It’s been a while since three of four English clubs playing the Champions League face elimination before the last game in the group stage. Manchester United’s tie at the “Theater of Dreams” against Benfica and Manchester City’s loss in Napoli might have just set the stage for a bad awakening.
With Chelsea facing a “deciding” match at Bayer Leverkusen, they might just join the club. What’s the situation? Manchester City is already in the terrible situation that they completely depend on help from others. In other words, besides of winning their own game against Bayern Munich, they also need a Villareal win, or at least a tie, against Napoli. Tall order. City looks like they continue in the Europa League for the rest of the season.
Manchester City has an advantage. They can manage moving on on their own. They just need to win in Basel in order to be sure to advance. There is a pretty high chance that United is going to do so. However, there is a real chance that they might continue in the Europa League as well. Basel already snatched 3 points from United, in the “Theater of Dreams”.
Chelsea is a group with Leverkusen, Valencia and Genk. A Valencia win against Genk tomorrow and a Leverkusen win against Chelsea will leave the English 1 point down of Leverkusen and tied with Valencia. The last game in that group is Valencia at Stamford Bridge. And there, “the grapes are not hanging that high anymore”.
There is a lot of theory in this “speculation”. However, in the past years, there weren’t many moments when the English clubs were subject to such discussion. This fact alone leaves a lot of space for discussion.
It is usually agreed on that the Barclay’s English Premier League is the strongest league in the world. It might be wise to start reconsider that and possibly, like in the business world, just downgrade a notch: The top four in England are top European contenders. It is certainly not more at this point, even if they still all advance.
Posted in Soccer
Tagged Barclay's English Premier League, Basel, Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Champions League, Chelsea, Europa League, Genk, Manchester City, Manchester United, Napoli, Theater of Dreams, Valencia, Villareal
The past weekend clarified the question who is going to win the championship in the German Bundesliga. With Dortmund winning in Leverkusen, one of the main rivals in the race, the cake is considered eaten. Especially since Bayern Munich couldn’t win their game in Wolfsburg. With the major question answered, the 17 others are now playing for position.
There are two spots for the champions league (one of them for the qualifier) and two spots for the Europe league . Not to forget, relegation is a headache for quite a number of clubs. While predictions are difficult to make (see my blog from 01/14/2011, “Bundesliga is back”), I am going to try this again and claim that Bayern Munich is taking 2nd place. They are, despite all the troubles, stronger than the rest and in the long run will distance themselves from the others. I do not believe that Hannover and Mainz will be able to stay in the top three. They will fight and will give Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen a run for the money, however, I just don’t see them hanging in there on 2nd and 3rd place. If you want to hear why, I think experience, or lack thereof, will be the reason. So, Bayern second and Leverkusen 3rd is my opinion. Even I won’t make a prediction for 4th and 5th place. That one is too open. There are some teams luring in midfield and deep midfield, they will have a say as well.
Beside of playing for position, Bayern Munich is busy to work on the roster for the future. In Wolfsburg they played with Kraft in goal and I am sure there will be some other change for the rest of the season. One of the “pending players” is van Bommel. While he recently was in talk with Wolfsburg, it now seems that Liverpool has an interest in the Dutch international. It is no secret that van Bommel is not on the list for the future at Bayern. So for the Dutch, Liverpool would be an awesome opportunity. On whether this transfer is going to happen or not , we will have to see during the next days. My comment on that, don’t do it Bayern. Champions league is coming up and you will need van Bommel.
This weekend the Bundesliga is coming back from hibernation. Let’s see who took advantage of the short nap. According to the experts, the championship is already decided and Borussia Dortmund can get ready for the celebrations. Well, not so fast. “The ball is round” as they say in Germany. “You never know in what direction that thing rolls”. Important for the outcome will be today’s match between Leverkusen and Dortmund and Bayern’s game in Wolfsburg tomorrow. Leverkusen and Bayern wins will open up new views.
In Munich the officials and players state they will be ready, if Dortmund shows weakness. I am sure they will do more than be ready in order to force the issue. Get ready for some mind games out of the Bavarian capital. While Bayern is 14 points(!) behind, they have nothing to lose and it is easy to operate from that position .
Today, Dortmund starts the second part of the season in Leverkusen. They are “only” 10 points behind Borussia. A Bayer win today will be the key to an open competition. Not much to hear out of Leverkusen. They prepare and get ready without any verbal actions towards anyone. Ballack is back on the roster, however, as it looks like, he will have to take a seat on the bench. It is interesting to recognize that it seems no one really looks at Bayer as the main hunter of Borussia. For Bayer’s purpose today, that is a good thing.
Back to Bayern. As always, the press is busiest in Munich and the club always finds ways to stay interesting. Goalie change, Demichelis left, lots of talk around van Bommel, and, Robben is back. It is also reported that there will be a new Ribery. Whatever that means. 5th in the table, 14 points behind and still “the club” in Germany. Well, Robben is important. It will also be important on how the goalie change, Kraft for Butt, will play out. While the Bayern are eager to stay in the competition, a weakness in goal can be expensive. If they don’t make it into the first three, they must win the champions league in order to be in big business next year. Not to be in is a problem in Munich. For Bayern fans it is important that van Bommel will finish the season in Munich. And to be honest, I believe he is the most important player there, right next to Schweinsteiger.
It is three hours before the Leverkusen – Dortmund game and it is time for a prediction. Leverkusen will win, Bayern will win. That will give the Bundesliga an incredible boost and we will see a very interesting second part of the season. Watch!