Wait until next year

Putting off what could be done tomorrow, today

Tag: champions league

Liverpool’s season: A post-mortem

Premier League trophyI was just listening to some of tonight’s Manchester City/Tottenham Hotspur game, where both sides are fighting for the fourth spot in the Premier League and the place in next season’s Champions League that comes with it. As a Liverpool supporter facing a Champions League-free 2010/11 season, I began to think that should be us.

Then I realised that no, it really shouldn’t be us. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Late, late shows in Champions League

This blog seems to have had a certain bee in its bonnet about stoppage time, with one post, on Manchester United, injury time and the need for reform, proving a popular one.

So, it was interesting to look through last night’s Champions League results and see so many late goals.

In eight games, there were four goals in injury time. Those for Atletico Madrid and Manchester United (them again!) were game-changing.

In total, 12 goals out of the 26 scored in those games took place after the 80th minute. By my rudimentary calculations, that’s over 46 per cent of goals scored in the final stages.

So what does this mean? Without any statistics for games generally as a ‘control’, it’s hard to say for sure. But why let that stop us speculating? Tiredness must be a factor. Games will often open up as they reach their conclusion. A losing side, such as Atletico or United, will push more in the final moments. A side doing particularly well, like Marseille last night, might knock in a few more goals. Maybe this happens more in the Champions League, as qualification is in sight?

Either way, this tiny sample of games shows how important fitness and concentration is, right up to the final whistle. It also shows how important injury time can be to the result of a game, or even to a team’s goal difference. Too important to just leave to the referee, I’d suggest.

There may well be more late, late shows tonight.

Liverpool are one particular exponent of pulling something out of the fire late on. I do, however, wonder if this is one ‘must win’ game too far? I’m not sure pinning your hopes on an injured Torres is the best idea, but then again, even an injured Torres is better than 95 per cent of strikers in the world. If he plays, that is. Here’s hoping…

Champions League draw – initial thoughts

So, here’s yesterday’s draw:

Group A: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Bordeaux , Maccabi Haifa

Group B: Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Besiktas, Wolfsburg

Group C: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Marseille, FC Zurich

Group D: Chelsea, Porto, Atletico Madrid, Apoel FC

Group E: Liverpool, Lyon, Fiorentina, Debreceni

Group F: Barcelona, Internazionale, Dynamo Kiev, FC Rubin Kazan

Group G: Sevilla, Rangers, VfB Stuttgart, Unirea Uriziceni

Group H: Arsenal, AZ Alkmaar, Olympiakos, Standard Liege

It was certainly good to see some new (and unusual) names make it into the Champions League draw, but beyond that, at first glance, I’m not sure there is that much to get overly excited about. A common criticism of the Champions League group stage is that it reduces the chance of an upset, as over the course of six games the bigger teams will generally prevail, unlike in a straight knockout tournament. While arguably this ensures the best teams go through, it does make things rather predictable. What’s a cup tournament without a few underdogs making progress?

This draw looks even more predictable than in previous years (although I may well be proved wrong in time!). The British teams in particular seem to have got off lightly, and over the course of six games should progress, or will need to have some very good excuses up their sleeve if they don’t.

The non-British groups probably throw up the most interesting ties, Bayern Munich/Juventus, Milan/Madrid and Inter/Barca, and so perhaps offer the best chance for a third or fourth seed to sneak through if one of the big guns lose twice to a top seed and then drop points elsewhere. However, the top two seeds in each group do look very strong favourites to go through.

However, despite this negativity, I’m still quite looking forward to the group stages. In some ways it works to have a more low-key opening to a tournament, before the heat and action of the later stages. Plus, seeing what some of the new faces can do will be fun, and European football on telly is always a good thing. Even with Sky’s ridiculous hype.

Liverpool Champions League winners 2005 – Where are they now?

I was surprised to read in the coverage of Xabi Alonso’s transfer to Real Madrid, that his departure from Liverpool left only Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher as the only 2005 Champions League winners still on Liverpool’s books.

So, I thought I’d explore what happened to the rest, to coin a phrase – “Where are they now?”

Jerzy Dudek

Alonso will see a familiar face at Real in Jerzy Dudek, who moved there at the end of the 2006/7 season. He hasn’t played much, with Iker Casillas the regular ‘keeper and hard to displace.

Steve Finnan

Steve moved to Espanyol in September last year, in an unlikely transfer, but is now back in England, having signed a one-year contract with Portsmouth.

Jamie Carragher

Still very much a key figure at Liverpool.

Sami Hyypiä

After ten years at Liverpool Sami moved to Bayer Leverkusen this summer, but has suggested that he may well return in the future in a coaching capacity.

Djimi Traoré

Djimi has been something of a journeyman since leaving Liverpool in the summer of 2006, playing for Charlton, Portsmouth, Birmingham (on loan), and recently signed a two-year deal with AS Monaco.

Xabi Alonso

As previously mentioned, moved to Real Madrid this week.

Luis Garcia

Scored that goal to send Liverpool to the final, and seemed to have a knack for scoring crucial goals. He moved to Atlético Madrid in 2007, but has failed to establish himself as a first-team regular.

Steven Gerrard

Chelsea couldn’t tempt him away – and has stated that he’s likely to finish his career at Liverpool.

John Arne Riise

Riise moved to Roma last summer, and scored against both Inter and AC Milan last season.

Harry Kewell

The man fated to get injured in Champions League finals moved to Galatasaray last summer, a controversial move with fans of his old club Leeds, as he had been a Leeds player when two of their fans had been killed prior to a UEFA Cup semi-final with Galatasaray in 2000.

Milan Baroš

Milan left Liverpool in August 2005, soon after the Champions League win. He is another journeyman of sorts, playing for Aston Villa, Lyon and Portsmouth, before joining Galatasaray last summer, finishing up top scorer in the Turkish league.

Substitutes:

Dietmar Hamann

The substitution that perhaps turned that final around. In 2006, after backing off from a deal with Bolton, Didi signed with Manchester City. This summer he was released by City, but there have been reports of him signing with Preston North End, or QPR.

Djibril Cissé

Cissé went on loan to Marseille in July 2006, signing with them permanently a year later. Last season he went on loan again, this time to Sunderland, and in June signed with Panathinaikos.

Vladimír Šmicer

Vladi knew the final would be his last match in a Liverpool shirt, and would move to Bordeaux that summer. In 2007 he returned to his first club, Slavia Prague, but has been plagued with injuries.

So, interesting (I think anyway) to look at where these players ended up. Arguably nobody has gone onto bigger and better things. Is that just down to bad luck and bad decisions? Or were these a reasonably limited group of individuals who worked so much better as a team – the whole being better than the sum of the parts? Being sentimental here, but maybe Istanbul really was a miracle…