Friday, April 12, 2013

Was UEFA semi-final Draw fixed?

Let's rely on my not-so-genius memory, as many will attest. I have not much time to research but save for the cases you know, my memory has not betrayed me fatally but do not make life-decisions made here.

Bayern Munich played Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League around 20 years ago, give or take 2 years. The draw pitting Barcelona and Bayern in a semi-final whose first leg is to be played at the Allianz Arena is not suggesting that it is deja vu.

Last year's runners-up Bayern will have to navigate past Barca, an easier feat now than it can ever be as it has been proved that the Spanish are breakable, especially without Lionel Messi. Messi may be fully fit by then, changing the dynamics.

In that very bad twist of fortune, Real Madrid also travel to Germany to face Dortmund before the return legs in Spain. The prospects of either an all-Spanish or all-German final at Wembley Stadium on May 25 will be the talking point for many pundits.

In my every day song, the chorus is that Barca are fading and by the end of the semi-final, I may have to reconsider and conclude that they are faded. They were bullied by AC Milan, only going past just. They beat Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals, again, just, on away goals.

Bayern are newly-crowned Bundesliga champions and appear the most solid team so far. Despite all this, I do not fancy them, but I am not sure how long the brittleness of the Catalans will last.

On the other hand, Madrid, who eliminated Galatasaray this week, are playing their best football under Jose Mourinho, or for the first time since the dominance of La Liga by Barcelona. It will be the two sides’ fourth pairing overall in the Champions League.

Dortmund have a young and energetic squad compared to the Spaniards, but their gods had to more than smile at them to see off a determined Malaga who felt robbed. One could be tempted Real will revenge for the Spanish.

The truth is that The Only One is caught in two minds. Rumours of him going back to England and his personal ambitions to be The Only Special One make this one interesting. It's not rocket science that Jose will head elsewhere if he wins the Champions League, and his team has the capacity to do it. Sentimentally and tactically, they are favourites at this point.

Realistically though, a minimum of 180 minutes of the 2012/13 Champions League football must elapse with two victories for them. This means beating a dynamic and versatile Borussia and then seeing off cultured Barca or Bayern. It would be nice to have the Spaniard against the Germans in England but time will tell.

Talking of England, I wondered if failure to have representation at this point meant the Barclays English Premier League has lost some shine. This is prompted by the lost of Newcastle and Tottenham Spurs in the Europa League last night.

It could be small technical faults and Chelsea may win the second tier Cup anyways. If these events are a measure to go by, it places Spain and Germany as the kings of league football. As relative as that may be, there may be some truth depending on how much football you talk about.

England has the money to attract the best players. I am not sure the same can be said by the coaches/managers. That translates to excellent technical levels that are void of tactical football in the league. My personal opinion is that the world outside England strikes a good balance of cash, talent and tactics. Anyway, that's a topic for another day.

For now, we await the first legs to be played on April 23 and 24, with the second legs to take place on April 30 and May 1. At least you have the liberty to forget reason and think by heart and you dream your team will kick bottom. For us, we start scrutinising details that range from possible line-ups to personalities that make the squad.

The margins of error in the execution of each pass or ball reception, as well as the speed of decisions and time spent on the ball will influence and be influenced by what happens away from the ball. The possible politics surrounding the refereeing is inevitable but one hopes that the true champions will win it by themselves and for themselves.

There has been enough cry about UEFA deciding the fate of the title by the 'disenfranchised' side like Malaga, and while I disagree with their racism issue against them, it is high time cases that saw Didier Drogba sanctioned a few years back, become extinct. I think this is a quality semi-final line-up and while it could have been fixed, I do not think so.

Semi-final draw
Bayern Munich v Barcelona
Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid