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Barstool’s Champions League Preview – The “Thin Line Between Love & Hate” Edition

Sam’s Champions League Preview

1-UCL

Hello haters,

So a quick reminder before we jump into the good sheit: remember how the EPL has spent the last three seasons collectively pooping all over itself in European competitions? And recall how much fun it has been to all laugh and point at the Big Four bowing out in the Round of 16 or quarterfinals – if not earlier – of the Champions League each year?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, good times. (Note: an honorable mention to the league’s – *cough* Tottenham’s *cough* – consistently shite form in Europa, where it gets treated as a second class competition… in part because it is, but unfortunately that is only exacerbating the problem.)

2-epl1

Yeah, well, it was fun for a while but shit is about to hit the fan in a big way if the EPL doesn’t pick up their continental form, and do so in a hurry because the sad and scary truth of the matter is the only reason the league hasn’t lost its coveted fourth Champions League slot was Chelsea’s miraculous trophy winning run in 2012, since without that the EPL’s UEFA Club Coefficient may already have been eclipsed at this point by that of the Serie A, which wants desperately to join the ranks of the Bundesliga and La Liga among the “special” triumvirate granted four lucrative UCL slots each season.

#tbt

#tbt

The clear and present problem: UEFA’s coefficient is based on the past five seasons, meaning that starting next season Chelsea’s 2012 championship disappears from the calculation, leaving the EPL’s fourth UCL slot in serious jeopardy. So keep that in mind as we all giggle about Arsenal (and Liverpool in Europa) teetering on the brink of crashing out at the group stage this season.

But enough about inconvenient truths, let’s delve into…

Yep.

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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

So a quick recap of what happened in the third match day of group stage games:

4-CLscores

– Not a bad matchday for the EPL, which won three of four. Not everybody made it through alive though.

5-Per

– Don’t look now but Zenit has won all four games so far. True, Group H is not the strongest in the competition (in fact, probably the weakest), but sweeping Lyon and winning at Valencia – that ain’t nothing.

– As for the clubs that have joined Zenit in advancing to the knockout stage with two group games still to play, they are Real Madrid (Group A) and City (Group D). [[Late update dedicated to the nit-picky trolls: the BATE/Bayer draw puts Barcelona (Group E) through as well.]]

– Dead On Arrival: Maccabi Tel Aviv, which has lost all four games thus far in Group G play.

6-CLtables

Given the small number of teams whose fates are assured, most clubs clearly still have it all to play for, with the slate of games coming up today and tomorrow looking a little like this:

7-CLschedule

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PICKS OF THE DAY

Hey remember that time I couldn’t predict a single EPL game right to save my life but pulled the exact scores (almost) of all four matches last Champions League matchday? Thankfully, they say lightning strikes always twice…

Dinamo Zagreb (+1400)
Arsenal (-475)
Draw (+680)

I’ll go into this more in a future post, but a legitimate argument could be made for thinking the best possible outcome of this season’s UCL group stage is for clubs like Arsenal and Chelsea to finish in third place and parachute into the Europa League, where they and Spurs could do some damage (if they put their mind to it), thus doing the most to boost the EPL’s coefficient. But anybody recommending that as Plan A is a sandbagging sonuvabtich. “Win now, ask questions later” is a far better strategy.

For Arsenal that starts with what SHOULD be a straight forward game against Dinamo Zagreb.

“But didn’t the Gunners find a way to lose against the plucky Croatian side in September?”

Why yes, yes they did. But that was then and this is now. Last time round Arsenal was not playing well, as evidenced by a 0-2 loss to Chelsea – Chelsea! – only three days after the loss in Zagreb. Tough to say the London club is playing much better now after just having lost to West Brom (following on the heels of a home draw with Spurs and the ass-whupping of a lifetime at Bayern), plus Arsenal is missing their best defensive midfielder in Francis Coquelin – if only Arsene had ponied up for a field player or two in the transfer window, amirite?

So Arsenal could be vulnerable today? Nah, Mathieu Flamini stepping into the DM role means they have a bit of a soft underbelly at the moment, but people seem to have forgotten that the main reason the club lost to Dinamo last time was a ridiculously stupid red card picked up by Olivier Giroud in the first half, which left the Gunners shorthanded and scrambling for the rest of the game. Assuming Pepe Lew Pew-roud avoids a repeat of that nonsense then the Gunners are going to run all over the Croatians. Arsenal to win 4-1.

Out-Wellbecking Wellbeck

It’s better to be pretty than good

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Barcelona (-375)
Roma (+1200)
Draw (+550)

Anybody watch El Clásico on Saturday?

9-lawd

Yep, pray for Roma. Truth be told I’d give the visitors a better shot than bookies do, and anytime you can get odds with a comma on a club as talented as Roma that is tough to pass on, but oh ma goooooooooodnusssssss Barça looked good in the 4-0 spanking of Real this weekend, and picking against a team in that kinda form is just not how many is made. My guess is it’ll be tighter than expected as Roma would gladly sit back and settle for a point, but eventually someone – my money is on Suarez – will find a breakthrough. Barca to win 2-0.

Back for seconds

Back for seconds

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Other games:

• Chelsea [-300] travel to the Chosen Land to play hapless Maccabi [+850] in a matchup that should have been relegated to Fox Soccer Plus to make way for something like Porto/Dynamo Kyiv, but television programming is anything but a meritocracy. My prediction for this game is that it’ll be borderline unwatchable, but Chelsea will muddle its way to a 2-1 win – in inevitably ugly fashion.

• Wanna take a stab at guessing when the last time Porto [-125] lost a competitive game was? That would be in APRIL (a 6-1 drubbing by Bayern in last season’s UCL quarterfinals). The club only needs a draw to punch its ticket to the knockout stage though, which may be a bit of a curse. I’m going out on a limb and **UPSET ALERT** saying Dynamo Kyiv [+375], which pulled out a 2-2 draw at home in their first matchup, will again manage a point. Gimme a 1-1 draw.

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Portuguese nightmare fuel

Portuguese nightmare fuel

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So there it is, the best-ever Champions League preview that Barstool will publish today. Another big day of games on deck tomorrow so don’t miss me too hard.

Silly Niño

Silly Niño


Holler,
Sam U.L. Army