Monday, September 13, 2010

Barca Back to Champions League

Now that the World Cup is over, the Next Big Thing in international association Football gets cranked up:  the UEFA Champions League.  According to Didier Deschamps, "Without doubt or hesitation, this is the most beautiful of all competitions."  For those of you who are not familiar with UEFA, it stands for the Union of European Football Associations, and is comprised of the national soccer associations of pretty much every European country, plus also Turkey and Israel.  The Champions Leage, as the name suggests, is a tournament comprised of the National Champions of each member Federation and also the second-place and sometimes third-place finishers from the strongest European leagues.  As a consequence, the UEFA Champions League competition is one of the most-watched sporting events not only in Europe, but around the world.

Not surprisingly, FC Barcelona returns once more to the Champions League, beginning competition tommorrow (Tuesday September 14) with an opening-round match against Greek side Panathinaikos.  With three UEFA Champions League titles to its credit, Barsa is among those elite Eurpoean clubs who have previously won this tournament.  Currently Barsa is two championships away from the five-title requirement established by UEFA, for League winners to keep the trophy (after which a new trophy is commissioned).  In the 50 year history of UEFA, only Real Madrid, AC Milan and Liverpool have achieved this lofty distinction.

This year's tournament features no less than six clubs who are new to this competiton:  Eredivisie Champions FC Twente from the Netherlands; Tottenham Hotspur from England; Hapoel Tel Aviv from Israel; SC Braga from Portugal; MSK Zilina from Slovakia; and Bursapor from Turkey.  I think its great to have more "fresh blood" in this competion--so often, it seems like the same clubs are in the tournament. 

This year, Barsa is in Group 'D' along with FC Rubin Kazan from Russia, Panathinaikos, and FC Kobenhavn from Denmark.  I predict that Barsa will sweep the group stage and advance to the round of 16.  After that... we shall see.

So good luck to Barsa!  The UEFA Champions League Final for this year (2010-2011) will be Saturday, May 28 2011 at Wembley Stadium in London.  Go Barsa!!!