Monday, 1 October 2012

Drop the seeds, let chaos reign

So this week is the 'every second week'. A Champions League week. Looking over the fixtures for the coming round of group games got me thinking that the format of the group stages might need a bit of a shake up. Last week we got lucky. Two huge games in the first two nights. Real Madrid - Man City and Chelsea - Juventus. Those are the two biggest fixtures that this group stage is going to throw up. They're also out the only two groups that are even remotely interesting and that is what I think is the current problem with the CL. Seeding.

Since the Champions League insists on seeding the groups into 4 different pots, you always end up with a round of games like the one we're faced with this week. Nordsjaelland v Chelsea, Cluj v Man Utd, BATE v Bayern... Wednesday night there's a bit of an improvement but only thanks to the interesting group of Man City's. I've always thought that seeding ruins the group stages a bit. It's geared so that the big teams get through unscathed and the usual suspects can meet up from the quarter finals onwards. But I think this predictability is making the group stages a bit of a non-event. It's very rare that any of the major sides get knocked out early and it's all down to the fact they're drawn against lesser opponents.

Consider this idea. Instead of seeding 1, 2, 3 and 4, the group stage is a free for all with the only rule being that no club from the same country can be drawn in the same group. So instead of having the non-event that is Man Utd, Cluj, Galatasary and Braga, you could have Man Utd, Barcelona, Juventus and, say, Bayern Munich. That would be worth watching. I would reckon a free for all would make for far more interesting groups and it would also give the lesser teams more of an opportunity to progress in the competition. Sure, you might end up with a tiny team up against 3 heavyweights in the 1 group, but you would be guranteed to get some group of deaths and some lightweight groups that would favour smaller teams.

I think it would work. Why not? Throw all the teams in the pot and pick. Don't allow countries from the same league in the same group and everyone's happy. Perfect. Make it happen, Uefa.

But for now we're faced with a bit of a mediocre match day 2. Here are my predictions.

Spartak v Celtic (Spartak to win)

Juve v Shakhtar (Juve win)

Nordsjaelland v Chelsea (Chelsea, but pleeeaaase throw an upset unpronounceable named team)

Valencia v LOSC (Valencia, mostly due to not knowing who the hell LOSC are)

BATE v Bayern (Bayern win)

Cluj v Man Utd (Utd, i suppose)

Galatasary v Braga (draw)

Benfica v Barca (Barca to win comfortably)

So there it is. Hopefully my predictions aren't as useless as my fantasy team currently is.

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