricardinho, but Liverpool are more than familiar with traveling to Turkey.

On first glance, I reckon that Marseille will join Liverpool in progressing, but it really is up in the air.

This is the schedule of Liverpool’s games, followed by the next league game:

18 Porto (a)
22 Birmingham (h)

3 Marseille (h)
7 Tottenham (h)
24 Besiktas (a)
28 Arsenal (h)

6 Besiktas (h)
10 Fulham (h)
28 Porto (h)

1 Bolton (h)
11 Marseille (a)
15 Manchester Utd (h)

A home league match follows every single CL game. That’ll do.

Full group details are below. Despite my fondness for predictions not involving Liverpool, it’s still too early even for me to guess which teams will make it out of their groups, and at this stage, I’m far too inclined to go with the top two seeds in nearly every group.

I will say that it should be interesting to see United/Roma and Celtic/Milan reprising matches from last year’s knockout stages, especially the United/Roma pairing. Also, the Eastern European teams, specifically Shakhtar, CSKA, and Dynamo, despite being 4th seeds, will be very tough outs.

And Group E, Barca’s group, is my pick for “group of death,” with Group F not far behind. Arsenal’s is probably the easiest, with them and Sevilla clear-cut favorites, but that’s more debatable. Although it seems to me that the groups are a lot more even than they’ve been in past years. Yes, Liverpool’s group could have been easier, but a lot of groups could have been easier, and talent-wise, it seems the 32 teams are fairly evenly distributed.

I can’t wait.

Group A: Liverpool, Porto, Marseille, Besiktas
Group B: Chelsea, Valencia, Schalke 04, Rosenborg
Group C: Real Madrid, Werder Bremen, Lazio, Olympiakos
Group D: AC Milan, Benfica, Celtic, Shakhtar Donetsk
Group E: Barcelona, Lyon, Stuttgart, Rangers
Group F: Manchester Utd, Roma, Sporting Lisbon, Dynamo Kiev
Group G: Inter Milan, PSV, CSKA Moscow, Fenerbache
Group H: Arsenal, Sevilla/AEK Athens, Steaua Bucharest, Slavia Prague

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