Monday, March 5, 2007

Predictions, Predictions

This weekend, one of my readers asked me for my picks of who would win in Europe. (Thanks, “Soccerfan.”) Since “Soccerfan” is presumably one of the eight or nine people who actually read this column, I thought I would answer. Soccerfanwasn’t really clear in what he was asking: I presume he was asking about my picks as to who would win the Champions League, but I am also going to provide some quick thoughts on who will come away with the three major European leagues that I follow: England, Spain, and Italy.


The easiest work is done in Italy, where Inter is running away with the league. As of March 5 they have 70 points and are 16 points up on their nearest competitor. Only a fool wouldn’t pick them.

Much more intriguing is the race for the top four spots in the league, which grants the teams places in next year’s champion’s league. Inter obviously has their spot and Roma seems to have theirs as well. The final two could be Palermo, Lazio, or Empoli, but two of the most intriguing stories in football right now are AC Milan and Fiorentina as they fight for a Champions spot. Milan and Fiorentina, remember, started with major points penalties (8 and 15 points, respectively) and yet are threatening a top-four spot. My favorite club, Fiorentina, has been particularly impressive; without their penalty they would have 50 points and would be sitting pretty. Their utter destruction of Torino yesterday suggests they will not end the season without a serious fight.


This weekend Manchester United managed to squeak by Liverpool and remain 9 points up on Chelsea. While I agree with Jose Mourinho that the race is by no means over (Manchester still has to go to Chelsea) I am picking Manchester to win the league by a relatively close margin; perhaps three or four points. While both of the top two teams in England are relatively thin, Manchester has managed to create more depth due to the Henrik Larrson signing and the remarkable health of their team. Also, in spite of Didier Drogba’s fantastic year, I think Christiano Ronaldo is having the best season of any player in the world, and Manchester, I think, should be able to use him to keep their competitors at bay. Just think how good this team could be if Wayne Rooney played as well as his reputation.

I predict that the top four in England will be United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. I also predict the sun shall rise tomorrow.


La Liga is, by far, the closest and most competitive league that I am following this year. Sevilla played a great match against Barca this weekend, beating them and taking over first place. In spite of this, I do believe that Barca will ultimately win the league; once they get Ronaldinho, Eto’o, and Messi back in form they seem to me they will be quite unstoppable, in spite of the team’s defensive deficiencies. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see Barca drop the ball, both as Real Madrid fan and as an admirer of beautiful football. Sevilla is a fun team to watch. I just think Barca is a better team than we have seen so far.

My top four in Spain is Barca, Sevilla, Valencia and Atletico Madrid. Real Madrid finishes fifth, misses the Champions League, fires Capello, signs two more big-name players (Franck Ribery for one, maybe) and starts over yet again. God, that’s depressing.

Champions League

This is probably the toughest league to predict, as there are literally six or seven teams good enough to win it. Thus, I am going to go out on a limb here: I predict the final will be…(drumroll please) Inter v. Chelsea. And I believe Inter will win it.

Strange prediction, I know. I don’t think Chelsea will win their domestic league, but because of this I do think Mourinho will pour everything he has into winning the Champions again before he leaves Chelsea. Inter, of course, has to get by a very tough Valencia team who scored two away goals in their first meeting two weeks ago. I do believe Inter will pull Tuesday’s match out, however, and I do believe they will go on to win the Champion’s league simply because the seem like the strongest and most complete team this year. If Inter has ever had a year of destiny, this is it.

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