Barstool’s Champions League Preview – Matchday 3b (aka The “Barça vs City” Edition)

Sam’s Soccer Safe Space For Stoolies

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Hi haters,

You know that feeling you get when your friend shows you a picture of their kid, and the kid is really ugly? You know what I’m talking about, they’ve got a Gervinho forehead or their eyes make Mehsut Ozil’s look close together…

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let alone something extraordinarily unfortunate like they are missing a nostril or Bosingwa’s brow, or even – god forbid – Ronaldinho’s chompers

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in those situations I’ve been coached (by moms, aunts, grandmas – basically anyone with some semblance of social grace) to stick to one line and one line only: “Awww, he/she has such pretty eyes.”

Well let’s be honest with ourselves, yesterday’s Champions League game had really pretty eyes. Low scoring, draws galore, a relative dearth of marquee matchups. Ah well, can’t win them all. Today will almost certainly be better if only because

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Before we get to that – and you may have noticed I’ve vacillated a bit between sometimes including an intro section or some sort and other times jumping right into the daily/weekend preview… guess it’ll just be a catch as catch can kinda thing (I’m open to suggestions in the comments) – but there are some things going on in the soccer universe that I, as barstool’s self-anointed sissy sport spirit guide, feel it my duty to get/keep you up to speed on.

1) World Cup Expansion

Is it happening? All signs point to “definitely” – with the only question being whether FIFA goes from 32 nations to 40 or 48. Despite what it feels like, this is not an unprecedented phenomenon. The first World Cup in 1930 involved 13 teams. The tournament has since expanded to 16 (1934), then 24 (1982) and finally the current format starting in 1998. Why is it almost a sure thing? Two reasons: 1) Gianni Infantino ran for FIFA president on a platform that included WC expansion, so he’s motivated to follow through on this pledge, and more importantly, 2) money, money, motherfucking money. Lemme ask you a different but related question: why are there so many godamn college football bowls? The same factors are in play whereby all the people with decision-making authority – FIFA, sponsors, national federations – are all in favor of expanding because it means more money for everybody (and smaller nations are given that much better chance of “dancing”), and the only losers are the fans, who get to watch more games (yay!) but the quality is watered down. Look no further than the Euro 2016 tournament that has roundly been derided as unusually boring and of poor quality, in part because of more teams and also a clunky format. Thus, my instinctive reaction to this news will is extremely disappointed (though not surprised). I’m going to try to keep an open mind but for the most part I think the idea stinks like the skin on the underflap of Charlie Weis’ fupa.

Tennessee v Florida

2) Darlington Nagbe and the USMNT

Word leaked out that Nagbe refused a call-up to the national team for this month’s friendlies against some rinky dink island nations. The initial explanation was he wanted to spend time with family but apparently this was an excuse for not wanting to sit on the bench. This is a bad, badddddddddd look for a guy who has only recently capped for the first time and has played in a grand total of 10 games. Suffice to say you should not expect to see Nagbe in a NT uniform anytime soon.

3) This happened

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The only thing that bottles my mind about this picture is that it took this many years for Ronaldo to pose for it. It is almost as if this picture has existed in my mind ever since he first debuted for United in 2003 – but for some reason it took more than a decade for somebody to finally snap it.

Okay, enough housekeeping for now. Let’s move right along to

Yassssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss!

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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Here are the up to the minute standings through two-and-a-half matchdays:

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And now a reminder of what happened yesterday and a look at what is on deck for today:

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Wednesday’s Picks

Only one option for game of the day…

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Barcelona [-210]
City [+475]
Draw [+380]

Pep doesn’t exactly have a great record when returning to the Camp Nou as Bayern got their clock cleaned (0-3) last time he was there, but this point this out to make a point: people lovvvvvvvvvvve to talk about this sort of thing like it matters at all. It does not. In fact, it’s even less important when announcers talk about how College Team A hasn’t won on the road at College Team B in however many decades. Given the vast overturn in all rosters concerned, not to mention the coaching carousel, those type of stats are fun for fans to bandy about but are essentially useless in breaking down future results. Phew, I feel better not that I’ve gotten that off my chest.

