Sunday, July 21, 2024

Champions League draw – Premier League review

Morning all.

Let’s start with the draw for the Champions League which was made yesterday, and we’ll face Porto. We’ll be away for the first leg on February 21st, and at home for the second on March 12th. It was 2010 the last time we played them, a 5-0 win at the Emirates where Nicklas Bendtner bagged a hat-trick, while Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Eboue chipped in with one each.

Our reward for that win was Barcelona in the next round, and at home we had that famous 2-2 game when Cesc Fabregas scored a late penalty with a broken leg. The return leg in Spain was a bit different though. Bendtner somehow annoyed Lionel Messi by putting us 1-0 up but before we’d even finished celebrating in the stands, he’d equalised, and went on to score four that night.

Sure, you have to caveat that by acknowledging our back four contained Mikael Silvestre, but it was kind of amazing to watch a player of that talent do what he did that night. I think that cemented my belief that he was the best player in the world at that time, and potentially the greatest ever. Which I think he proved over time. Anyway, let’s hope beating Porto this time around leads to a slightly less challenging opponent in the next round.

We’ll have to get by them first though. They’re going well in the Primera Liga, sitting just three points off leaders Sporting, and at the draw yesterday, Sporting Director Edu said:

We can see how they are playing, how organized they are, and the players that they have. Porto is a club that you have to be really prepared to play against or we’ll have problems, so what we have to concentrate on is maintaining our levels and the way we are playing.

Plenty to discuss around that closer to the time. The full draw is as follows:

Champions League Round of 16 draw

Porto v Arsenal
Napoli v Barcelona
Paris St-Germain v Real Sociedad
Inter Milan v Atletico Madrid
PSV Eindhoven v Borussia Dortmund
Lazio v Bayern Munich
Copenhagen v Manchester City
RB Leipzig v Real Madrid

Reflecting on what has happened in the Premier League over the last couple of days, it was so important that we took maximum points after City slipped up against Crystal Palace and Liverpool and Man Utd drew. The inevitable questions about Pep Guardiola’s team that seem to pop up every season are being asked again. It’s the most wonderful time of the year when people wonder ‘Are City vulnerable this time around?’, before they go on a run of 19 straight wins, with no injuries because of their special vegetable diet, and take the title with a couple of games to spare. Write them off at your peril.

Liverpool didn’t look great against United, but there’s something about that fixture which often produces an underwhelming game. The most interesting thing about it was the late sending off for Diogo Dalot, guilty of committing two acts of dissent inside 4 seconds which led to Michael Oliver issuing a red card. It’s hard to take this stuff seriously now. I don’t want to go off on refs again, but seeing them crack down on dissent or managers waving or celebrating too hard, while players are being allowed week after week to bash opponents in the head is just a bit weird to me.

In seriousness, I think it’s setting a dangerous precedent, because while most players don’t go around elbowing people in the face and head, there are some who love a bit of that, and the officiating has told them that it’s open season on whoever you fancy. Don’t worry though, if you’re a manager asking why it is one of your players has been assaulted GBH-style, you’ll get a yellow card. I really worry someone is going to get seriously hurt, and I don’t understand the crack-down on relatively harmless stuff while this stuff continues to go unpunished.

As for Michael Oliver, it’s quite funny how he can hear a double-dissent so clearly in the cacophony of noise late in a Premier League game, but somehow not see this as a second yellow card offence.

Finally, let’s hope that Luton Town captain Tom Lockyer recovers fully from the cardiac arrest he suffered during their game against Bournemouth at the weekend. What it means for his career at this point isn’t important, his health comes first, and I’m sure he’ll make the best decision in the fullness of time. It looked like a hugely traumatic experience for everyone there, he’s now stable in hospital, and fingers crossed all goes well for him and his family.

For more on the weekend’s game, check out The 30 over on Patreon – our Premier League round-up podcast. There’s also a new Arsecast Extra for you below if you haven’t had a chance to listen yet. That’s it for now, have a good one.

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