21 December 2007

07/08 CL Knockout Draw

Celtic v Barcelona
Lyon v Manchester United
Schalke v Porto
Liverpool v Inter Milan
Roma v Real Madrid
Arsenal v AC Milan
Olympiakos v Chelsea
Fenerbahce v Sevilla

When the choice is between Inter, AC, Real, Sevilla, and Barca, it’s always going to be a tough draw.

And honestly, the preeminent emotion is appreciation that Liverpool’s avoided AC Milan or Barca, where ‘revenge’ and the media narrative would play a large role. But no games at this stage are easy and Inter will certainly be no walkover.

Currently leading Serie A by 7 points and unbeaten in the league, they’ve also won 5 out of 6 CL group games, with a 0-1 result at Fenerbache in the first match the lone loss.

Their roster features Cambiasso, Vieira, Ibrahimovic, Suazo, Zanetti, Figo, and Crespo, among others. Torres will be marked by that peach of a human being, Marco Materazzi. It is a team-sheet filled with recognizable names, but Inter also has something to prove in Europe, having underperformed in the Champions League in the past.

And at the end of the day, this is Liverpool in the Champions League. Liverpool’s been “doomed” before: when they drew Juventus in 05 (which this draw has parallels with) or Barca in 07, or when they were down 3-0 at halftime to AC Milan. Not only can you throw the formbook out of the window in Europe, but Liverpool’s better when they’re the underdogs and up against a tougher team. It’s when Liverpool’s favored that there can be a let down, like Benfica in 05/06.

Liverpool’s only ever meeting against Inter was the 1965 European Cup semis, where Liverpool won 3-1 at Anfield only to lose 3-0 in Milan. The possibility of Benitez getting revenge on Shankly’s behalf is mouth-watering.

Unsurprisingly, the other British teams who finished second in the groups have tough matches coming up. Arsenal v AC Milan is probably the tie of the round, while Celtic won’t fancy their chances against Barcelona.

But United and Chelsea, who won their groups, have to be favored against Lyon and Olympiakos respectively.

As both the Milan teams have home matches in the second leg, Liverpool’s match at Inter will be a week later then the other second leg matches, to be played on March 11th. The first leg at Anfield will take place on February 19th.

I'll have far more to say in February when the matches near, and will probably spring some faulty predictions as well, but it's too soon to forecast two months in advance.

Preview of the Pompey match up in an hour or two.

1 comment :

Starting11 said...

This is a rugged draw for Liverpool. Inter is playing probably better than any team in Europe at the moment, while Liverpool apparently isn't past the turmoil of the Rafa-Gillett/Hicks mess. It will be interesting to see if Liverpool can turn things around by February, or if Rafa is still around for that matter.
I blog about it today: http://startingeleven.blogspot.com/