Monday, March 12, 2007

The Road To Athens - QF Preview Part 1

The second has been completed and the draw for the Quarter-Finals is set.

Given the top-class calibre of this tournament, it is hardly surprising to see top names in the likes of Inter Milan, Olympique Lyonnaise, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Arsenal, etc. to be absent from the Quarter-Finals.

After all, there are only 8 places available and before you know it, there will be only 4 and then 2 and finally the Champion.

Anyway, the draw has thrown up a few surprises as well as a few disappointments. Most notably of which is that English teams not only managed to occupy 3 of the 8 available places, but also managed to avoid each other in the early round. On the flip side, there is only 1 Spanish representative left.

So without further ado, here what I see in the crystal ball for these 8 teams:

AC Milan

Traditionally, one of the power houses in the European scene with notable names like Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten, just to name a few, has been struggling of late in
the Serie A. Currently languishing in 6th position and a high risk of missing a place in next season's ECL tournament (unless of course, they win it here). However, it must be noted that their lowly ranking is a result of a 8-point deduction as a result of punishment meted out due to match fixing corruption last season. With the 8 point added on, they would be sitting in 3rd spot behind Roma and Inter Milan. Still it is a sub-par season for them and here's why.

With 27 games played in the Serie A thus far, AC Milan won only 13. Thus, Win Percentage is dismal 48.15% and ranked Last among the 8 teams in the quarter finals. With only 37 goals scored for (tied Last with Valencia) and 24 against (also tied Last with Valencia), their Goal
Ratio is a mere 1.37 per match (Last) and a Leaking Ratio of 0.89 per match (6th).

However, they seemed to fare better on the Euro front with Kaka leading the Top Scorers chart (6) and it is also no surprise that he would also be leading the Shot-On-Goal chart with a impressive haul of 16.

With football schedules being so hectic, it is a wonder how teams managed to cope with the congested fixtures. Naturally, managers would have to prioritise each competitions and sacrifices would have to be made, if necessary. Hence, domestic cups in each country are normally played for pride only. The real motivation behind each team these days is money, money and more money. Money from TV rights, commercial endorsements, gate receipts as well as memerobilia sales. Money has a chicken-and-egg effect. If you have money, you can afford better players and better resources, that usually translate to better performance and hence attracting more money to come in as well as superstar player more willing to be lured by the smell of your money.

Coming back, it seems that AC Milan has had a good streak going on unbeaten in their last 10 games. However, it is still a long way for them with 12 matches to go before the season is over and I expect their resources to thin significantly during the run-in. That's when I think AC Milan will start running into trouble. I seriously that AC Milan will have a problem coping with both the ECL as well as the Serie A. Both gets you a spot in the ECL tournament next year but Serie A offers 4 places while ECL offers only one. Which would be the safer route to take to ensure another financially bountiful year? AC Milan, as I have said earlier, is in 6th and only 4 points away from the 4th spot. With 12 games to go, they better start their ascent now, in particular the need to overtake surprise minnows like Palermo and Empoli. Granted the Lazio is also within striking range, a 4th spot would be a more comfortable goal to shoot for for now being going after
the bonus prize of the 3rd spot.

JayWalk's Seeding: 8th

Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich recent giant killing of Real Madrid in the second round has gotten every bookmaker scrambling to revise the German's outfits odds. Ask anyone to name a famous German team and more often than not, the name Bayern Munich gets mentioned. Those glory days however, are a thing of the past as we have less familiar names like Werder Bremen and Schalke04 dominating the headlines. Even Sttugart is above Bayern Munich in the current German league. The consolation is that Bayer Leverkusen, Hertha Berlin,
Hamburg and Borussia Dortmund are even worse off. Still, none of these teams have the proud pedigree of a Euro powerhouse like Bayern Munich. Like Real Madrid, the fear factor is long gone and the old masters no longer command the respect of the young punks.

And rightly so for Bayern Munich, while comfortably seated in 4th of the German league has the worse defensive record amongst the 8 teams in the current ECL quarter-finals. The current Leaking Ratio is 1.20 (Last) and the only team with a Leaking Ratio greater than 1.0. From a
simplistic mathematical point of view, it means that clean sheets do not exists as far as this team is concerned. Time to call it a day for Oliver Kahn, I guess. Bayern Munich's Win Percentage is 52% (7th) but in there defence, their league is pretty tight and the top teams are very evenly match. Hence, even with the apparently poor 13 wins out of 25 games, there are merely 2 victories less than the current leader, Schalke04.

JayWalk's Seeding: 6th

JayWalk Thoughts - AC Milan vs Bayern Munich?

A poor defence is the perfect recipe for failure but a poor attack can be just as fatal. This is a interesting game between one that leaks the most goals and one that scores the least. Perhaps the winner of this fixture would depend on who is the lesser of the two evils.

In this particular case, my vote goes to Bayern Munich on account of the fact the AC Milan is doing relatively worse. AC Milan simply cannot ignore the financial disaster if they fail to acquire a spot in the ECL next season. Again like I said, it is always safer to get that place via finishing 4th or better in the Serie A, rather than going after the ECL trophy for the latter does not allow any mistakes.

I look for AC Milan to abandon their Euro campaign and start focusing on the Serie A soon. Maybe the time is now since qualifying for the 2nd round of the ECL already yield quite a tidy sum of money in the kitty. Granted of course moving further up would yield even more but the cost of not qualify next season is even bigger. Running a team is the same as running a business. Bottom line must be taken care of. Besides, a club will be less attractive to star signings if it does not provide the opportunity of them playing in the ECL.

Bayern Munich should advance in my opinion but I doubt if they can travel further than that.


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