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Legendary keeper Peter Schmeichel offers surprise UEFA Champions League picks

Dec 19, 2012, 5:30 PM EDT

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Some interesting thoughts from former Manchester United great Peter Schmeichel. It’s probably no coincidence that the man getting the answers is CNN International’s Pedro Pinto. He was the same reporter who not only obtained a sit down with Cristiano Ronaldo last month but also got the Real Madrid attacker to talk about his image problems.

Today, on the eve of the UEFA Champions League knockout stage draw, Pinto talks to Schmeichel about what it takes to have success in Europe’s premier club competition. For the 1999 Champions League winner, you always have to look at three clubs, though he does offer a surprise pick to win this year’s competition:

Thoughts:

  • On Schemeichel’s big three: Barcelona’s a given. With Manchester United  struggling so much in last year’s competition, it’s weird to consider them as part of a big Champions League anything. But you look at their track record relative to other teams, and it makes sense. It wasn’t so long ago they won in Moscow, and they’ve been to two finals since. Real Madrid, on the other hand, has not had much recent success despite back-to-back semifinal appearances. They do have nine European Cups to their credit, but Milan and Liverpool are also highly decorated. Maybe there is no big anything. It’s just a bunch of teams with varying levels of success.
  • On the formula to beating Barcelona: Chelsea usually gets credit for this, but it was actually Manchester United, one year before the Tom Henning Ovrebo controversy at Stamford Bridge, who supplied the blueprint so many teams have since used. United went to the Nou Camp and played aggravatingly tight and boring (earning their 0-0) only to get a long distance blast early in leg two from Paul Scholes. United went on to Russia and won the title.
  • On this year’s potential champion: It’s difficult to make a case against Dortmund that doesn’t require a thesaurus worth of synonyms for inexperienced. Let’s just skip it and note should they or Real Madrid win, we’ll have another season where the Champions League winner isn’t an actual league champion. Let’s just hope each team finishes higher than sixth.