Sep 18, 2012, 2:17 AM EDT
If only we had an alternate label for this very difficult group. Unfortunately, the only thing to talk about the games, starting with the day’s headline act in Madrid:
Real Madrid vs. Manchester City
Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, 2:45 p.m. Eastern
The second-biggest game of Champions League’s group stage helps kickoff the tournament proper. The biggest match will be Real Madrid’s trip to Manchester City, with greater stakes and City’s fanbase (just starting to enjoy their club’s new success) setting the stage for two of the world’s most talented and expensive teams. But given there are few atmospheres better than Madrid’s, it’s difficult to get a better start than Spain and England’s champions meeting at the Santiago Bernabeu.
|More:||Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
Because of their connections to Inter Milan (where José Mourinho succeeded Roberto Mancini after three-straight league titles), the two coaches have stolen much of the pre-match focus, a shame given the talent on the field. Each team will fill their XI with depth we usually see only three times per season: the two Clasicos (though there’ve been more lately) and the Champions League final. Thanks to City’s low UEFA coefficient (still not at the same level as their talent), we’re getting two similarly spectacular matchups in group stage.
For the first meeting, expect to see a highly motivated Real Madrid. Weekend disappointment left Mourinho publicly expressing frustration with his club’s 1-1-2 (W-L-D) start. Just as concerning is the team’s lack of goals, having scored only five times this season. Coming after weeks of concern for Cristiano Ronaldo’s emotional health, rancor off the field has given Tuesday’s meeting the feel of a must-win match for Los Merengues.
Trying to match Real’s intensity, City is likely to be shorthanded. Sergio Aguero has been out since the season opener, and while he had targeted Tuesday’s match for a possible return, the Argentine attacker is unlikely to figure at the Bernabeu. That leaves Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli (just returning from an injury of his own) to fill the space in front of Carlos Tévez.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Ajax
BVB Stadion, Dortmund, 2:45 p.m. Eastern
In theory, this should be a straight forward match for Borussia Dortmund. The two-time reigning Bundesliga champions are the more talented side, and while Ajax are champions of the Netherlands, the Eredivisie’s quality doesn’t match its reputation (it’s been five years since a Dutch team made it past group stage). If everything plays out by the book, BVB should have a comfortable night in Dortmund.
But then there’s last year, when Dortmund finished at the bottom of a group that included Arsenal, Marseille, and Olympiacos. Coming off a summer where Arsenal had lose both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasir, BVB was picked by some to win the group. Few thought Marseille would beat them out. Ultimately, BVB couldn’t even claim the third place spot that would have qualified them for Europa League.
Has anything changed this year? Against an Ajax team that has undergone major changes (but remains potent, with Christian Eriksson and Siem de Jong) it may be hard to tell. Even if BVB wins comfortably, the gap between Ajax and the group’s other members is so large, a positive result’s unlikely to tell us much.
Instead, BVB may be looking to show something more ethereal. Progress may be measured in the command and composure we see from Robert Lewandowski, Kevin Grosskreutz, Mario Götze, Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic. The young core that’s mastered the Bundesliga needs to show that expertise at the next level.
Jun 18, 2013, 12:10 AM EDT
Brazil has infrastructure concerns. They’ve also spent $3.3 billion on soccer stadia. No surprise, people aren’t happy.
Jun 17, 2013, 10:43 PM EDT
The mythology of Ajax, Dutch soccer and one stars’ struggles outside the Dutch league make this potential transfer difficult to evaluate.
Jun 17, 2013, 8:23 PM EDT
It’s only a matter of time before Ancelotti’s holding pattern’s resolved.
Jun 17, 2013, 7:39 PM EDT
It’s early days, but while City close the gap, Manchester United have yet to act.
Jun 17, 2013, 6:51 PM EDT
With a buy-out in his contract, Villas-Boas likely will be given a choice between Paris and London.
Jun 17, 2013, 5:59 PM EDT
Steve Bruce reunites with a player he brought to Wigan Athletic.
Jun 17, 2013, 5:19 PM EDT
Tahiti are a great story, but nobody wins when small countries get slaughtered by the world’s top teams.
Jun 17, 2013, 3:55 PM EDT
The U.S. midfielder has successfully completed the concussion recovery protocol:
Jun 17, 2013, 3:38 PM EDT
So just how serious are PSG? Word has it they’re ready to break the Premier League transfer record.
Jun 17, 2013, 2:21 PM EDT
“It will be difficult to leave the Rapids after growing so close to the club and the fans in Colorado,” Mastroeni said in a statement.
Jun 17, 2013, 12:49 PM EDT
If Tahiti are to score the goals will likely come from one of four Tehau family members: Lorenzo, Alvin, Teaonui or Jonathan.
Jun 17, 2013, 11:21 AM EDT
Justice has been served in Holland where six teenagers have been convicted of manslaughter for their part in kicking a linesman to death.
Three good questions for Clint Dempsey – Part III: Shunning complacency, and his second season at Tottenham Hotspur
Jun 17, 2013, 10:30 AM EDT
In the last of three parts in ProSoccerTalk’s exclusive interview, Tottenham Hotspur and U.S. international Clint Dempsey talks about expectations for his second go-round at White Hart Lane:
Jun 17, 2013, 10:26 AM EDT
You know that cute little heart sign Gareth Bale makes every time he scores a goal? It’s about to get him paid.
Jun 17, 2013, 8:07 AM EDT
Joe Kinnear, the man who drove Newcastle to relegation in 2008-09, is returning to the club as the director of football.
Jun 17, 2013, 7:30 AM EDT
In the second of three parts in ProSoccerTalk’s exclusive interview, Tottenham Hotspur and U.S. international Clint Dempsey talks a little about London and his American roots:
Jun 17, 2013, 7:19 AM EDT
“Robert will definitely be playing for Borussia Dortmund next season,” said BVB general manager Hans-Joachim Watzke.
Jun 17, 2013, 6:30 AM EDT
Big saves and red cards
Jun 16, 2013, 11:49 PM EDT
Villas-Boas, Laudrup have been linked. One makes sense, but should both show their EPL clubs loyalty?
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