Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Champions League Matchday 2: What's on TV Wednesday


Group B
Spartak Moscow v. Sporting Lisbon
12:25 pm EST
Setanta Premium

Sporting Lisbon enter Luzhniki Stadium in second place of the Portuguese Superliga, and high from their 1-0 victory over Inter Milan. For Spartak Moscow, who sit in third in the Russian Premier League, they will struggle to rebound from their loss to Bayern, a result that could only be likened to Barca's rout of Levski Sofia.

Sporting are co-leaders in a tough Group B, and this is a must-win in a sense for both clubs, with the Russian side hanging on for dear life and Sporting looking to earn what really are the easiest points in the group. While they played a decent first 45 minutes of their drubbing at the hands of Bayern Munich, Spartak are up against a hungry Sporting side that are making their return to CL competition after a six year absence.

Matchday 1 Results:
Bayern 4-0 Spartak Moscow [UEFA.com]
Sporting 1-0 Inter [UEFA.com]
Matchday 2 Previews:
Spartak search for Sporting lift [UEFA.com]
João Alves Up For Moscow Match [Goal.com]

Group A
Levski Sofia v. Chelsea
2:30 pm EST
ESPN2

The forces that keep Chelsea in American hearts (now recruiting fans via Sirius) give us this match in place of a cancelled baseball game.

Despite leading the Premier League and Group A, Mourinho's men face criticism for not playing perfect football, and lately, as to why Andriy Shevchenko isn't scoring any goals in domestic play. And this is where the Ukranian earns his keep, I guess, as the competition's all-time leading scorer. Michael Ballack's opened his campaign on Matchday 1, as did Michael Essien, and you can be sure Sheva will be sniffing around the six yard box for his first of the year in CL competition.

With captain John Terry set to return after a back injury, the Blues face a Levski side that were fortunate enough to attend the clinic that Barcelona was running at Camp Nou two weeks ago, and without their striker Emil Angelov. If one were to look on the bright side (really, there isn't one) for the Bulgarian champions, it'd be that after getting rollicked by last year's CL champs, then probably the same at the hands of the English champions, it can only get better. Of course, "all things relative" don't mean much when you don't get out of the group stage.

Matchday 1 Results:
Chelsea 2-0 Bremen [UEFA.com]
Barcelona 5-0 Levski [UEFA.com]
Matchday 2 Previews:
Terry set to put back trouble behind him and face Bulgarians [Guardian UK]
Mourinho confident of Shevchenko goals [Telegraph UK]

Group C
Liverpool v. Galatasaray
2:30 pm EST
Setanta Sports

In a wide open group, the 2004-05 Champions host Turskish champions Galatasary at Anfield. All four teams in Group C hold a point, seeing nil-nil draws in both games of Matchday 1. Liverpool, having come under some criticism for Rafa' s Benitez's Claudio Ranieri-esque rotation, have finally found their form in the domestic league, and history really isn't on Galatasary's side.

With the lead up for grabs, you the Reds could go up in a releatively weak group. You'd think Benitez should utilize skipper Steven Gerrard more than the 18 minutes he saw against PSV in Matchday 1.

Matchday 1 Results:
Galatasary 0-0 Bordeaux [UEFA.com]
PSV 0-0 Liverpool [UEFA.com]
Matchday 2 Preview:
Liverpool looking for goals [UEFA.com]

Group D
Shakhtar Donetsk v.Olimpiacos
2:45 pm EST
Setanta Premium

It's easy to look at this as a consolation match, kind of like the third-place game in the World Cup Finals. No offense to either side, but after conceding 4 goals in the opening Matchday 1, it's going to be difficult for both to vie for a top two finish with the likes of Valencia and Roma in their group. The fact that it's on Setanta "Premium" is a bit of an oxymoron, despite making programming sense.

While strong at home in past CL play, Shakhtar will hope World Cup winner Rivaldo will not be fit for Olimpiacos. The Ukrainian Premier League leaders will most likely face a 3-5-2 formation from Olimpiacos, with midfielder Pantelis Kafes missing after injury in Matchday 1.

Happy with a draw? Perhaps so, says Olimpiacos manager Trond Sollied. "To tell the truth, I'd be happy with a draw because we'll play at home to Shakhtar in the last game of the group stage," said the coach. "Olympiacos have never won away from home in the UEFA Champions League. But remember, everything happens for the first time at some stage." A draw may be all that this matchup deserves, but whoever loses can probably kiss their chances of reaching the knockout stage goodbye.

