Thursday, December 11, 2008

What has two legs and ends at Anfield?

It's the round of 16 in the Champions League, and the draw is next Friday, Dec. 19. Before getting into what team Liverpool might end up drawing, let's pause and remember this:

OK, on with the show:

• Inter – Mourinho magic, baby. That's all there is to say. Liverpool took Inter out of the competition last year, and I would feel good about the Reds' chances again this season. But the hype and excitement from the pre- and post-match press conferences with Mourinho and Rafa jabbing at each other would be outstanding. I miss Mourinho. He's like the little dog that nips at your heels, thinking he's a big, imposing Great Dane: Kind of cute amid his own delusions.

• Atletíco – Would be worthwhile only to finally, hopefully get the Torres v. Aguero duel everybody hoped for in the group stages. Unfortunately, Atletíco scares me as a matchup for Liverpool because those games were tight. Could be rough.

• Sporting Lisbon – Don't know anything about these guys, except for that Lisbon is a city in Portugal. Does Sporting still have that Ronaldo character? I kid. I don't like it when Liverpool plays teams from Portugal.

• Villarreal – Away to Villarreal is one of the most imposing fixtures in Europe. Unless the first leg got really out of hand, I think Liverpool would end up OK in the end with this matchup. Dropping the first one 1-2, even, would probably be fine.

• Lyon – This could be loads of fun because Bayern Munich destroyed Lyon in the final group stage match before Lyon came back late to make the scoreline look respectable. Another great striker duel would be up here: Torres v. Benzema. The Frenchman is pure class, so, as I said with Inter, the pre- and post-match hype and reaction would make things fun.

• Real Madrid – Loads of senseless "Benitez for Madrid?" hype would come with this, but it's always juicy when two titans of European club football get together for a scrap. Honestly, Madrid worries me now that they've dumped Schuster and brought on Ramos. It seems like a previous decade when it was true, but Juande Ramos was not that long ago the shiniest star in European management. His Sevilla played the most attractive football in La Liga for a couple years. Of course, Dani Alves will bolster any manager's résumé, but Ramos could rally the troops at the Bernebeau.

In the end, give me Villarreal or Madrid, maybe even Lyon. Those are the ties I think would work best for Liverpool. Inter would be fun, but there's the revenge factor with last year being part of it. Atletíco presents loads of problems, and Sporting is such an unknown and wild card that I could see Liverpool slipping up there.

Oh, also, here's hoping Man U or Chelsea draws Barça. Throw 'em to the lions, I say.

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