The Champions League kicks off today--the biggest and best club competition on the planet. Sure, you can argue that so many of the same teams advance year after year, blah blah blah...I don't care. It's the best players on the best clubs playing the best football. Period.
32 clubs from (by my count, which admittedly was quick and could be wrong) 17 European nations are set to start the group stages of the Champions League--eight matches today, eight matches tomorrow. The four teams in each of the eight groups will play each other twice, home and away. Group play finishes in December, when the top two in each group will advance to the round of sixteen, and the third-place finishers will drop down to Europa. Fourth place gets nothing.
The best part of Champions League is, for me, choosing a team to cheer but not feeling any true pain if they bow out. Europa already kicked me in the gut, and I've still got Napoli and Atlético waiting to cause me grief. In CONCACAF Champions League, my Sounders have yet to score a point in group play. But with Champions League, even if my team of choice loses, there's no real pain involved*
*unless there is an injury to Frank Lampard, in which case there will be pain and quite possibly an arrest.
All matches today start at 20:45 CET, 19:45 BST and 11:45 for yours truly on the west coast of the US. Here's what we've got today:
Twente v Inter
Bremen v Tottenham
Lyon v Schalke
Benfica v Hapoel Tel Aviv
Manchester United v Rangers
Bursaspor v Valencia
Barcelona v Panathinaikos
Copenhagen v Rubin