Saturday, 14 March 2009

Are We There Yet?

Football is a great game for those of us who love the odd cliche, in fact even talking about cliches has become somewhat of a cliche..............lets see: 'marathon not a sprint', 'its a results business', 'he knows where the goal is' (always an advantage for a striker I find). Whilst Liverpool were dismantling Manchester United today the-crap-performance-after-a-midweek-game cliches were given an airing ie United look 'heavy legged' etc. As to why a routine 2-0 home victory over an uninspired Internazionale should take it out of a club able to field two world class first teams is anyone's guess. But I'm not a professional pundit.

Looking at the 8 Champions League quarter finalists the furthest any of them will have to travel is probably around 1100 miles. Things are slightly less convenient for the big teams before the knock out stages as they have the trauma of travelling to Eastern Europe but UEFA's seedings normally ensure these sides are dispensed with before Christmas. Spare a thought then for Lanús who in their next game in the Copa Libertadores travel north for 5000 miles to face Chivas Guadalajara of Mexico. In a previous group game the team also travelled to Venezuela to face Caracas where they were soundly beaten 3-1. The team are currently bottom of Group 6 but hopefully they can take some comfort from the Air Miles they are clocking-up.

After taking 3 points from 3 games in Group 6 Estudiantes coach Leonardo Astrada resigned last week in the wake of their 1-0 loss to Deportivo of Quito, Ecuador. Altitude training should have been on the schedule during the summer break as Quito sits at a lung busting 9300ft (2850m) above sea level and their next trip takes them to a similar altitude at Universitario de Sucre in Bolivia. Could you imagine the reaction of Messrs Fearguson on Wenger on having to play in the clouds? With just one win from 3 games San Lorenzo too haven't exactly set the competition alight either and have threatened to lodge an official complaint to CONMEBOL after their bus was attacked as the team made its way to the stadium in Lima to face Universitario. Boca Juniors made the epic trip to Deportivo Tachira in Venezuela. The journey would test the resolve of the most determined backpacker with stops in Lima and Bogota before an overnight stop in Cúcuta, Colombia and 60km road trip across the border. Surprisingly Boca negotiated this 'potential banana skin' and ran out 1-0 winners, although the midweek trip may have taken it's toll on the team as they went down 2-0 against Independiente last weekend.

It's still very early days in the competition as we're only half way through the group stage and I haven't even mentioned River who have back to back games against Nacional of Montevideo to come which is a mere hop across the water. The world's most prolific top-flight goalscorer Argentine Lucas Barrios of Colo Colo is proving 'he knows where the goal is' after scoring 3 times in the competition so far including the opener at their away win against Palmeiras.

The variety of teams in the Copa Libertadores ensures that the eleven players on the pitch is only one aspect of the game.

Hasta luego!