Puck's Saturday In America: Previewing the Champions League Group Stages Edition

Every now and then, you go to a wedding with old buddies and some guy you don't even know ends up being the life of the party...

By Puck

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back into the Happy Hour. Or, more appropriately- Saturday in America– where there is nothing better to do than crack open a cold one of your choosing and bask in the glory that is the mighty US of A. My apologies for bringing nothing to the table last week, but traveling back home for a wedding on a Friday afternoon makes writing a bit of a challenge. During the weekend of festivities, I had what has to be

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one of the most common wedding scenarios play out. Let me paint you a quick picture. At any wedding, one of the first orders of business is to find your assigned table at dinner and scope out the scene. It’s is always funny to see how the bride and groom have categorized you: ie–college drinking buddies, high school friends, random throw aways, etc. You never want to be the guy that gets stuck next to Great Aunt Gertrude and her dentures while the rest of your friends are having a ball ripping Patron shots at table 17. In this scenario, you are clearly the least liked of your particular contingent. In this case, my date and I were to sit with a large group of my high school buddies and their respective dates/wives. However, there was one young man sitting at our table I could not seem to place. Other people at the wedding seemed to know this guy, but everyone attending from the high school days had no Rossiing idea who this guy was. Of course being the group of jacklegs we are, we did not just ask him, but decided it would be a better idea to act like we knew him all along.

As the festivities continued, this no name wedding guest turned out to be the life of the party. He pulled all the classic wedding moves like dropping a large tip to our waiter to bring us bottles of wine and champagne when the bar was supposed to be closed, booty dancing with Grandma, and after hours hotel pool cannonballs. By the time dinner was over at 8pm, this guy had the whole table a solid 4am blackout drunk. He rounded out the evening by bringing home a mid 40’s divorcee from the townie bar we stopped by post the reception. As of this moment, my high school friends and I still have no idea who that guy was, but we’re glad he made it to the party. Who knows? Maybe he wasn’t even invited…but there he was, the BIG GUY!! There Seamus O’Toole, anyone ?

 

 

Roberto Mancini's scarf will need all its magic powers to weather the Group of Death...

For those of you with such an interest, and if you are a regular reader of “the greatest addition to the history of written language”, you certainly are, the UEFA Champions league draw was held Thursday afternoon setting up some very interesting matches in the coming months. For those of you not familiar with the format the group stage is a double round robin with each squad playing a home and away match with each group member. The top two finishers in each group move onto the round of 16 knock out stages while the 3rd place teams parachute to the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa league. The following is a quick breakdown of the groups along with who I think we will be moving on, dropping down, and going home.

Group A: Bayern Munich, Villarreal, Manchester City, Napoli

Welcome to the CL Citeh! My favorite big money squad is going to have a tough time with the matchups in this group, which is definitively the dreaded “Group of Death” . Munich is determined to start the campaign strong and send a message to the rest of UEFA as the final will be played at their home ground. Villareal, while not one of the two La Liga giants, are no slouch. And I believe they are led by a certain Giuseppe Rossing traitor who shall remain nameless. Yeah- you see what I did there. Napoli have been playing some of the most attractive attacking football in all of Europe over the last calendar year. Expect massive amounts of goals to be scored in this group, with one team going home much earlier than expected.

Moving on: Bayern, Citeh Parachute (to Europa): Napoli Adios: Villareal

Group B: Inter Milan, CSKA Moscow, Lille, Trabzonspor

Inter Milan are easily the most recognizable name in this group, but being the biggest name does not necessarily mean you are the best team. Inter will be looking to get back to 2010 championship form after a poor performance last year. CSKA Moscow will be looking for revenge against the Italians for dispatching them during the knock out rounds in 2010. Don’t sleep on the French Champions Lille making a splash.

Moving On: Moscow, Inter Parachute: Lille No chance: Trabzonspor

Man U's group looks as easy for Sir Alex as Capello's did last summer..how'd that work out?

Group C: Manchester United, Benfica, Basel, Otelul Galati

While Roberto Mancini is biting his nails over the Group A draw, Sir Alex is sitting pretty with a highball of scotch and a fine cigar after looking at his match-ups. This is clearly the easiest group in the competition, echoing the British tabloid The Sun’s sentiments when the American world cup group came out (How did that work out, England?). There’s no Team USA hidden here though, and I fully expect the Red Devils to steamroll the competition, both home and away. Although, the away match again the Portuguese studs Benfica should be one of the more interesting opening round matches. It will also be interesting to see how first time Romanian champions Otelul Galati will responded the pressure that comes with CL qualification.

