19 March 2010

Europa League QF/SF Draw

Benfica/Liverpool v Valencia/Atletico
Hamburg/Standard Liege v Fulham/Wolfsburg

Payback time for Champions League '05-06. That'll do, especially since I was convinced Liverpool would face Atletico or Valencia. We'll have to wait for the semis for that one, if Liverpool can replicate yesterday's result.

Could be worse, but could be a lot easier as well. Liverpool's side of the bracket looks far more ferocious. Angel Di Maria is one of the hottest wingers in the world. Pablo Aimar, whom Benitez knows well, is a perpetual danger. Oscar Cardozo is a dangerous striker and free kick specialist. Ramires is a beast of a midfielder. This article, from Zonal Marking (which absolutely everyone should be reading), makes me even more nervous.

I saw most of the Marseille/Benfica match yesterday, and I was massively impressed with Benfica's late fight back. Even though Marseille scored first, in the 70th at home and with an away goal advantage, only one team looked like winning, and Benfica did so with two goals in the last 15 minutes.

And then, if Liverpool manage to go through, there'll be Atletico or Valencia, with Kun Aguero or David Villa waiting in the wings. Of course, the year Liverpool drops to the Europa League, it's absolutely stacked.

At least Liverpool is at Anfield for the second leg in both the quarters and semis (again, if Liverpool advance). The QFs take place 4/1 and 4/8.

For shits and giggles, here's the CL Draw as well:

Inter/CSKA Moscow v Arsenal/Barcelona
Bayern/Man United v Lyon/Bordeaux

Lovely. Another year where the Mancs get a yellow brick road to the Finals. Probably the only English team happy with their draw. Grrr. Naturally, I blame Platini.


Ed said...

A CSKA-Bordeaux CL final is my spiteful wish.

I worry about the pace and attacking skill of Benfica, especially in the first leg. We saw how tough it was against Lille, and if the first plays out similarly Liverpool might have more than a goal to make up.

drew said...

Benfica's supporters are a great lot and it will be one hell of a tie no matter what.

As for the CL draw, Lyon-Bordeaux seemed nailed on as a means of getting one of them into the semis, and it was only ever going to be United that benefited from that sort of pairing.

I honestly don't know what sort of devil's deal Alex Ferguson has made but short of lopping his head off and burying it at midnight at a crossroads I don't see how we'll ever be rid of him. Every time he's in the shit--from that first FA Cup which might have derailed his reign before it even started, to goddamned Solskjaer, straight up to this season when every time Rooney goes out, along comes Giggs or Scholes to bail him out again--the universe just agreeably aligns itself in his favor. It's like Mr. Magoo as a bitter sociopathic drunk.

And it honestly couldn't happen to a worse person. Obviously I can't speculate on what he's like in private life, but publicly at least he takes his human relations strategy from Bricktop in Snatch. For players and journalists alike, it's absolute, unquestioning, unthinking loyalty, or you're dead to him, chopped up to be fed to the pigs. Like any good Soviet premier, his paranoia and his totalitarian instincts are mutually reinforcing: he knows two moods, rage and purge.

If he were a wino yammering and mumbling on a stoop, people wouldn't toss him so much as a 20p coin, they'd just directly hand him bottles of tonic wine in the hopes of hastening his inevitable liver failure. But because he can pour himself into a suit most mornings and shout at players rather than random passers-by, he's lionized (made a Knight of the Realm, even, whilst Bob Paisley died unrecognized).

Success in football, for better or worse, is measured in silverware, and by that standard Ferguson will forever be among the game's greats. But unlike Liverpool's contributions to that pantheon (and also unlike United's Matt Busby), Ferguson has taken Machiavelli to heart and chosen fear over love. As such, while he is undoubtedly a great manager, he will never be a great man. When he finally fucks off, it'll be relief as much as anything that guides the cheers.

Marlon said...

Nate, Lyon beat Real Madrid. Don't sell them short.

nate said...

Chances are I'm stealing about six lines from that comment of yours, Drew. "I honestly don't know what sort of devil's deal Alex Ferguson has made but short of lopping his head off and burying it at midnight at a crossroads I don't see how we'll ever be rid of him." is by far my favorite.

And Marlon, I'm not writing Lyon off. I expect them to beat Bordeaux, despite the league table (I think Bordeaux still tops it). But they're Lyon, and they always manage to underwhelm in Europe. Just like Real always loses in the Round of 16.