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Barstool Midweek Soccer Preview

Barstool’s Champions League (KO Leg 1) Preview

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[Note: as a quick reminder, I’m out of town for another week but have put together some ABBREVIATED preview posts to make sure you, my beloved reader, does not get lost wandering around the soccer universe without a little guidance. Please keep in mind though that these were written in advance so unexpected line-up changes due to injuries or suspensions, etc, will inevitably not be taken into account. Big Cat has graciously agreed to post these next few blogs at the appropriate time, so any complaints about erroneous picks should clearly be directed his way.]

THE CHAMPIONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNS!

It feels like forever since the last time the soccer gods blessed us with some midweek Champions League soccer. As you are reading this, I’m likely walking some Asian city looking for a bar offering soccer and beer, so do me two favors: (1) wish me luck and (2) take a liquid lunch and enjoy a game or two for me.

 

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Me rn, probably

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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

So here we are at the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest soccer. I mentioned before how it is an open secret that the best soccer is not actually played at tournaments like the World Cup, where players get together and play only once every so often, but rather in a setting like the Champions League knockout stage, where the best teams in the world have played together every day for month (if not years) and the field has been whittled down to only the strongest of the strong… and Borussia Dortmund.

The matchups in the group stage look like this:

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Some thoughts on the draw::

– There is no such thing as an “easy” matchup at this point in the Champions League as all the Malmo’s and Ludogorets’ of the competition have fallen by the wayside. Having said that though there are certainly “easier” matchups with clubs like Shakhtar Donetsk and Basel representing comparably favorable draws for Bayern Munich and Porto, respectively. (Some people might consider lumping Dortmund into that group considering their domestic form where they STILL sit 16th out of 18 teams, but given how well BVB has played in the Champions League so far that’s a tough sell for me.)

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Burn notice

– Every year Real Madrid and Barcelona make it through to the last 16 of the Champions League, and every year it seems Real gets drawn against a (relative) cupcake and Barcelona plays (and beats) one of the EPL’s top teams. This is an oversimplification, of course, but last year Real got drawn against a struggling Schalke side while Barça played – and beat – City, which went on to win the EPL. Barça started slowly this season but, as always, is peaking at the right time to be a force in the Champions league. City need Yaya Toure back at 100%, and must hope that Wilfried Bony can find some instant chemistry alongside Sergio Aguero (and Edin Dzeko) in order to have a legitimate chance of advancing.

– Juve versus BVB is an interesting matchup. Wanna know what’s more interesting? How about Daniela Poggiali, a nurse and die-hard Juve fan who allegedly killed almost 100 people “because they irritated her”…

 

 

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Nope nope nope

– PSG versus Chelsea is a rematch of last season’s quarterfinals in which the Blues progressed on the away goals rule. Assume they move on again at your own peril…

– Arsenal will not be displeased by drawing a Monaco side that has struggled a bit this season (as will happen after selling many of your biggest weapons).

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PREDICTIONS

The first legs of the knockout stage will be played over the next two weeks, with the schedule looking like this:

 

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Given how far away these games are, it’d be a ridiculous exercise to attempt to prognosticate specific scores, so instead (for this blog) only I’m going to offer some general suggestions on which of the favorites are likely to perform better or worse than expected.

Better:

– Arsenal: like the team that Arsene has put together this season and think the club is likely to improve over the course of the season half. Monaco, on the other hand, has struggled mightily and looks eminently beatable at the moment.

– Atletico Madrid: the club is KILLING it at the moment. Diego Simeone has his boys clicking on all cyliners. Pray for Bayer.

Worse:

– Real Madrid: do I think Los Blancos will get knocked out of the competition by Schalke? Probably not. That said, Real seems to have lost its way of late while the German side is in its best form of the season, and should fare better than most people think – especially in the first leg at home.

 

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– Chelsea: call me crazy but I think the Blues are going to have a difficult time in Paris this week (assuming Zlatan is on the field). A draw or possible even close win for PSG does not seem out of the realm of possibility.

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EUROPA LEAGUE

Also, there is some Spursday night soccer coming in hot this week as well, with Tottenham, Everton and Liverpool (which parachuted in from Champions League) all still alive in the competition. I’m keeping this short this week and will offer up some more expanded thoughts next week, but for now here are the matchups:

 

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[Note: I’ll be back with some predictions next week.]

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So there you have it. The third of four ABBREVIATED posts that Big Cat is being kind enough to post while I’m gallivant around the Asian subcontinent. I’ll be back next week. Try not to miss me too much.

 

 

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One for the road


Holler,
Samuel E. Army