The rich get richer, the strong become stronger, while the poor get poorer. That seems to be how football works these days as
But some of the unfancied sides in this season’s Champions League refused to follow the script.
The biggest shock of all so far has been
But even then, with the club’s pedigree, an experienced manager like Rafa Benitez and some of the best players in the world at his disposal, you would think that they could at least push their qualification hopes until the last matchday.
Juventus were equally abysmal all round, and they splashed out to sign the likes of Felipe Melo and Diego. They only managed two wins in Group A, both unconvincing 1-0 victories over the poorest side in the section, Maccabi Haifa. The Old Lady were still expected to qualify for the knockout stage at the expense of another behemoth, Bayern Munich, but their miserable campaign was compounded when they were demolished 4-1 at home by the Bavarians, despite needing only a draw… despite scoring first.
Diego shields his eyes away from Juve's horror show
Fiorentina, the “fourth” team in Serie A last term, are the ones who are providing all the thrills from
The Russians are also leading a resurgence of their own. Rubin Kazan have become one of the darlings of the competition this campaign after shocking mighty Barcelona not once but twice, first winning at the Camp Nou before holding the reigning European kings to a stalemate at home. Not many teams in the world can prevent Lionel Messi and co. from scoring.
Barca could yet join
Stylish Mou and Pep have failed to turn on the style
CSKA Moscow, meanwhile, came close to upsetting Manchester United at Old Trafford, but quietly flew under the radar after an opening day setback against
Speaking of the devil, United haven’t been all that convincing either. After escaping embarrassment at home against CSKA, they did eventually stumble in their own backyard on Matchday Five against Besiktas, although Sir Alex Ferguson fielded his version of “the kids” having already bagged qualification to the next phase.
Romanian fairytale side, Unirea Urziceni are on the verge of becoming the only competition debutants this season to qualify for the last 16. They might not have had the toughest of groups, but when you consider that they have only ever been playing in
Even Arsenal were in a spot of bother. In fact, they were caught between a rock and something else altogether five minutes into the tournament after going behind 2-0 at Standard Liege, only to crawl back to win 3-2. But on Matchday Three, they were held at struggling Dutch side, AZ, another club playing in the Champions League-proper for the very first time, although they did participate in the old European Cup once before.
Chelsea were one of the more convincing of the perennial favourites heading into the final round of games, securing passage to the last 16 by Matchday Four and topping the group in the penultimate round, but a 2-2 draw at home to APOEL on Tuesday night put a blemish on their excellent run. And they fielded quite a strong team, too, against the Cypriots.
Madrid had the last laugh in the end
Once upon a time,
But now, in a blink of an eye, the tables have been turned and the question that begs to be asked is: is the gulf between
KS Leong, Goal.com