Thursday, December 13, 2007

16 teams remaining in the Champions League

The first round of the 2007-2008 Champions League has ended, and we now have 16 teams left for the draw on December 21st.
Due to work obligations, I have had limited time to follow the rounds closely, and have missed (too many) matches. But I have the clear impression that it has been an excellent start to the champions league, wiith some amazing matches, and it seems bound to get even more exciting with the following teams:
  • FC Porto: The Portuguese won their group ahead of Liverpool, and as so many years before, may be bound to be underestimated. However, be sure that no team will have an easy time against Porto!
  • Liverpool: Last year´s finalists looked very weak in the start, but with three consecutive victories and 16 goals, they look to be searching for another Champions League success, otherwise eluding them in the Premier League.
  • Chelsea: In spite of changing coach in the middle of the tournament, Chelsea never really looked in danger i the group, and should be considered a contender for the title, although they are looking weaker than last year.
  • Schalke 04: The Germans made sure they would be in the last-16 by a sure 3-1 victory against Norwegian Rosenborg BK in the last match. They will have a hard time however, almost against any of the other teams.
  • Real Madrid: Under coach Bernd Schuster, Real Madrid truly seems reborn, and one player as crucial as Raul seems to have been reborn, whiile Robinho is free to do his magic, and Van Nistelrooi and Robben are super-dangerous. With the beautiful football they are displaying again, they are a welcome team by any football fan, and will surely be aiming for the title (well, they always do).
  • Olympiakos: The Greeks have performed well to be in the last 16, with some excellent results. Although I do not think they can make it all the way, they will be difficult for any team to play against, specially in Greece where they are supported by a passionate and intimidating homecrowd.
  • AC Milan: The defending champions are sure contender for the title again. Kaka & Co. have again been very strong, and their first place in the group was never really in question.
  • Celtic: The Scots are a very welcome team in the last-16 with their charming supporters, spirited fight and strategy. It is doubtful whether they can make it very hard, but they shall surely not be underestimated after the results in the first round.
  • FC Barcelona: The Catalonians were never threatened and won their group easily. They are looking strong indeed, and with Samuel Eto'o back in the last game against Stuttgart (and even scoring!), they may now be at full firepower, which will surely make them one of the favourites for the title. With their technique and positive football, any game with them is something to look forward to.
  • Olympique Lyon: The French started off a bit weak with a home-defeat to Glasgow Rangers, but improved as the round progressed, and ended with an impressive 4-0 victory against Rangers in Glasgow. I have many times previously thought Lyon was a team to watch; I don't think they are as strong as former years, but still... They are a team to watch!
  • Manchester United: The English team was one game away from maximum-points in the first round, and are looking very strong, and one of the favourites for the title. In fact, I don't think they have looked as strong since their last victory in 1999, but their weakness may be that they seem to depend very much on a limited number of players.
  • AS Roma: The Romans are always difficult to play again, particularly in the Italian capital, but I doubt whether they can make it all the way.
  • Inter: Inter always looks strong, and has a very dangerous attacking force and brilliant technical players. In that regard, they are, in my humble view, a contender for the title. However, they are every year, but I think they are looking much more dangerous this season, not only in the Champions League, but also in the Serie A.
  • Fenerbahce: The Turkish side did what they ahd to do in their last match by defeating CSKA Moscow to make it to the last-16. With a number of Brazilians and a passionate homecrowd, Fenerbahce should also be a team to watch, although I do not believe they can make it all the way.
  • Sevilla: The double-UEFA Cup winners started their Champions League adventure by losing 3-0 to Arsenal in London, but have since won five consecutive victories to win their group ahead of the Englishmen. Sevilla is a very strong team, although not looking as strong as last season in the Primera División, they should be considered seriously as an outsider to get very far in this Champions League.
  • Arsenal: They youngsters from Arsenal are leading the Premier League, and with good results in the Champions League, may be considered a contender for the title. However, their young age may also be their biggest enemy, and it remains to be seen how they do against any of the giants.

There is bound to be some amazing matches ready on December 21st. Group winners will have the (minor) advantage of starting playing away when the CL starts again in February 2008. By that time, I will again be in the Mozambican bush, and just hope I will be able to watch!

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