The Champions League is by far my favorite club tournament. It is better than pizza and apple sauce covered with orange Tic Tacs. Its is absolutely wonderful. The drama, history, tattoos, and hair are something to behold and drool over. Dippy the Pirate Bear even does not take any “appointments” on the 14th floor of his Virginia oceanfront hotel just to watch Champions League matches. So to start the festivities I will give a quick take on all the games today before my time runs out on my Chinese “Rent the Net” session.
Inter Milan vs. Slavia Praha
Inter is a 63% chance favorite to win the match at San Siro. Inter is trying to change their image from being the bad crazy Animal House team full of unnecessary drama into a team full of Manchester United cast offs. They also now have a mew manager who actually does bring a sense of order. The greatest drama ever was the Mauro Icardi/Wanda Nara saga. I will write a special column on these two at a later date because it is an amazing story that has no business in a elite football club locker room. However, both are in Paris and making wonder Instagram stories. Inter, meanwhile, has started fairly strong, however, I am not sure who is going to score goals for them. Yet, they are fundamentally sound and should actually roll Salvia Praha who neither Dippy or I know anything about except this gem:
Lyon vs Zenit
Lyon is a 57% favorite to win this match in Lyon. By the way, for those who are geographically challenged Lyon is in France and Zenit is in St Petersburg in Russia. Dippy got excited because he thought they were talking about the St Petersburg in Florida. No, Dippy, please put down the globe before you break it! My big question is: Is anyone outside of fans of either club interested in this match? If so, please send me a line. Because I know almost nothing about either team. I am sure they have great fans though. I am sure they spend a lot of money on flares and such. Dippy is in favor of all things Russia. His favorite photo is of Vladimir Putin on a horse. I am going to go with Lyon winning this one fairly easily.
Chelsea vs Valencia
Chelsea is a 52% favorite to win at Stamford Bridge. This is actually an interesting match up. This blog has a more in depth analysis of this match-up so I won’t delve too deeply into it here. My thought on Chelsea is that they have been forced to go with a youth movement (rather than by choice with Man United) with a legend as their manager who actually seems to have some good skill sets. Chelsea are going to be as predictable as Lindsey Lohan at a bachelorette party. The good news for them is that Valencia is a dumpster fire full of bio-hazard medical waste and tires. They just sacked their manager for irreconcilable differences and then got themselves blown up by a 16 year old led Barcelona squad. Chelsea is in London so they should take it.
Borussia Dortmund vs Barcelona
Barcelona is a 39% favorite to win at Dortmund. Leo Messi may play or he may not play. He has been bothered by a calf issue since the Copa America and has not appeared in any game this season. His son has been seen scoring goals in a yard on Instagram. I am guessing he will not be in Barca’s line-up due to FIFA age restrictions. Barcelona is grossly unpredictable as there have been bizarre games where they shown the same imagination as a caterpillar on the interstate and then blown up to drop 4 or 5 goals on unsuspecting squads. Ansu Fati is a 16 year old phenom and he is already putting balls in the net for Barca. Barcelona’s manager Valverde appears to lack drive and imagination. His squads of recent years have appeared to be a slo-mo version of past Barca teams. He has reigned in their speed, imagination, drive, and desire for M&Ms. When he lets them loose they could potentially roll anyone. If you do not have a team to support in Germany or the world, then Dortmund is your team. They have a great history. They do not always win the league. Their style of play has been assertive, genuine, imaginative, and energetic. Their team is usually young, vibrant, and likeable. They have hot yellow kits and by far the best fans in the world. Westfalenstadion has the fabled “Yellow Wall” which is a standing only terrace on the South End. It is as fantastic as it is daunting. Sadly, due to UEFA rules they are required to have all seats for Champions League matches. Nonetheless there is no better atmosphere to watch a match. This years version of Borussia Dortmund is a better squad. They did shore up some holes from last season in terms of bodies and leadership. Getting Mats Hummels back was an excellent move to provide on-field leadership that was grossly lacking last season. The issue with Borussia Dortmund is their manager, Lucien Favre (Dippy thought he was Brett Favre’s uncle, sadly though it would be an improvement he is not), is as imaginative as Jell-O in a sauna. His flat affect and general man management shows on the field where they seem to also be reigned in (like Dippy when he does the perp walk from the hotel to a waiting police car). Dortmund has the talent on the pitch to score freely and often, but seem to often lack the energy to do. This seems to come from their manager. I say this with one further caveat. That is, you should not have to be motivated by your boss. You should as a professional footballer be self-motivated. Meanwhile, Marco Reus has the best hair in German football. This probably will be a draw if Messi does not play.
Red Bull Salzburg vs Genk
Red Bull Salzburg is a 66% favorite to win at Salzburg. I do not know anything, really, about either team. Dippy says that all he knows is that if you drink enough Red Bull you might need a kidney transplant and he thinks that it tastes like battery acid mixed with smelling salts. We do not understand why a company that would make such a drink would bother to own multiple football teams in multiple countries. RB Salzburg is from Austria and Genk is in Belgium. That’s it. That’s all we know. I am not sure anyone in the United States will be watching this game anyways and I am guessing no one even knows which channel it is on. I refuse to even provide a pick in this game.
Napoli vs Liverpool
Liverpool is a 42% favorite to win at Napoli. Dippy the Pirate Bear’s second favorite manager is Jurgen Klopp. This is for a good reason. When he was the manager of Dortmund after winning a trophy he ended up passed out drunk on a flat-bed of a truck in a factory. He is also a walking HR violation. The blatant irresponsible use of a water bottle on the sideline of a pitch should tell you all you need to know. Klopp is arguably the best manager in the world. His man management skills are excellent and his tactical skills are above average. Luckily, Liverpool were patient enough with him to build his squad to be the Champions League Champions. They will be in the running again this time. I believe that this game will end in a draw, but no one should worry about that result. Napoli is a quality side.
Ajax vs Lille
Ajax is a 67% favorite to win this match in Amsterdam. For obvious reasons, this is Dippy’s favorite city. Enough said. Does anyone think that Ajax will have the same magic that led them to the semi-finals last year? I do not think so. My cat has a better chance at learning to drive then Ajax making the semi-finals this time around. This will be a test for their manager and they will win this match, but a long magical run is unlikely.
Red Bull Leipzig vs Benfica
Benfica is a 37% favorite to win this game at the Estadio da Luz. By some loophole two teams owned by the company that makes Red Bull are allowed to compete in the same competition. This was something that was not allowed before so I guess someone got paid to make this happen. RB Leipzig is the most hated team in Germany and I am not even sure their own fans like them. Their rise to power is more absurd and full of loopholes then the last season of ‘Lost.’ They are so offensive to many football fans that the ultra group at Union Berlin on their first ever Bundeliga match at their pitch refused to cheer for the first fifteen minutes in defiance of their mere appearance in the Bundeliga. This match should a draw.
Author: Keith Lisenbee, mental health professional, writer, and soccer enthusiast is from Atlanta, Georgia by way of Virginia. I was in love with soccer until Agüero destroyed my soul and Manchester United's title hopes in 2012. Came back for the World Cup in 2014 and through the use of DVR I am back with the force of orange Tic Tacs and IPAs covering the EPL, Bundesliga, MLS, and La Liga. You can follow me on Twitter @keith_lisenbee and Instagram @lisenbeekeith got more random soccer thoughts.