Moving On: Man U, Benfica Parachute: Basel Adios: Galati

Group D: Real Madrid, Lyon, Ajax, Dynamo Zagreb

Real and Lyon back at it again. These two clubs just can’t seem to get enough of each other. Even with a tough match up against Ronaldo and company, Lyon should absolutely be favored to make it through into the knockout stages. While Ajax always puts up a gritty performance, they have really not made any noise in the tournament since the mid 90’s and I don’t expect things to change this year. I don’t know a thing about Dynamo Zagreb, but the city is beautiful.

Moving On: Real Madrid, Lyon Parachute: Ajax Thanks for coming out: Dynamo Zagreb

Group E: Chelsea, Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen, Genk

This group is really all about homecoming. Juan Mata will make an immediate return to Valencia after completing his transfer to Chelsea. The real question is, when his scores against Valencia, does he

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celebrate? Michael Ballack will also be making his return to Chelsea when Leverkusen visit Stamford Bridge. While Chelsea appears to have an easy path to the next round, the rest of the group is a mess. Genk has a roster full of players with the ability to score timely goals, but their inexperience at this level could hurt. At the same time, Valencia has the pedigree, but the loss of their best player could be devastating.

Moving On: Chelsea, Leverjusen Parachute: Genk We Miss Mata: Valencia

Group F: Arsenal, Marseille, Olympiakos, Borussia Dortmund

Parity is the word that comes to mind for this group. Simply put, any team here has the ability to beat any of its challengers on any given match day. Sure, Arsenal has the tradition and Wenger on their side, but without making some signings before mid September, the Gunners could be heading for an early exit. Marseille is bringing back nearly the same squad that just about eliminated Man U last year, and Borussia Dortmund is the defending German Champions with a roster packed with young talent, including the brilliant Mario Goetze, who is perhaps the most dynamic young player in the world (sorry, Neymar). I will be watching each Group F match day very closely. It is going to be one wild ride.

Moving on: Borussia Dortmund, Marseille Parachute: Arsenal Gyro Time: Olympiakos

Group G: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit St Petersburg, APOEL Nicosia

New Porto coach Vitor Pereira will attempt to take the club to the next level by following up last year’s Europa title with a solid performance in CL. Russian Champions St. Petersburg will challenge to win the group, but the question remains if top scorer Aleksandr Kerzhakov can keep up his furious pace.

Moving on: Porto, St. Petersburg Parachute: Donetsk Back to Cyprus: APOEL Nicosia

Group H: Barcelona, AC Milan, BATE Borisov, FC Viktoria Plzen

Finally we get to the champs. Messi, Xavi, 86th minute substitute Cesc Fabregas and the rest of the crew will easily move onto the knockout stages– the real question becomes just how many goals they score on their way. Both Barca and Italian champions AC Milan will easily move on, but the home and away matches between the two giants will be an interesting affair as each club will try to flex their muscles for the rest of Europe’s enjoyment. I do feel bad for FC Plzen. Their first time in the CL and they get both Spanish and Italian Giants. Hopefully they enjoy the sites during the away legs.

Moving On: Barca, AC Milan Parachute: BATE Borisov Good Night, and Good Luck: FC Viktoria Plzen

Being back on campus is a beautiful thing....as long as you aren't a skinny jean wearing dude...

PUCK’S FREE ADVICE:

This week’s advice is inspired by the wave of undergrads that have come back to the SWAMP for the beginning of football season. Sure, it’s great to have a bunch of young attractive women covering campus, but they are only half the story. I can tolerate frat dawgs, as I used to partake at the University of Richmond, but it is the hipsters that I cannot deal with. That said, this week’s advice is very simple: if your girlfriend wants you to wear her jeans, or any skinny jeans, for that matter, get rid of her. And have some self-respect. No one likes a self-loathing cat anyway. And by the way– Guys, no one wants to see your junk while you walk through campus, you’re not that important.

I’m on the Nightrain…sorry for partying.

Puck is the Pop Culture Guy For The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at puck@yanksarecoming.com and you should follow his musings on the USMNT, partying, Manchester City, music, film and the New York Yankees on Twitter at @PuckLovesPBR.

Filed Under: August 2011Featured

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  • Strong. Especially the free advice. Should always reiterate your Che Guevara shirt advice though… by the way– talking footie– is there an argument Germany have the 2nd best midfield in the world thanks to Goetze and Ozil? Tough to think of a better pair that don’t live in Holland or Spain– and who knows how much longer Robben-Snjeider-de Jong stays in tact…

  • Jon

    And don’t forget about Thomas Muller, dude was a couple of different bounces away from leaving South Africa with the Golden Ball, the Golden Boot, AND Iker Casillas’ girlfriend. I don’t play into the “Sami Khedira is the next Xabi Alonso” argument essentially made by Jose Mourinho, but he’s still a good player.

    I still don’t put Germany’s midfield past Holland’s; I’ll play the Jogi Low’s system card on that one, but I think your safe slotting the young Germans in at #3, and that ranking should only rise moving forward.

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