Sunday, August 28, 2005

Football is Back!
By Imtiaz Mussa

So you were expecting an NFL Preview weren’t you? Alright, I’m back at NYU and with that comes the opportunity to sit back to just type away. So what should I type about? Ben has the Mets covered so I’ll go to the next best thing… soccer.

The Champions League draw has just been completed. The best of European football leagues play each other during the season to determine just who the best team in Europe is.

Last year, Liverpool made a dramatic comeback from 3-0 down to beat AC Milan in a penalty shootout. Liverpool’s victory sparked some debate about whether or not they should be allowed to compete in this year’s tournament. In order to qualify for the Champions League in the English Premiership, you must finish in the top four. What made it acrimonious for the Liverpool faithful was that cross town rival Everton finished ahead of them. But in the end, UEFA allowed Liverpool in but made them compete in every qualifying stage to get to this group stage. For a look at the rules of how these teams get grouped together, click here. Let’s take a look at the groups.
Gerrard and the boys are ready to defend the trophy

Group A: Bayern Munich (GER), Juventus (ITA), Club Brugge (BEL), SK Rapid Wien (AUT)
Compelling Story: Bayern Munich and Juventus had the opportunity to get to know each other last year in the group stages.
Prediction: Juventus and Bayern proceed; Club Brugge goes to the UEFA Cup

Group B: Arsenal (ENG), Ajax (NED), AC Sparta Praha (CZE), FC Thun (SUI)
Compelling Story: Thun are a surprise addition to the group stages having shocked Ukrainian power Dynamo Kiev in the second qualifying round.
Prediction: Arsenal and Ajax proceed; AC Sparta Praha goes to the UEFA Cup

Group C: FC Barcelona (ESP), Panathinaikos FC (GRE), Werder Bremen (GER), Udinese Calcio (ITA)
Compelling Story: This is Udinese’s first trip to the Champions League.
Prediction: Barcelona and Werder Bremen proceed; Udinese goes to the UEFA Cup

Group D: Manchester United FC (ENG), Villarreal CF (ESP), LOSC Lille Métropole (FRA), SL Benfica (POR)
Compelling Story: Villarreal striker Diego Forlan used to be a member of Manchester United before his lack of goals got him shipped out. Villarreal also defeated Everton in the third qualifying stage.
Prediction: Manchester United and Villarreal proceed; Benfica goes to the UEFA Cup

Group E: AC Milan (ITA), PSV Eindhoven (NED), FC Schalke 04 (GER), Fenerbahçe SK (TUR)
Compelling Story: American DaMarcus Beasley is a star in Eindhoven and had a solid European campaign last year. Milan would love to get back to the final and win it after what happened last year.
Prediction: AC Milan and Eindhoven proceed; Schalke goes to the UEFA Cup

Group F: Real Madrid CF (ESP), Olympique Lyonnais (FRA), Olympiacos CFP (GRE), Rosenborg BK (NOR)
Compelling Story: Real Madrid won no trophies last year leading many to question the make-up of the team. Olympique Lyonnais is now under the leadership of Liverpool boss Gérard Houllier.
Prediction: Real Madrid and Olympique Lyonnais proceed; Olympiacos goes to the UEFA Cup

Group G: Liverpool FC (ENG, holders), Chelsea FC (ENG), RSC Anderlecht (BEL), Real Betis Balompié (ESP)
Compelling Story: Liverpool shattered Chelsea’s dream of becoming the first English team since Manchester United in 1999 to win the treble (three trophies) when they defeated the Premiership champs in the semi-finals.
Prediction: Chelsea and Liverpool proceed; Real Betis Balompié goes to the UEFA Cup

Group H: FC Internazionale Milano (ITA), FC Porto (POR), Rangers FC (SCO), FC Artmedia Bratislava (SVK)
Compelling Story: Artmedia Bratislava went through Scottish power Celtic and Serbian club Partizan to get here. They are the lowest ranked team in the group stages.
Prediction: Inter Milan and Porto proceed; Rangers go to the UEFA Cup

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