Of Champions League action has been set. Take a look at the draw here. And here's the bracket which is now in place. Some initial thoughts from the TLOCA headquarters:
Jim on Liverpool vs. Arsenal:
Liverpool and Arsenal must be cursing their luck right now. First off, this draw means that they'll have to play each other THREE TIMES IN A ROW in the beginning of April. Secondly, it means that the road to the trophy (if you're a betting man) after this tie will run through Chelsea and Manchester United. Not really a cupcake schedule. It's bad for Liverpool because Arsenal have definitely had their number over the past few years. It's bad for Arsenal because Torres is on fire and Liverpool turn their game up a notch when they're in Europe. But it's good for us, the viewers, because it should make for two pretty entertaining matches.
Juan's sloppy seconds on Liverpool vs. Arsenal:
The arrogant side of me loves this draw because of its volatility. Liverpool loses it's mythical mystique in the Champions League because the competition is in house and knows them well. It reminds me of how the outside world thinks of Will Smith. Getting jiggy with it right? I Am Legend was a great movie right!... Well he's a Scientologist and everyone in house knows he's fu^$ing crazy.
The cautious, March Sadness side of me (RIP Maryland) is afraid that my new hatred baby born last Wednesday will grow up all too fast if Pool manages to beat Arsenal and the gushing continues. I wanted Liverpool to make like Terry Shiavo last round but if it turns into a Barbaro saga I suppose that will do as well.
With this draw however I do feel that Arsenal is essentially choosing between advancing in the Champions League and keeping pace in the Premiership. I'd love to think Wenger can have it all but I'd also love to think Pujols isn't going to have surgery 22 games into the season.
Jim says about Romechester:
Roma should be getting really amped to play Manchester United. After last year's 7-1 humiliation at Old Trafford, they'll be looking to avenge themselves. They played United pretty tough in the group stages, but lost a close 1-0 contest and eeked out a draw at home. They'll have to step it up, and hope that United gets cocky now that their three English rivals are on the other side of the bracket.
Juan adds about Mana:
I believe that either of these two teams can advance. I think if Roma advances it would be considered an upset to some degree but here at TLOCA that shouldn't be the case. In fact, I think the winner of Arsenal-Liverpool will be the only English side that advances. This English flood into the quarters reminds me of the NCAA Tourny too much. One conference will have a great first and 2nd round, then just about all of them will lose out once conversations about the dominance of the ACC or PAC10 start gelling. The strength of the EPL however is a debate for another time. Onward -
Jimbo Jones on the clean-up:
Barcelona and Chelsea should be penciling themselves into the semifinals. Of course, after what we've seen in the FA Cup, you can't ever count out a team. And Schalke and Fenerbahce certainly know how to scrape together a victory. If things go to penalties, we already know they're capable.
Juan shows you the door:
I'm going to respectfully disagree with my colleague here about Chelsea (this ensures at least one of us will be right, holler!). Olympiacos went all cautious-catherine against Chelsea and they paid the price. If the first round indicates anything it's that Fenerbahce is willing to run with anyone. I like the Turks with the upset spesh.
Let's see here, how much can I continue to hate on Schalke? Let's put it this way - if Barca hadn't lost Messi, which is very very significant, I'd be scouring the internet for a picture of a man in a Barca jersey ramming a homeless woman wearing a Schalke jersey in an alleyway.