Friday, 29 August 2008

Obligatory piece about the Champions League draw

Group A
CFR Cluj

Group B
Inter Milan
Werder Bremen
Anorthosis Famagusta

Group C
Sporting Lisbon
Shakhtar Donetsk

Group D
PSV Eindhoven
Atletico Madrid

Group E

Group F
Bayern Munich
Steaua Bucharest

Group G
Dynamo Kiev

Group H
Real Madrid
Zenit St Petersburg
Bate Borisov

I didn't actually watch the draw yesterday, as I was half-watching Man City labouring away in Denmark. I did switch over at the end of normal time, and was amazed to find they'd only managed to get to drawing the seeded teams in each group, almost half an hour after they started. I know the Champions League has a high opinion of itself, but drawing this fairly simple draw out over the space of almost an hour is taking the piss slightly.

Nothing really strikes me as an exciting draw. Sure, you've got a couple of big teams drawn together in the same group, but the sheer repetitiveness of the format of the competition has rendered these once exciting draws fairly dull. It's possible to look over the draw and with fairly great certainty pick out who definitely will qualify, who should qualify, and the teams that might cause an upset. Just look at the teams in the competition - it's the same old, same old ones again and again, with just a few new faces each season to be the whipping boys for a lucky group.

The increasing numbers of teams from the same country means the draw doesn't really get interesting until the quarter final stage, and even then most of the teams will have played each other in the last few seasons. Match nights are drawn out to two a week these days, and from next season they will be drawn out to four match nights per round, with two one week and two the following week, to ensure that UEFA get more precious TV money by not having two teams from a country playing on the same night to maximise TV audiences, and more importantly advertising revenue.

Next season, once the Champions League starts with the third round of qualifiers in August, that'll be it pretty much non-stop hyping itself until the end of the first group stage in December. I wonder how that will affect domestic competitions like the English League Cup, which looks like it will now have to be staggered over two weeks due to the Champions League teams competeting over a two week period, removing it's natural slot in the English character. If I'm bored of the Champion's League now, how am I going to feel next season when it's elongated even further?

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