OUT OF THEIR DEPTH
Minnows to suffer serious hammerings in the Champions League
HERE WE go again. The Champions League bandwagon is getting geared up and about to roll into town once more.
And let’s face it, the draw for the frequently forgettable group stage hardly whets the appetite. Few would get excited about the dross we’re going to have to endure in Europe’s premier competition until the real business starts in the new year.
Of course, the lesser lights in the tournament will argue that they have earned the right to pit their wits against the big boys, but it’s never going to catch the imagination of the viewing public.
Minnows lining out for knockout games, whether it be over one or two legs, is never a problem and adds a bit of romance to any cup competition ( just ask Wexford Youths).
However, we do have an issue with no-hopers being thrown way out of their depth into a league where their fate is a foregone conclusion before a ball is even kicked.
The likes of CFR Cluj, Anorthosis Famagusta, Aalborg and Bate Borisov won’t set the pulses racing - in fact, the majority of footy fans wouldn’t be unable to tell you where these sides hail from.
For the record it’s Romania, Cyprus, Denmark and Belarus - hotbeds of top-class soccer.
Would it not be better for all involved if the lower graded teams played their own mini leagues with a couple of places on offer in the glamorous knockout stages for those who come through.
It would give the sides involved a chance to play competitive matches in Europe with a wonderful reward for the successful outfits.
Obviously it’s all about money and who can blame these clubs for wanting to welcome the likes of Man United, Chelsea, Barcelona of Juventus to their home grounds.
The financial rewards involved could cover the overheads of these clubs for the season, but unfortunately football fans will not get the competitive action they want.
To be totally honest, ‘Inside Right’ preferred the old European Cup when the champions of each country lined out in mouth-watering ties and you could have two giants of the continent playing each other in the early stages of the competition instead of some pointless one-sided drivel, but it’s all about progress and unfortunately progress equals money. We’re going to see some real drubbings over the next few months, with the tiny clubs mere cannon fodder for the Goliaths of the game, and expect to see some schoolboys soccer scorelines again this season like Arsenal’s 7-0 win over Slavia Prague and Liverpool’s 8-0 win over Besiktas last term (and those two are not even as bad as the teams mentioned above).
We’re all for giving the underdog the chance to shine, but not at the expense of some semblance of competitiveness.
Having said that, Anorthosis Famagusta will probably surprise everyone and lift the trophy in May, and ‘Inside Right’ will need a power hose to wipe the egg off the face.
The likes of Wayne Rooney and Deco will have the defenders of Aalberg and CFR Cluj quaking in their boots.