Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The UF Power Poll: The Karol Wojtyla Edition

So here we are, just weeks from Rome; hours from the first leg of Barcelona v. Chelsea at the Nou Camp. These are truly the champagne days of European footy, and if you go by our rankings, it truly is the best of the best left to play it out for Chaaaaaaaahhhhhhmpions League glory.

Gone, of course, are usual suspects Liverpool and AC Milan. But no one-- outside their respective supporters-- should find that especially upsetting. Liverpool's annual psychodrama has played itself out to the only logical end, even if the process-- goals goals goals-- was unfamiliar. Milan, of course, have been an afterthought aside from the Beckham intrigue.

Let us now focus on the contenders!

So here they are-- no frills-- with your Facebook votes appreciated, as ever.

1) Barcelona - 1.38 (1st, 1.4)

Take a long look at Barca in their familiar top slot. It may be the last time. They welcome Chelsea to the Nou Camp today for what Abramovich serf and manager Hiddink admits could be an attacking bonanza. Now, our instincts say the Catalans will be the side enjoying said bonanza, but if we've learned anything this year, it's that Chelsea can give it as easily as they get it. So would it be outlandish for the Blues to leave Barcelona down, but with a few away goals in their back pocket? Surely not. Could sure set up an intriguing second leg in London. Another question: Do Barca have the stick to step onto English soil and play their clever game? That's to be seen, of course, though given Chelsea's GK situation right now-- they'd be better with 11 outfield players-- Barca retains the edge.

Oh and they have a +68 GD (!!!) in La Liga.

2) Manchester United - 1.63 (3rd, 3.6)

They've played a lot of games this season. And just when you think it's all caught up with them... when there's nothing left in the tank... when the League is once again in doubt... well... Howard Webb steps in and hits the restart button. United always get the benefit of the doubt. That may not be enough to carry a club to tens of trophies, but it is those small (sometimes big) moments that can turn a tight game, a tough run, a championship in their favor. They'd have probably come back and salvaged a draw on Saturday, Webb disgrace or not, but the way they got the first goal game has to be dispiriting. United: they can beat ya 12 different ways.

3) Chelsea - 3.88 (6th, 7.2)

The Guus has been cooking up EPL and Euro competition alike (and where they intersect) and doing so with some attacking flash. This three spot is tantamount to a mark of applause from our voters, who had become accustomed to Mourinho Chelsea. The Special One's sides rarely ran riot scoring goals-- but they also rarely lost, or conceded more than a hard-fought one or two-- unlike this side which pop in 3 or 4 for fun... but then return the favor, and not just to Liverpool. If they ship three in a row home to SF Bolton, imagine what Leo and Co. could produce.

4) Liverpool - 4.13 (2nd, 1.6)

Los Rojos take the steepest plunge among the perennial top four. By the last poll, they were dominating Euro competition (see: Real Madrid mollywhopping) and feeling fresh after a legendary dismantling of the Chaaaaaaaahmpions at OT. But prosperity sits about as well with Rafa's chicos as the Pig Plague does with Mexican railworkers. We'll give them this: Never has a team, guaranteed to finish the season with no silverware, had such a memorable run... and not in a bad way. Cold comfort, I'm sure.

5) Arsenal - 4.88 (9th, 12.7)

The Super Adventure Club doesn't have to travel too far for their tie with the reigning kings of Europe. Sadly, that trip takes them north to Manchester, where they will contend with both a football team and the stench of inevitability. As always, the key is to come out of tomorrow's first leg with at least a goal to their name. And hey, given their form, Gooners have as good a chance as anyone.

6) Real Madrid - 6 (7th, 7)

The Morbo is building in Spain these days, as Madrid continue to close the gap on leaders Barcelona. Quoteth manager Juande Ramos, these recent developments feel "nice." And why not? Real were dead in the agua a month or two into the season. But they were decisive, canning the bo-ring German bloke who led them to last year's title in favor of the super-queer, lisping Spanish magico that is Mister Ramos. Madrid have played some interesting games of late, scoring and conceding at a pulsating rate.

And speaking of pulsating, they will host Barca (whom they trail by 4 points) on Saturday. Madrid's last loss in La Liga came at the Nou Camp on December 20 of last year.

7) AZ Alkmaar - 8.13 (unranked)

And speaking of teams that just do not ever lose... well, AZ Aalkmar have finally lost. Their unbeaten run, which started September 20, 2008, came to an end 10 days ago, nearly SEVEN MONTHS after it began. AZ are 11 points clear atop the Eredivisie and followed streakbreaker with a road draw to Ajax.

8) Inter Milan - 8.8 (4th, 5.1)

Even an attempted subterfuge by our Facebook voter(s) couldn't drop Inter below their San Siro flatmates. For all the entertainment of the Mourinho Era (2008-2009), Inter will likely come away from this season much like last (even considering Sunday's slip-up.) And the year before. A shiny new Scudetto and a weakass exit from European competition.

9) AC Milan - 14.88 (unranked)

Unbeaten in seven, six of those wins, and all this with Phillippe Senderos in the squad! But even their lovely form, coupled with Inter's loss on Sunday, won't be enough to overtake the long-time Serie A leaders. But, fear not Rosanero, Beckham will be back in the winter! (As will Chaaaaaaahmpions League football. Seriously, been weird with out this bunch boring us all to sleep on matchday.)

10) Porto - 15.25 (10th, 14.3)

Four points clear of runners-up Sporting with four to play. They gave United a bit of a scare in the CL quarterfinal, ultimately trembling before the passionate Manc supporters and their leader, their enforcer, the seargant-in-arms for all things United, Lingering Bursitis.

Dropped - Bayern Munich (along with their coach), Hertha Berlin

In the mix - Marseille, Wolfsburg, Everton, Spurs (until about 3.23 pm edt Saturday... dammit.)


Mike Georger said...


The Likely Lad said...

it's an exciting day for the polish, catholics, and leo messi, who shall run roughshod over the axis of bosingwa & cech.