Matchday 1 Results:
Roma 4-0 Shakhtar [UEFA.com]
Olimpiacos 2-4 Valencia [UEFA.com]
Matchday 2 Previews:
Shakhtar Donetsk v.Olimpiacos [ITV.com]
Donetsk date of 'great importance' [UEFA.com]

Group A
Werder Bremen v. Barcelona
5:00 pm EST (delayed)
ESPN Classic
ESPN Deportes

In arguably the toughest group of this stage in the Champions League, Barcelona will attempt to duplicate their goalfest in Matchday 1 against Levski Sofia when they walk onto the pitch at Weserstadion. It's hard to see Barcelona dropping any points in the group to a Bremen side that sits currently in 8th place in the Bundesliga, despite having Miroslav Klose, Tim Borowski and Torsten Frings.

With three German internationals on the team, they aren't a weak side in the Bundesliga, but the Catalans should give them trouble. Rijkaard's boys know there's no better defense than offense, and should play fairly open. Don't expect as many goals this time around for Barca.

Matchday 1 Results:
Barcelona 5-0 Levski [UEFA.com]
Chelsea 2-0 Bremen [UEFA.com]
Matchday 2 Previews:
Barcelona's Saviola overlooked for Bremen game [Reuters India]
Motta, Thuram and Sylvinho return for Europe [FC Barcelona]

Group B
Inter Milan v. Bayern Munich (delayed)

4:45 pm EST
ESPN Deportes
5:00 pm EST
Setanta Sports

It's hard not to salivate over this one, especially with the media scrutiny that's following Roberto Mancini around. Where else but Serie A (and maybe SW5) can you win 3 and draw 1 out of 4 league games, and still read about how little time you have left in the sports pages? Despite Inter's 1-0 loss, Inter are expected to win and win big. So one can imagine how desperately Mancini wants to win this one. Unfortunately, he's without midfielder Patrick Vieira, out due to suspension, and Esteban Cambiasso, who is injured.

Bayern find themselves in a similiar position to Inter in the Bundesliga. With much expected from the Munich giants, they hold a tenous lead in an early domestic campaign. A physical, and technically gifted side, they miss England international Owen Hargreaves, but with the names on the German squad, it's hard to see them giving way easily to Inter, who are particularly leaky lately, conceding 10 goals in all competitions this season.

Bayern will look to turn around a poor run of form lately to Italian opposition, having lost on their last six trips to Italy. Coach Felix Magath promises an exciting game, "Just because we didn't win last year doesn't mean we can't go all the way this time around. We've not come to defend, we've come to play an open game." Think Mancini's nervous?

Matchday 1 Results:
Sporting 1-0 Inter [UEFA.com]
Bayern 4-0 Spartak Moscow [UEFA.com]
Matchday 2 Previews:
Inter shoulder the weight of expectation [Telegraph UK]
Inter's defeat an added bonus for Bayern - Magath [ESPN Soccernet]

Group D
Valencia v. Roma (delayed)
7:00 pm EST
Setanta Sports

Another game that'll be tough to miss, and it's essentially a mirror image of 2:45 game on Setanta Premium. With both teams having scored 4 in Matchday 1, this is definitely an early matchup of domestic league favorites, kind of a Chelsea v. Barcelona without the sound-bites and angry Portuguese.

Roma's dismantling of Shaktar was a family affair, with all four goals coming from four different players, as opposed to the majority of Valencia's goals coming from Fernando Morientes' hat trick. Valencia have to wonder if their defense, without Asier del Horno due to injury will hold up against Roma. Missing the former Chelsea back isn't great, but the Spanish side feel comfortable in the Mestella and we should see a good game late in the day tomorrow.

Matchday 1 Results:
Roma 4-0 Shakhtar [UEFA.com]
Olimpiacos 2-4 Valencia [UEFA.com]
Matchday 2 Previews:
Goals to fly when Valencia, Roma meet [SI.com]
Spaletti wants more from Roma [Sporting Life]

-bl

6 comments:

linda said...

Great preview!

Just one thing - Robert Pires plays (or in this case, isn't playing) for Villarreal, not Valencia.

soccermad said...

Right you are, Linda . . . interested in proofreading for me at all?
-bl

linda said...

Since I'm a regular reader, I might as well annoyingly nitpick everything, especially when it comes to my beloved Villarreal and Barca. :-)

soccermad said...

We're glad to have you as a regular reader, Linda . . . keep those comments coming. Now, more importantly, how did you become a Barca and a Yellow Submarine fan?

linda said...

One word, really. Argentina. I've been a loyal Albiceleste supporter for a while, but only really fell in love with the team when Riquelme was at the heart of it. Started following Villarreal because of him, fell for them because they play nice football.

Barca was a similar case - they had a few players I liked and follow at international level, watched them play, fell for their style completely. I'm just a sucker for attacking football. If any of my teams ever stop playing that way, I'd be heartbroken.

soccermad said...

AC and I are suckers for attacking footy too . . . I'd say Barca are one of the teams we typically agree on in terms of players and style. As for Villareal, it's a terrible blow for them to lose two big midfielders to knee injury; I would've like to see them around more in Europe and near the top of La Liga. Riquelme is pure class and the last of a dying breed.
-bl