One of the unfortunate consequences of the random draws that UEFA uses to determine the matchups for each round of the knockout stages in the Champions League is that this structure precludes the chance for fans to “fill out a bracket” and compete with friends/co-workers/total strangers on the internet, which in theory anyway might mean slightly less interest from armchair fans. Ah well, just means more soccer for you and me to enjoy without having to share. Also, and more importantly, it means the world is not subjected for an hours-long studio show featuring Eric Wynalda – which might be the greatest silver-lining in the history of silver-linings.
But enough about that. On to the…
So we are roughly three-quarters of the way through the Round of 16. At this point, here is how things stand and the games we still got on deck:
As one can plainly see, Spanish clubs are mopping up, Ze Germans are acquitting themselves quite well, while England and Italy are still slugging it out to hang on/snag the fourth automatic bid to the Champions League (starting in 2017-18). Today and tomorrow could be a huge inflection point – one way or the other.
PICKS OF THE DAY
FRIENDLY PROGRAMMING REMINDER: games start an hour later than you are used this week since Europe is a little behind America in pretty everything, including daylight savings, which for them is not until March 27. Why? Who fucking knows. Sometimes you don’t ask questions about a culture that is legitimately obsessed with this:
I meeeeeeeeean, as legitimately intimidating as Brian Ching and Brad Davis are, and as atrocious as City has looked at time this season, there’s just no way the EPL best/last/only hope in this season’s Champions League loses at home today by two goals or more, which is the bare minimum it would take for the Sky Blues to crash out.
Has City lost two of its last three games at home? Yes. Did City just get held to a scoreless draw at the weekend by lowly Norwich? Again, yes. So why couldn’t they lose this one? Because Yaya Toure is back, and when Yaya Toure is in the mood to play soccer he’s actually quite good at it. His presence in the midfield was sorely lacking against the Canaries, and anybody who saw him against Dynamo a couple weeks ago realizes that how important he is (or can be when not crying about cake). The visitors will have to push for goals, which should give Sergio Aguero waaaaaaaaay too much space to work and ultimately be their undoing. City to win 3-1.
[Note: yes, I am aware neither of those guys play for Houston at this point. Calm your tits, MLS bros.]
There is absolutely no chance that PSV wins this game. Atletico is on fire and the chances a club will come out complacent in a big game when your coach is Diego Simeone are borderline non-existent.
BUT the fact is that PSV doesn’t need to win. They only need a non-scoreless draw, which is not at all out of the equation. The Dutchies are coming off a disappointing draw at the weekend in which they were missing top scorer Luuk de Jong. Today’s game is all about the first goal. If Atletico grabs it, which on paper they clearly should, that will force PSV to abandon their defensive posture and in all likelihood will result in a flood of additional goals for the home side. If, however, PSV can manage to nick one then hooooo-weeeee cause (a) Simeone might strangle the fourth official and (b) expect the visitors to park whatever bus they brought with them – which, by the way, is actually quite an effective bus based on their having conceded just 25 goals in 27 games in the Eredivisie. This is the opposite of mortal lock but the odds are calling my name… gimme the 1-1 draw.
Don’t forget: Arsenal vs Barca and Juve vs Bayern tomorrow… can’t beat that.
Sam U.L. Army