As for today, despite the talent and ungodly sums of money that will be on display, neither team comes into the game in tip-top form. Barcelona has been okay (especially given the recent absence of the Argentinian Pulisic), though a 4-3 loss to Celta Vigo is a bit tough to explain, whereas City comes in off an ugly draw to Celtic, loss at Tottenham (SHAME!) and home draw with Everton. Then again, if City could make a penalty kick or two things might look a little different.

My advice: doubt City at your own risk, especially given those mighty tasty odds they are getting. Containing Barça’s Three-Horseman of the Offensive Apocalypse will be tough – ha, just kidding, impossible – but their best bet will be to sit back using some combination of Kompany, Otamendi and Stones (likely only room for two) and hope that Sterling, Nolito or (especially) Aguero can nick one against the run of play. Truth be told, Barrrrrrrrrthelona’s defense is rather porous so both teams to score is not a bad bet. I think City will find one and hold for a draw…… but end up conceding one late. Barcelona to win 2-1. [Post-publishing update: Aguero on the bench, meaning Pep hoping to duck and cover for 90 minutes… pray for City.]

He back

He back

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Bayern [-500]
PSV [+1150]
Draw [+630]

The Bavarians have not been their usually dominant selves for much of this season, and after a loss to Atleti last time out in UCL they have drawn twice domestically (vs Cologne and to Frankfurt). If PSV was a bit more like the club they have been in other years this might be an upset alert. As it is though, nah. This ain’t yo daddy’s PSV. Robert Lewandowski and (especially) Thomas Muller have been surprisingly AWOL for much of this season… but nothing like a little Dutch pork chop to whet Ze German appetite. Bayern to win 4-1.

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Other picks (because the more shots you take, the more likely it is you eventually make one):

• Man, lots of “asymmetric” matchups today. Arsenal [-750] host those little Belarussian buggers Ludogorets [+2000] and the bookies think it could get ugly. I don’t necessarily agree – especially if Arsene decides to rest a first-choice defender or two – and Ludogorets does their usual 1-striker-and-10-dudes-behind-the-ball routine… but I do think Les Gunners will find a way to squeeze it out (perhaps keeping things interesting in the meantime though). Arsenal to win 2-1.

• [Note: Ludogorets is actually a Bulgarian club and the fact you didn’t know that means you probably should not be wagering any of your hard earned moneys on them – unless you are a Spurs fan and are doing it out of principle, in which case I applaud your dedication to the cause of life, liberty and being poor.]

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• PSG [-500] is getting a bunch of guys back from injury (Di Maria, Kurzawa, Aurier) just as Basel [+1300] is likely going to be without a gaggle of newly hurt starters. Bad recipe for the Swissies. PSG to win 3-0.

• Do I think that Napoli [-245] could find a way not to win at home against a Besiktas [+650] side that is undefeated – albeit with a ton of draws – on the season? Yes, yes, I do see it as a possibility. The Italians have been struggling and lost striker Arkadiusz Milik over the international break for as much as six months. Where the goals will come from is a big question. Perhaps Jose Callejon (flanked by Lorenzo Insigne and/or Dries Martens) will step up, but I’m taking a wait and see approach. Besiktas to win 1-0.

• Rostov [+900], oh sweet Rostov. You had so much potential coming into the group stage. Why hast thou forsaken my faith in you? Perhaps today is the day my belief pays off. Probably not, since Atleti [-285] is doing that thing they do where they win every single game for long stretches, again. In fact, Simeone’s boys are playing about as well as ever, having beaten Bayern (1-0), spanked Valenthia (2-0) and had their way with every man, woman, child and goat in Granada (7-1) last weekend. So really there is absolutely no reason in the world to think Atleti isn’t going to steamroll the Russkis in this one as well – except that’s what they want you to think! Rostov to win 2-1.

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Reminder: got another biggggggggg slate tomorrow……….. hahahahahaha, just kidding, its only Europa. Hey, hey, have a day United!

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Holler,
Sam U.L. Army