Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Europe 2009: A pre-preview of the knockout stages

Liverpool are through at the top of their group, and despite matches yet to come today, it's fairly clear who the Reds have a chance of facing in the knockout stages. Here's who is out there as a potential matchup before the group stages finish later today:

• Inter
• Atletíco
• Sporting Lisbon
• Porto
• Villarreal
• Lyon
• Bayern Munich
• Juventus
• Real Madrid

1. Inter, Atletíco and Sporting are locked into second position in their groups.
2. Porto is not favored to pass Arsenal in their group, so they'll likely remain a possibility.
3. Lyon/Bayern and Juve/Real Madrid could go either way today, so it's difficult to think too much about them as possible Liverpool opponents.
4. Country protection prevents Liverpool from facing Chelsea, Arsenal or Man U. The last two are longshots to somehow end up in second position in their groups; Chelsea, of course, is already there.

OK, now the fun stuff. For pure ease of advancement, there is no clear preferred choice. Mourinho at Inter would love to face Liverpool, I'm sure. That would be a riot. The Special One and Rafa getting it back on with the war of words and outfront enmity for each other. I also, personally, would get a huge kick out of a matchup with Juventus. I still remember before the second leg in 2005 during the round of eight,'s lead story in the hours before the match bore the headline: "Turin waits in fear." All sorts of history and importance comes with a Liverpool/Juve pairing.

I would prefer not to face Villarreal, Sporting or Porto. Liverpool would enter those matchups clear favorites, but they are extremely tricky sides to tussle with over two legs. The Portuguese clubs, in particular, give Liverpool fits all over the pitch. Something about their unknown quantities, perhaps, lull the supporters and perhaps the players, too, into false senses of confidence.

Lyon possibly could be a bit of a break for Liverpool, but Bayern Munich, if completely healthy, would prevent significant challenges. The local Germans down at the bar, though, would be up for it and it'd be a lot of fun here where we drink and get caught up in things.

It'll all shake out later, of course. I believe the draw is early Friday morning, local time.

No comments: