Sunday, November 1, 2009

UEFA Champions League Preview: Play the H1N1 Card

By El Chupacabra

You've heard of H1N1. Maybe your household has fallen pray to its ravages. But if there's any week that would be a good week to play the H1N1 card at work (um, call in "sick" because you're sure you've got the flu de pork) it's this week. There are great UEFA Champions league fixtures both Tuesday and Wednesday, and the very best are on FSC. If you don't have the cojones to call in sick, then set your DVR and tell the wife to clear your schedule Tuesday and Wednesday night after work (take advantage of the extra hour today to earn some bonus brownie points from the little lady if need be).

Here's our picks to watch this week. Taken together, they make this one of the best weeks of the Fall thus far for fans of the beautiful game.

Chelsea at Atletico Madrid - Tuesday, Nov 3 at 2:30 FSC. Chelsea is at the top of the EPL table, Atletico is near the bottom of the La Liga standings. Atletico is at the bottom of the group standings in Group D in the Champions League with a mere one point, and Chelsea is on top with nine. On the face of it, this is an abject mismatch. But Atletico has their backs to the wall, and Chelsea is flying to Madrid for a midweek match after playing on Saturday. Atletico needs a win to have any chance of surviving the group stage, and they need a win to turn their season around and avoid the embarrassment of relegation. This should be a tough match for Chelsea, and some very enjoyable football.

Real Madrid at AC Milan - Tuesday, Nov 3 at 2:45 (Live on FSE and Delayed until 7:00 on FSC). If this is the only match you catch this week, catch it. Ronaldo's still out and AC beat Madrid in Madrid in their first meeting. Both teams have six points in the group and both could use a positive result. This a tough group, with Marseille and Zurich lurking closely to the leaders and looking to find their way through. As Dr. Bumba is found of saying, this is "cracker jack" football at its best. Both teams need a win. Watch it. Do it.

Barca at Rubin Kazan - Wednesday, Nov 4 at 12:30 (Live on FSC). Rubin Kazan currently sits atop of the table in the Russian Premier League. Barca is Barca. Rubin Kazan shocked Barca two weeks ago at Camp Nou, embarassing the reigning UEFA Champions League Champions, Spanish La Liga Champions, and Spanish King's Cup holders. We consider Group F to be the toughest Group in the competition, with Barca, Inter, Rubin Kazan and the Dangerous Dynamo all vying to get through to the next stage. We look for Barca to come prepared but they are facing a long trip, midweek, to play a foe at home who has proven they can play with the best in the world. This should be a great match. We expect Barca to be motivated and prepared to play their very best. If they do, you will see the beautiful game at its absolute finest.

Liverpool at Lyon - Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:30 (Live on FSC). Liverpool is on their back, having lost last week to Arsenal in the Carling Cup and on Saturday to Fulham. Who knows? Benitez could be sacked before this match even starts. Needless to say, the Scousers need a win to salvage their chances in the Champions League and to turn their season around. There's too much money on the pitch when the Reds hit the turf for upper management to continue to tolerate mediocre play. Liverpool is not Fulham, nor are they Villa. In other words, playing only asbwell as the latter two clubs is unacceptable for one of richest clubs in the world. Expectations among fans and haters alike are higher than Benitez' squad has yet achieved this year. But enough about the Reds.

Lyon is in second place in Ligue 1, and on top of the Group with nine points. This is a tough group as well, as Fiorentina is a solid squad, with a dynamic international striker in Gilardino. If you know nothing about Lyon but hate (or love) Liverpool, this should be a good match to watch. Liverpool will push hard to earn three points away as a loss will put them face to face with being eliminated in the group stage.

There are other fine matches, such as Stuttgart at Sevilla. But if you're picking your spots and have a busy week, you could do much worse than to catch one or two of the above fixtures as you wait for Friday's Crew match against RSL. C-Bus 'till I die.

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