The Shempiens League knockouts start today! The tournament was meant to pit the European champions against each other, and there were several in the group stage. But now the field has been halved to 16 teams from the Big Deal European leagues, who play a home-and-away series to advance until a one-off Final is set. The surviving teams are a coupla upstarts, the usual powerhouses, and a lotta rich-kid clubs. Still, the Champions is as top as top-flight can get in the fútbol world, and the pressure the clubs face by playing on a Tuesday or Wednesday between weekend games in their countries’ league—well, it gets nervy, and meltdowns write themselves for some teams.
The knockout winners are decided on aggregate goals after two games, with the tiebreaker that no one loves: Away Goals. I like it; in case of a tie in goals, the team with more away goals–OK OK you get it; sorry. It’s a simple tiebreaker and makes for plenty bananacakes second games.
There’s a belief that hosting the second game is a great advantage to moving to the next round. Nein!, says a University of Munich statistical study. On the Away First Woo! theory, “Technical Report Number 080, 2010” states: “the naïve analysis is severely biased…
…the effect of having the return match at home cannot be separated from the teams’ performances at the group stage”.
OMG. You mean to tell me… Teams that do best… Advance?
S/O to Lemonjello
Nits to pick: the study’s from 2010 and googling for updated stuff started to feel like work. I can see one advantage in playing at home in the second game: knowing exactly the result needed to advance. A first game home draw feels like a loss, especially if the visitor bangs two goals or more. May timid bus parking home teams get shafted. LOOKING AT YOU MANU.
Here’s the games, with home team first per most glorious fútbol commie affectation:
ManUre (ENG) vs Paris St.Germain (FRA) – 2 PM Central on TNT
PSG is killin’ it in Frenz. Ten points clear at the top with two games in hand, highest scoring team with the lowest goals conceded (13). Yeah OK, Ligue 1 is like five clubs and the Washington Generals, but PSG’s 68 GOALS IN 22 GAMES is damn impressive. For this game, alas, they injured. Neymar is out, and so is Edinson Cavani. The last time Cavani was out for a big game, Uruguay lost to France 2-0 in the World Cup quarterfinals—a game memorialized in a longform I wrote about my personal tribulations. I submitted it to Navel Gazing Quarterly, and it came back with an editorial suggestion: “make impotence overt”. Pfft. Those pencilnecks can get fucked. Literally, I guess.
On 12/16/18 Liverpool [military salute] defeated ManU 3-1 and The Little One got fired. Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over and Man U has been on a scorching tear: 8 wins one draw in the Premier League. The prospect of Malcolm Glazer owning a good team with a good story is too crazy. Well, not Gigi-Buffon-in-a-French-kit crazy, but surely distressing.
Predicción: ManU 1: 1 PSG
AS Roma (ITA) vs FC Porto (POR) – 2 PM Central on B/R Live (🤷🏼♂️)
In the Primeira Liga, Porto started with 11 wins and one loss; of late, they’ve won 5 and drawn 3. Due to this loss in pace, Porto’s lead is down to one point in the Portuguese table–so prioritizing competitions is a concern. Fact loved by 2009 – Porto fields two Real Madrid legends: Íker Casillas and [spits on ground]
Roma is in 6th place in Serie A–but a point from 4th, which gets a chance for the Champions next year. So Roma can go balls out in these knockouts without much concern about keeping their standing at the Serie A table, which I think is Roma’s only intangible, X-Factor thingy. Roma is pretty blah in Italy and was a mediocre team in an awful Champions group: a Czech (Victoria Plzen), a Russian (CSKA Moscow), and Real Madrid. Not to be confused with an NRA Special: a check, a Butina, and a real pain in the ass.
Porto, howevah, won 5 and drew 1 in their shit Champions group (Schalke, Galatasaray, Lokomotiv Moscow). Yep, I trust my irmãos in swarth.
Predicción: Porto 3 : 0 Roma, three yellow cards
I’m on DVR time personally, which means pants on and notifications off mode. Stupid acceptable lifestyles. Whatever! The Champions is back.