The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Two of the most hyped teams in Europe after their performances last season – Barcelona and Liverpool – fell to inglorious 1-2 defeats at the hands of Rubin Kazan and Lyon.
What’s more – 5 out of 8 home teams lost last night. Only 1 team won (Olympiakos beat Standard Liege 2-1). It’s a striking stat when historically you’ll see home teams (unless they are considerably weaker) generally winning or drawing their group stage games. Think Inter drawing away this season, Liverpool losing in Fiorentina, etc etc.
Inter are hopeless in Europe (3 draws out of 3, and still away games to Kazan and Barcelona to go) and Barcelona, well…Barcelona should be fine in this group unless they lose another game, and that would really put things into a tailspin.
Granted, in the long run neither Lyon or Kazan will be lifting the Champions League trophy at the Santiago Bernabeu come May 2010, but at this rate neither will Liverpool or Inter (while Rangers, having suffered a second consecutive 1-4 defeat at home in Europe, look unlikely to get into the Europa League at this point).
As for Barcelona, now that they are ‘mortal’ teams in Spain and Europe will start playing with more confidence against them (as Andy Brassell predicted earlier this week).
Liverpool have now lost 6 games out of 13 played (in all competitions). They have Manchester United and Arsenal coming up next. Unless Liverpool win their next two games, Rafael Benitez will start losing his support amongst the fans. That support has kept the owners at bay but with fans booing the gaffer’s substitutions last night and asking for his head in the forums since last weekend, it’s time to pull out another great escape.
And last but not least, notice the contrast in the BBC’s and Guardian’s reporting of Alex Ferguson’s press conference last night. The Guardian chose to ignore 20 minutes of Q&A completely and focused on the final minute, where Ferguson refused to answer a question about the FA’s charges and walked out (mind you, after answering questions for several minutes, meaning that he had more or less finished the press conference).
They also ‘forgot‘ that the players United have chosen to leave behind were left behind because they were injured, not because United were taking this game ‘lightly’, as the Guardian suggested.
In the haste to find ‘selling’ stories, the Guardian mis-reported and distorted half, if not all, of their pre-match coverage surrounding the Moscow-United game.
On the other hand, the BBC mentions the walkout in passing and gives us the most interesting response from SAF about the playing surface at Luzhniki and whether it would help or hinder their United side. It’s not colourful, but it’s informative and hardly misleading.
This weekend we’ll see Liverpool take on Manchester United in arguably their biggest game so far this season – lose and not only is the season over but possibly Rafa’s tenure at Anfield (for the record I wouldn’t sack him, he’s done quite well and needs to be given more time), win and there’ll be enough fuel in the tank to last them till the next international break. Or the next Champions League game, away to Lyon. That should be interesting…