September 12, 2006
Champions League Matchday 1 Preview: Part 2
Dynamo Kiev v. Steaua Bucharest – The Ukrainian side is coming off a 1-1 draw at Metalurg Donetsk on Saturday which dropped them to second in the Vyscha Liga table. While they did make a run to the semifinals in 1999, a lot has changed since then. Shevchenko is long gone and Rebrov is a shadow of his former self after a move to Spurs ruined him.
Steaua go in as underdogs, but no one should be surprised if they do well in a winnable match. Constantin Dica’s late goal at Arges kept Steaua two points behind bitter rivals Dinamo after the weekend’s action.
Lyon v. Real Madrid – The Lyon dynasty continues as they now find themselves second in Ligue 1 on goal difference after Saturday’s 2-0 win over Troyes. Brazilian duo Cris and Juninho were on the scoresheet for the OL, who look to make this the year they finally make a significant impact in the Champions League.
The Galaticos were on song in Sunday’s 4-1 destruction of Levante. Ruud van Nistelrooy scored three of those and missed from the spot as well. The Dutchman always seems to find the net in every Champions League match he plays, and I expect this to be no different.
FC Kobenhavn v. Benfica – The two-time Royal League champions face a much harder challenge in the two-time European Champions. The Lions 100 percent start to the season was ended by AaB two weeks ago, and they now find themselves fifth in the SAS-Ligaen.
Benfica would normally be considered heavy favorites, but a 3-0 defeat to Boavista in their last match changed that. They now find themselves in the relegation zone, albeit after just one league match. Fernando Santos, in his sixth managerial job in five years, has a record of bringing success…immediately after he leaves.
Manchester United v. Celtic – The Red Devils are enjoying their best ever start to a season in the Premiership after a 1-0 win over Spurs on Saturday. The question is not whether they win, but by how much.
Celtic have already conceded defeat in press conferences during the week. A 1-0 win at Aberdeen did little for their belief. Shunsuke Nakamura was especially critical of the tactics which he thought relied too heavily on long balls to Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink.
Porto v. CSKA Moscow – Porto won their second match of the season 3-0 over Estrela Amadora. The two-time winners are coming off a double winning season in Portugal, and they may be capable of making another run deep into the competition.
The Armymen won the UEFA Cup two seasons ago, and are, quite frankly, loaded with cash. They failed to shut the door on the Russian Premier League title race after they were held by Spartak Moscow at home on Saturday.
Hamburg v. Arsenal – Hamburg have yet to win this season, and their only defeat was in extra time of DfB Pokal matchup with Regionalliga side Stuttgarter Kickers last weekend. Optimism is not very high for a home win at the AOL Arena.
The Gunners’ only wins this season were notched against Dinamo Zagreb in the Third Qualifying Round, and without the services of Thierry Henry it may be much more difficult to take the three points.
Milan v. AEK Athens – A win in their opener over strugglers Lazio moved Milan six points clear of the relegation zone in Serie A. They only find themselves in this competition because the FIGC did not give them enough of a points penalty from last season, but they probably realized what would happen on appeal anyway. Milan are the clear favorites by the way.
AEK have extra motivation to do well in the Champions League because the final is being hosted in their home stadium. Martin Albano Putasso’s late equalizer kept AEK unbeaten in the National League, but they find themselves in 11th.
Anderlecht v. Lille – Perennial Champions League whipping boys Anderlecht find themselves in a much easier group than they could have imagined. Plus, they are the only team in the group that did not have to go through the qualifying rounds. However, they dropped to second in the Jupiler League after they threw two points away at Mouscron.
Lille are coming off of woeful draw at Nantes on the weekend and one begins to wonder if this team has come as far as it will go. Peter Odemwingie is currently topping the Ligue 1 scoring table with five goals, and he will probably score in this fixture.