Is often all it takes to turn the football world upside down.
Let's talk about what's happened since last Wednesday:
1. Roma dump Real Madrid out of the CL. What a solid two-leg performance the Italians gave. There was nothing fluky about this cupset, as Roma played a perfect game plan both home and away. Yes, Madrid started brightly in the second leg and wasted some chances, but they didn't even deserve the goal they got (Raul was about a mile offside). It also should have come as no surprise; los Blancos have lost at this stage the past four years. If you're looking forward to pretty football, you have to be hoping that Roma get drawn with either Man U or Arsenal in the quarterfinals. There'd be some wonderful attacking skills on display.
2. The Schalke shocker. I honestly didn't think that they would go to Portugal and advance, but if this competition has taught us anything, it's that common sense and (especially) league form should be thrown out of the window. Porto have been dominant at home and in the Portuguese League, but they had to score a wondergoal to even force OT and penalties. Schalke are a very well-organized side, and it was harsh of me to call them the worst team in the competition. Now Ben might get his wish; if Schalke and Fenerbahce are drawn together and there's even the slightest on-the-pitch controversy, we could get that European conflict.
3. Liverpool start playing like the best team in Europe. Gerrard has been superb, but the skipper has been playing second fiddle to Fernando Torres, who is in danger of setting fire to anything he touches. A few weeks ago, Adebayor was being hailed as the "dream striker," but I think you'd have to give that superlative to el nino at the moment. He's been phenomenal, leading them to big wins in the league and over Inter in the CL. Though they won't be winning the EPL anytime soon, you have to be encouraged by their form and like their chances in Europe. AND they're currently in talks to escape their hated American owners. Must be good to be a 'Pool fan these days.
4. The Premier League becomes Man U's to lose. Arsenal have bookended wonderful performances in Europe with lackluster draws against Aston Villa and Wigan. To be fair, the former stemmed from an own goal and the second was played on a pitch that looked like a Korean minefield, but there should never be excuses for title-challenging teams. Now, United can take the lead with a victory, and Arsenal have failed to stock up points before the real looming challenges of their season (Chelsea, Liverpool, United). But nothing is certain, as evidenced when...
5. The aforementioned Man U and Chelsea go crashing out of the FA Cup. It's really good for football. Not necessarily for my interest and certainly not for quality of play, but good for football. Barnsley's run has been the stuff of dreams and the other squads are fully deserving of their places. Also, it's always great when Alex Ferguson is so frustrated by a game's result that he utters the unthinkable: "I have to agree with Arsene Wenger."
6. The dream slowly ends for Barcelona. Question: How do you replace Lionel Messi? Answer: You can't. But having Henry and Eto'o doesn't hurt. Question: How should you respond when Real Madrid reveals itself as vulnerable and lets you sneak up on them in the La Liga standings? Answer: Well, I can tell you what you shouldn't do, and that's lose to Villareal at home while Madrid win. Sorry boys, better set your sights on the Champions League. (Also, there's trouble brewing in that locker room... Titi back to England? I just got goosebumps.)
7. The Premier League reveals itself as the best football league in the world. Four of eight quarterfinalists. Victories over the reigning Greek, French, Italian, and European champions to advance. Says it all, really. Now get ready for the Liverpool-Man U, Chelsea-Arsenal draw on Friday.