Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Champions' League Update

Fifteen years ago, I used to watch a lot of European soccer.  But since then, I've largely stopped.  Why?  Because most of the games are literally meaningless.  The F.A. Cup, which I loved, is now mainly an opportunity for the top teams in England to play back-up squads, at least until they reach the quarter-finals.  The English League is usually decided by the middle of March.  (This year's winner will be Manchester City, for the second year in a row.)  The other big European leagues are usually decided long before that.  In Germany, for example, Bayern Munich has won every league title since 2012 -- and they are in first place again this year.

So the only time you can see really meaningful soccer these days is in the UEFA Champions' League.  Even here, there are only a few teams that could actually win it all.  Here's a list of winners since we started this blog:

2011:  Barcelona (ESP)
2012:  Chelsea (ENG)
2013:  Bayern Munich (GER)
2014:  Real Madrid (ESP)
2015:  Barcelona (ESP)
2016:  Real Madrid (ESP)
2017:  Real Madrid (ESP)
2018:  Real Madrid (ESP)
2019:  Liverpool (ENG)
2020:  Bayern Munich (GER)
2021:  Chelsea (ENG)

So there's not a whole lot of drama in the Champions' League.  But at least everyone is really trying to win, and you don't get the same winner every single year.

As you probably know, there are months and months of games in the Champions' League to eliminate dozens of small clubs with no real chance.  For example, this year -- for the tenth year in a row -- the Bulgarian champion was Ludogorets Razgrad.  In June 2021, they eliminated Shakhtyor Soligorsk (the champion of Belarus) 2-0 in the first qualifying round.  Then in July, Ludogorets defeated Mura (the champion of Slovenia) 3-1 in the second qualifying round.  But in the third qualifying round, in August, Ludogorets was defeated by Olympiacos (the champion of Greece) 3-3 (4-1 on penalty kicks).  Anyway, you get the picture.  Lots of little teams get knocked out, and now we are down to the Round of 16.  And so, for the first time all year, important teams are playing truly meaningful games.

Here are the matchups in the round of 16:

Red Bull Salzburg (AUT) v. Bayern Munich (GER)
Sporting CP (POR) v. Manchester City (ENG)
Benfica (POR) v. Ajax (NED)
Chelsea (ENG) v. Lille (FRA)
Atletico Madrid (ESP) v. Manchester Utd (ENG)
Villareal (ESP) v. Juventus (ITA)
Inter Milan (ITA) v. Liverpool (ENG)
Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) v. Real Madrid (ESP)

Anyway, they play two games (one at each team's home park) with the winner being the team with the most goals over both legs.  (I think they have eliminated the away goals rule, but I'm not sufficiently motivated to look it up).  The Round of 16 will be completed by March 16.

To be honest, I wouldn't advise you spending a lot of time on the Round of 16, except for the match between PSG and Real Madrid.  (PSG won the first leg 1-0 yesterday), and the one between Inter Milan and Liverpool, who are playing on CBS right now.  You should wait and tune in for the quarter-finals, because that's when the drama will really start.


  1. 1st leg scores so far (home teams listed first):

    Red Bull Salzburg 1 - 1 Bayern Munich
    Sporting CP 0 - 5 Manchester City
    Inter Milan 0 - 2 Liverpool
    Paris Saint-Germain 1 - 0 Real Madrid

    In a two-leg match, the higher-seeded team gets to play the second game at home. So the favorites were on the road for these games. Liverpool and Manchester City are in the lead already, and Bayern Munich is tied, so they should all three advance without too much drama. Real Madrid has more work to do, and PSG has been dangerous in this tournament lately.

  2. The other round of 16 matchups start next week.

  3. #Breaking: Chelsea (back-ups, presumably) 1, Crystal Palace 0. This Premier League match just finished live on USA Network while I was await resumption of coverage of Beijing 2022, which is not over.

    1. No, they play the real starters in the Premier League, because they need to finish in the top four to qualify for next year's Champions' League. Man City was upset today, so that top of the table looks like this:

      1. Man City: 20-3-3 (63 points)
      2. Liverpool: 17-2-6 (57 points)

      Liverpool is playing well right now, so the Reds still have a chance.