- Posted by Geoff Reid
- On September 13, 2010
- 1 Comments
- 2010/11 UCL, Barcelona, Benfica, FC Twente, H. Tell Aviv, Inter Milan, Lyon, Manchester United, Panthinaikos, Tottenham, Valencia, Werder Bremen
By Geoff Reid
Finally, the best club tournament in the world is back for us all to enjoy. While the World Cup is the most popular sporting event on the planet, and the four year buildup is wonderful anticipation, right behind that comes the UEFA Champions League. Watching the draw in full from Monaco, it is obvious that the format has to be changed. Not the tournament itself, but the whole draw and having the awards being handed out during the draw. There should simply be an awards ceremony separate to the draw earlier in the summer or almost after the club season ends. Keeping the draw on the same weekend as the European Super Cup clash is still a good idea to open up the new season for both the Champions League, and Europa League.
The draw itself raised a few eyebrows, and some other giants on the continent have been drawn into the same group yet again which was not really a massive surprise. Tuesday starts us off with the opening matches from Groups A through D so lets take a closer look at the match-ups on match day one:
FC Twente vs Inter Milan from FC Twente Stadion, Enschede.
This should be a decent test for the defending champions under new manager Rafael Benitez. The former Liverpool manager has his work cut out for him trying to fill the void vacated by Jose Mourinho, but it is comforting that the Spaniard does not have to do a complete overhaul and rebuilding process like he did when he took the Anfield job six years previously. Even Mourinho took over a three time defending Serie A champion when he took the job so players like Javier Zanetti have been the nucleus of the side for many years. For Twente, the start of their first ever campaign in Europe’s top competition couldn’t be any more difficult. The Dutch club have gotten used to upsetting the odds in recent years and will go into this tie with no fear.
Werder Bremen vs Tottenham from the Weserstadion, Bremen
One very interesting match up here from Germany has a club who have been in and out of the tournament in the last few years against another club that has qualified for the first time. The Germans can count themselves a little fortunate in the third qualifying round by getting past Sampdoria when the Italian club looked to have booked their place in the group stage had it not been for last minute heroics from midfielder Markus Rosenberg. With experienced players such as Claudio Pizzaro and Torsten Frings on the club’s books should give them the right leadership in this season’s competition. For Spurs, plenty of talent on offer for Harry Redknapp although losing Jermaine Defoe to injury is a blow. What will be interesting to watch this season is how Spurs cope while playing on two fronts for the first time.
Lyon vs Schalke from the Stade de Gerland, Lyon
Lyon are a club that always seem to have a chip on their shoulder when it comes to this competition. Once again, last season they came so far to only to get knocked out in the semi finals by Bayern Munich. That run should give them confidence though, especially after knocking out a star studded Real Madrid side. Schalke should be an interesting bunch to watch because they have not had a good start to the Bundesliga season domestically. Can Felix Magath’s side put behind their league form and start well in Europe? With the addition of Real Madrid legend Raul who has done it all in this competition will be key to get out of this tight group.
Benfica vs H. Tel Aviv from Estadio do SL Benifca, Lisbon
The Portuguese giants will have their work cut out for them in this very difficult group, and if they expect to get into the knockout rounds of the competition, this is where they need to pick up three points: at home, and against the Israeli champions. That will not necessarily be an easy task, but Benfica should be expected to pick up three points in this encounter.
Manchester United vs Rangers from Old Trafford, Manchester
At one time this match would have been massively anticipated as another version of the battle of Britain. However, over the last 10 years or so the demise of Scottish football has seen what was once titanic clashes amongst clubs either side of the Anglo/Scottish border turn into a bore. This match will ultimately mean more to the Rangers fans because the Ibrox club get to test themselves against one of the world’s best teams and they just so happen to be English. The added incentive is that Sir Alex Ferguson was always a Rangers fan growing up, and fans were upset when he left Aberdeen to take the reins at United in 1986 instead of heading to Ibrox. This one should be a nice three points for the red devils.
Bursaspor vs Valencia from Ataturk Stadyumu, Bursa
The Turkish champions will be making their Champions League debut against the Spanish outfit in what should be a fantastic atmosphere. Fans in Turkey know how to get behind their sides and are some of the most passionate around. Valencia are experienced enough having been in this competition plenty of times over recent years under several different managers, and have players who have competed in the tournament. If the Spanish club come away with a point, they should be happy.
Barcelona vs Panathinaikos from Camp Nou, Barcelona
The Catalan giants come into this match the firm favorites, but the Greeks will be no pushovers, and after this past weekend, Herclues showed us that a newly promoted side can beat Pep Guardiola’s men in Camp Nou. With that result however, Barcelona will have a chip on their shoulder because Guardiola will remind them of it. Players like Lionel Messi, David Villa, Bojan Krkic and company don’t need reminding of how to finish in front of goal, but it sure looked that way on the weekend. We fully expect the Catalans to get off to a winning start in this year’s competition.
Kobenhavn vs Rubin from Parken Stadion, Copenhagen
A tie that won’t get the headlines in this group, but should be all the more intriguing nonetheless. The Danish champions are ready for another crack at the competition determined to go further and reach the knockout rounds, while last season Rubin Kazan showed they should never be underestimated in this competition which will give them confidence of proving the doubters wrong once again. After Barcelona, the other three clubs look at their chances favorably to advance. Watch this space.