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Friday, July 29, 2005

Champions League Draw - Third Round Qualifiers

I am pleased that Liverpool and Everton have avoided each other in the third round draw, provided, of course, that Liverpool fend off FBK Kaunas in the 2nd leg. Expectations stated that Liverpool should do, and I feel they will, but then again AC Milan were expected to beat Liverpool, and Celtic were not expected to lose, much less so heavily.

But to have avoided our neighbours is a relief. Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry mentions that, in so many words, without the country protection afforded to the group stages, conspiracy theorists would indicate a Merseyside tie as an inevitable outcome from the draw. Not only would such a tie have had a hype-up in the media, but it would put one side out of the competition so early, which would be detrimental to English football, and I want to see all the British sides going through at least the group stages. Besides, given the sensitive issue previously about Liverpool qualifying as winners and 4th place, it was best these two did not meet at this stage.

Saying that, Liverpool could face either CSKA Sofia or Dinamo Tirana, though the Bulgarians have the 2-0 advantage. I see Sofia coming through, their European pedigree is quite strong, particularly in the UEFA Cup campaign. They played Blackburn in the UEFA Cup October 2002 and narrowly avoided victory, being 0-3 down in the 2nd leg and coming back to 3-3, Blackburn going through on away goals. Sofia have come from an almost unbeaten run last season in the Wisscha League, losing only their final game and drawing 4 times out of 30 matches.

Everton face Villarreal, who have held Barcelona during the Catalans' emergence towards the Primera Liga title, losing 9, drawing 11 out of 38 games and achieving 3rd place. Last year they went as high as the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup, losing to Dutch side AZ Alkmar 3-2, they acquired the services of a rejuvenated Diego Forlan and they have recently signed Juve defender Alessio Tacchinardi. They can provide good competition for the Toffees.

Manchester United play either Hungary's Debrecen or Croatia's Hadjuk Split. Debrencen (Debreceni VSC) lost 4, drew 5 out of 30 games last season while Hadjuk lost 8, drew 8 out of 32. The Hungarian side have the 3-0 lead for the 2nd leg and therefore seem set to progress. Now with the Premiership competition tightening up, it was a toss-up out of Chelsea, Arsenal and Man Utd as to who will be in this position, as opposed to Man Utd and Arsenal enjoying the monopoly between themselves of 1st and 2nd places almost every season. Sir Alex's preparation has gone well so far other than last night's friendly defeat, preparation which seem to have brought out the worst between Rio Ferdinand and Ruud Van Nistelrooy. With Edwin Van Der Sar in goal and his European experience to add, and Park Ji-sung in promising form, Utd have added to their campaign for a better European tour.

Champions League Third Round qualifying draw

Basle 1893 v Werder Bremen
Glasgow Celtic or Artmedia Bratislava v Partizan Belgrade or FC Sheriff
Shakhtar Donetsk v Inter
Shelbourne or Steaua Bucharest v Rosenborg
Man Utd v Debreceni VSC or Hajduk Split
Malmo or Maccabi Haifa v Dynamo Kiev or FC Thun
Everton v Villarreal
Liverpool or FBK Kaunas v CSKA Sofia or Dinamo Tirana
Sporting Lisbon v Udinese
Valerenga or FC Haka v Clube Brugge
Rapid Vienna or Dudelange v Rabotnicki or Lokomotiv Moscow
Anderlecht or Neftchi v Slavia Prague
Trabzonspor or Anorthosis v Glasgow Rangers
Brondby or Dynamo Tbilisi v Ajax
Real Betis v Monaco
Wisla Krakow v Panathinaikos



Blogger T said...

Thanks for the background stats on CSKA, Redsman. Any team that rarely gets beaten will be a tough obstacle to overcome- but Liverpool always seem to find a way when it comes to the Champs League.

Villarreal are an excellent team to watch. They have an attacking mentality; have bought out the best in Forlan(!); and in Riquelme have a real dangerman to Everton's champs league ambitions. The hope for Everton is that they will catch Villarreal cold at Goodison, and then hold on away in Spain. Given that Villarreal only lost once at home last season, Moyes needs to hype his players up to gain a lead after the first leg.

Real Betis v Monaco and Sporting Lisbon v Udinese should be excellent contests; while Inter Milan will not relish the trip to Ukraine.

I hope Betis get through to the group stages: they are another team with an attacking emphasis, and in Joaquin and Ricardo Oliveira have two players who are exciting to watch.

7/31/2005 12:22 pm

Anonymous Abdul said...

Thank you Redsman for your round up on the champions league draw. I expect Manchester United and Liverpool to progress comfortably, but I think Villareal will have a bit too much trickery and guile for Everton.

I always thought that Diego Forlan was a good player, even when he was going through tough times at Old Trafford. He had a passion for the game and a hunger which I always admired and this endeared him to the Old Trafford faithful even if his goals to shots ratio was dreadful. He's full of confidence now and Everton absolutely have to contain him and Riquelme if they are to make the CL group stage.

Redsman, I hope the spat between van Nistelrooy and Ferdinand is just that - a minor spat. But I believe Ferdinand absolutely has to sign a new contract before the new season because United need unity and commitment from all the players if they are to challenge for the title this year.

7/31/2005 4:05 pm

Blogger Skippy said...

I think Everton will not make it to the group stages. They were really unlucky to get such a tough draw.

Liverpool and United will ease into the group stages.

8/01/2005 9:53 am

Blogger SKG said...

If Everton can produce a performance like they did week in week out last season, then they may have a chance against the Spaniards. However this Villareal side is a team to watch. They might just teach Everton a few footballing lessons.

8/01/2005 1:27 pm


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