Thursday, March 17, 2011

In-Depth Champions League Draw Preview

The Rules- Unlike in the last draw, anyone can play anyone in the Quarter Finals, leaving the door open for an all Premier League or, dare I even hint at it, Real Madrid-Barcelona Quarter Final. Also, this draw sets the bracket for the Champions League semi finals, allowing fans and journalists to map out the likely conclusion to Europe's premier competition.

The Teams- 
Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Schalke 04 and Inter Milan.

The Dream Draw- 
Real Madrid-Schalke    Barcelona-Spurs               Chelsea-Shakhtar   United-Inter Milan

The Possible Story Lines- 

Jose Mourinho- The king of the sound bite has already claimed that he doesn't want Real Madrid to draw either of his former clubs (Chelsea and Inter Milan), stating that these matches are too emotional. However, from the neutral point of view, a Mourinho return to either the San Siro or Stamford Bridge would be absolutely riveting

Raul- Raul's return to form since his move to Schalke has been well documented, but no one expected him to be good enough to propel the German team to the Champions League Quarters. But in doing so, he has  raised the possibility of an emotional, and unexpected, return to the Bernabeau.

Dimitar Berbatov- Lets face it, there is no love lost between Dimitar Berbatov and the Tottenham Hotspur support. Since the Bulgarian's big money move to Old Trafford in 2008, the striker has been mercilessly booed on all his returns to White Hart Lane. However, if Spurs were to draw United in the next round, Berbatov would finally have a chance to silence his former lovers, and put Spurs' Champions League dreams to bed.

Samuel Eto'o- There is no question which team has benefited more from the Eto'o-Ibra swap in 2009. While Ibrahimovich crashed and burned at Barca, Eto'o has gone from strength to strength, winning the treble under Mourinho and starring once again this campaign. An Eto'o return to the Nou Camp, tasty.

England vs Spain- As we all know, the draw on Friday will set up the bracket for the semis, and how brilliant would it be if we were set up for one all English semi, and another all Spanish, guaranteeing us a Premier League vs La Liga clash in the final.

Champions League Power Rankings-

1. Barcelona- They're brilliant, fitting favorites.
2. Real Madrid- Best manager in the world, maybe the best player as well.
3. Manchester United- Not that good, but better than the rest.
4. Tottenham Hotspur- Bale is brilliant. Nuff said.
5. Inter Milan- Lucky to be here, they shouldn't last much longer.
6. Chelsea- Shocking on Wednesday, I can't wait until we're rid of them.
7. Shakhtar Donetsk- Exciting on the attack, but a lack of experience as well as defensive nous might do them in.
8. Schalke 04- By far the worst team in the draw, even with new coach Ralph Ragnick.

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