Now I know I’ve been writing a lot about European soccer over the last couple of days, but it’s only because this time of year brings out the very best the sport has to offer. While the NFL Playoffs are right around the corner, the European version are as well. Starting in February, the top club teams will square off in home-and-home series that’ll determine the best team on that continent. However, unlike the football playoffs in America the teams have far different yet equally compelling circumstances by which they can advance.
For a team to advance from the knockout stage they must win the total aggregate in goals with the road goals taking precedence. So for example if Arsenal wins at home against Bayern München by a score of 3-2 but goes on to lose 2-1 in Munich then Arsenal won’t advance because the aggregate tie (4 total goals each) is broken by Bayern having more away goals (2) than Arsenal (1). The presumption is that it’s harder to score away than with hime field advantage.
The top players for the clubs that’ll take part are very much on the same wage scale as some of the biggest stars in the United States. For example, players like Garreth Bale and Lionel Messi easily pull down just as much as players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. It’s the most elite soccer competition in the world and it will be watched by more people than any other sport in the world. There are those who point to the World Cup that is played every four years as more elite, but the national teams only come together for this event and team play is typically undermined by their short time playing together.
The home series start on February 11th and will continue a month later until the field in eventually whittled down to two finalists squaring off in a Super Bowl equivalent in May at a neutral site, which this year is Lisbon. Today the teams were paired off for their opening round knockout stage. Some of the most compelling opening round match-ups pit the aforementioned Arsenal against reigning champion Bayern München, and Barcelona taking on Manchester City. Arsenal is currently at the top of the English Premiership standings, while Bayern München is again the odds-on favorite to win the competition while also leading their own league – the Bündesliga. Manchester City has been playing very well and will open the home-and-home at home in Manchester where the crowd will be insane after seeing their team not advance out of the group stage last year.
The two other EPL teams seem to have gotten a favorable draw. Manchester United drew Olympiacos from Greece, and Chelsea drew Galatasaray from Turkey. The team that appeared to be given the biggest gift of the draw was Borussia Dortmund who, after almost seeing their European campaign end abruptly, won their group and drew Zenit St. Petersburg.
The February 11th Match ups: BVB @ Zenit, Man U @ Olympiacos, Chelsea @ Galatasaray, PSG @ Bayern Leverksun, Real Madrid @ Schalke, Atlético Madrid @AC Milan, Barcelona @ Man City, and Bayern München @ Arsenal. All the group winners start out on the road as it gives them a distinct advantage because of the importance of road goals.