Saturday, March 10, 2012

Three Up, Three Down: First Take

Welcome to the first post in what will be a weekly series highlighting those teams/players/ideas whose fortunes are on the rise or fall based on events during the week.

Three Up

1) APOEL F.C. - Everyone loves a Cinderella story, and the 2011-2012 Champions League has one, APOEL F.C.  The first Cypriot side to make it to the group stage of the Champions League (their first visit was in 2009-10), APOEL continue to be trailblazers for the Cypriot First Division. Marching its way through qualifying, APOEL knocked out 3 league champions along the way (Skënderbeu Korçë from Albania, Slovak champ Slovan Bratislava, and Wisła Kraków out of Poland).  Once in the group stages, APOEL took care of three more league champions (FC Porto from Portugal, Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg, and Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk). The plucky Cypriots haven't looked back, defeating Olympique Lyonnais 4-3 on penalties.  APOEL will likely face a much tougher draw in the quarterfinals, but don't count them out.

 2) Arsenal F.C. - This might look a bit like a homer call, as I make no attempt to hide my love of the north London side, but Arsenal have been trending upward for the last several weeks.  Following two embarrassing defeats (4-0 away to AC Milan and 2-0 against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light) in the span of a week, the Gunners seem to have found the form and luck they had been missing for much of the early part of the season.  A 5-2 drubbing of rivals Spurs was followed by a last gasp winner against Liverpool at Anfield and a comprehensive 3-nil victory over Milan in the return leg of their Champions League round of 16 match.  In the last two weeks, the Gunners have closed the gap on Spurs for 3rd in the Premier League table to 4 points from 10.  Beyond matches on the pitch, it was announced that Arsenal will sign German international forward, Lukas Podolski, in the offseason.  Not bad for a side that looked like it might miss out on Champions League football for the first time in 15 seasons.

3)  F.C. Barcelona/Lionel Messi - It might seem odd to put the defending European champions and three-time defending Ballon d'Ors winner on this list, but did you see the highlights of their 7-1 dismantling of Bayer Leverkusen?  Messi scored a Champions League record 5 goals in the match. While Barça sit 10 points adrift of Real Madrid in La Liga, they look every bit the favorites to repeat as winners of the Champions League.

Three Down

1) Olympique Lyonnais - If APOEL are at the top of the list on the rise, Lyon have to be top the list of those on the downswing.  Les Gones have taken part in the last 12 editions of the Champions League, though their loss to APOEL has to be a low point. Clearly a better squad, at least on paper, Lyon couldn't score the all-important away goal they needed to advance. Currently 7 points adrift of third place Lille and a Champions League spot, their impotent display in Nicosia might be their last Champions League soccer for quite a while.

2) Chelsea F.C. - The Blues secured a much needed victory over Birmingham at mid-week in the FA Cup, but the turmoil surrounding the club has continued to grow.  Wunderkind manager, André Villas-Boas, was fired on March 4 following a loss to West Bromwich Albion and was replaced by Roberto Di Matteo. Chelsea currently sit 3 points adrift of Arsenal for 4th and are facing a 3-1 deficit in their Champions League round of 16 matchup against Napoli. Maybe Di Matteo can right ship, but the Blues look like the Premier League's version of Lyon.

3) Manchester Soccer Clubs - While Manchester City and Manchester United are flying high in the Premier League, their form in Europe has been decidedly more pedestrian.  Both Mancunian sides failed to advance past the group stages of the Champions League, and now are facing elimination from the Europa League.  Man City lost 1-0 to Sporting in Lisbon, while Man United lost 3-2 to Athletic Bilbao at Old Trafford.  The clubs will be looking for better results on 3/15 when both play the second leg of their Third Round matches.


  1. sadly to see that my Chelsea is three down on the list, but I understand it well; however, right now Chelsea should be on the three up list, I am a pay per head columnist and know when I tell you about statistics

  2. There are nothing to say to Barcelon FC. Even the people on pay per head software concour that Messi is the heart of the team.