Thursday, November 14, 2002

Spanish Soccer Update: In Champions League play Tuesday and Wednesday, Barcelona beat Galatasaray of Istanbul 3-1 on goals by Gerard, Geovanni, and Dani. Barça brought out a team of subs and youth team players that really did a pretty good job. The game was meaningless for Barça, already classified for the second round, but Galatsaray needed the win to qualify and so went all-out. They're a good club, too; many of their players are from the Turkish national team that did so well in the World Cup. If they were in the Spanish League, they'd be midtable First Division; the other two teams from Barça's group, Bruges and Lokomotiv Moscow, are clubs with Second Division talent. Madrid tied away in a meaningless game against Genk, 1-1, Valencia stomped Spartak Moscow 3-0 in another meaningless game, and in the game of the week, Depor beat AC Milan in San Siro, 1-2. Deportivo, with both starting central defenders injured, their center-midfielder on crutches, and their goalie undergoing chemotherapy, went into Milan controlling their own destiny; with a win they were classified for the second round. If not, Lens could bag the second spot in the group with a win against luckless Bayern. Depor came through in a brilliant game; they went down 1-0 on a goal by Tomasson but came back on an unstoppable shot by Tristán from outside the area. Then Amavisca delivered a perfect pass to Makaay, so perfect that the Dutchman was able to look down, up, and down again and then drill the ball with his good leg between the goalie and the far post. Depor goes to the second round por la puerta grande, as they say around here. The sixteen teams qualified for the next round are Barça, Real Madrid, Valencia and Deportivo of Spain; AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, and AS Roma of Italy; Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen of Germany; Arsenal, Manchester United, and Newcastle of England; Ajax Amsterdam of Holland; and the way-out-of-their-league Basel of Switzerland and Lokomotiv Moscow. The groupings for Round Two will soon be drawn. Barça will face either Arsenal, Milan, Inter, or Juve; Roma, Borussia, or Bayer; and Basel, Newcastle, or Ajax. Ideally, I think, we want Inter, Bayer, and Basel. The worst possible draw would be Arsenal, Roma, and Ajax, since you can't be grouped with a team from your own country or from your first round group.

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