Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Champions League; Barcelona vs Sporting Lisbon; Marseille vs Liverpool

The Champions League returns and the Sky hype machine gets cranked up a notch. As I'll be watching Manchester United's match tomorrow, I thought I'd take in one of the matches not involving English teams tonight, and tuned into the first half of Barcelona's match against Sporting Lisbon. A good match on paper, between two skillful sides, turned out to be fairly dull, in the half that I watched anyway.

In a Nou Camp that was far from full, Barcelona dominated possession, notching up 70% of the possession at one stage. Barcelona were completely in control, although creating very little in the final third of the pitch. Sporting's apparent unwillingness to chase the ball down meant Barcelona could pass the ball round easily without needing to extend themselves too much, killing the game as a spectacle. They became even less adventurous after Marquez gave them the lead from a poorly defended corner. I decided to switch over at half-time to watch Marseille's match against Liverpool, which at 2-1 to Liverpool, looked a mych more balanced and enticing prospect.

One advantage of watching the Champions League on Sky is their interactive facility - offering six matches tonight and eight tomorrow, all of which can be watched at once if you have ADHD, or you can focus on one and be kept abreast of developments elsewhere by a message on the bottom of the screen as the goals go in, pressing the red button to view them. Sky have improved this facility this season, by showing the replayed goal twice - last season you needed to react within milliseconds of the message going up in order to view anything more than players celebrating a goal. This season you can be slightly more relaxed about things. Unfortunately, Sky have decided against showing the match in whatever format the host broadcaster provide, choosing to chop the top and bottom off a 4:3 feed to fake a 16:9 picture, meaning that players at the top of the screen regularly have their head chopped off, or disappear behind the score graphic.

The Marseille vs Liverpool match was a much more entertaining affair, between two closely matched teams. Marseille had the majority of the play and consistently dispossessed Liverpool in midfield, although it was Liverpool who had the better of the chances as Babel blasted a ball from six yards against the keeper, who managed to get an arm in the way. Both teams had interesting kits - Liverpool's absent of the sponsor logo due to the alcohol advertising ban in France, Marseille for some reason in a change kit of gold and black. The impressive Stade Velodrome had swathes of empty seats - perhaps Champions League apathy is reaching the south coast of France.

In other matches, the Champions League new boys had impressive debuts - Anorthosis Famagusta sharing the points with Werder Bremen in a goaless draw, but by far the most impressive result being Cluj's win in Rome. Both matches frustratingly spoiling my accumulators and denying me my 2p fortune.

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