Anorak News | Champion Stuff

Champion Stuff

by | 29th, August 2003

‘“FASCISTS and Commies” was the verdict of the Arsenal fan sitting to my left as the Champions League draw was made, grouping the Gunners with Inter Milan, Dynamo Kiev and Lokomotiv Moscow.He’s leant nothing from recent history in which Russian Roman Abramovich has spent enough to make the most strident capitalist flush green with envy. And Kiev is an enlightened city these days.

As is the Nezzaurri part of Milan, which boasts an exotic mix of Columbians, West Africans and Turks to go with the Argentines, Italians and French.

The Champions League is no time for anachronism. The expansive game has its natural home in a tournament that chops and changes each year, inviting this time the chance of lesser teams from less glamorous countries to progress by way of knock-out.

Whether they can is a big if.

As it stands the favourites look to have a pretty clear passage to round two. But there are no guarantees – something Manchester United will be all too aware off as they line up against Glasgow Rangers.

This is not the tie Manchester wanted. They are undoubtedly the better side on paper – and of all the British teams involved it is the Red Devils who possess the credentials to progress far into the tournament – but an all-British tie is always dangerous.

Of the others in United’s Group E, Panathinaikos have some appallingly behaved fans and a pretty mediocre side. United will beat them and do the same to the prosaic talents of VfB Stuttgart.

Chelsea are another thing entirely. They have done well in the draw. Lazio are not as mighty as they think they are; Sparta Prague are neat, efficient but ultimately limited; and Besiktas just provide a nasty trip away for the fans and a home win.

The feeling is that Chelsea can progress if they perform well at home. Much the same can be said of Arsenal, who cannot be relishing the prospect of playing two away games on rock-hard pitches.

But if anything can be gained from experience, the Gunners and United should progress. Chelsea would do well to forget about their last European adventures.

As I said, this is not the time to be looking backwards…’

Posted: 29th, August 2003 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink