Ladies and Gentlemen, OTC has stepped boldly into the world of international football and there is no turning back. Unless of course no one reads the post, but that remains to be seen. Let’s take a swing around Europe before turning our eyes to the Transfer Window and the World Cup (which will be getting its own posts.
Chelsea looks set to take the title here unless they fail to take all three points from their home match against Wigan Athletic. Manchester United waits just one point behind if Chelsea does slip up and can claim their fourth consecutive Premier League Title with a win over Stoke City. After that, it appears Arsenal will get third, though a loss and a Tottenham win could mean fourth for the Gunners and a phenomenal 3rd for Spurs. However, it is expected that things will remain as they are with the top four going Chelsea, United, Arsenal, and Tottenham in that order.
In the next tier, fighting it out for the Europa League spots you have Manchester City, Aston Villa, Liverpool and Everton all separated by two points each. This clearly means that a loss by any of them could mean they get passed in the standings. However, given the fixtures (City @ West Ham, Villa vs. Blackburn, Liverpool vs. Hull and Everton vs. Portsmouth) a change in the standings would be a surprise. I think the most ripe for upset among these is Everton against Portsmouth, but they sit in 8th as it is and have limited table mobility anyway.
La Liga (Spain)
Barcelona and Madrid sit at the top, separated by a single point with the Catalans currently sitting atop the table. However, Barcelona has quite a bit of work to do if they want to hold onto the title. They must travel to streaky Sevilla, which is anything but a sure three points, while Madrid only must face Bilbao at the Bernabeu. Both also face bottom-of-the-table opponents in the final weeks, but it is all still to play for at the top. After the two giants you have a trio of teams fighting for the 3rd and 4th spots. We thought all along we would see Valencia and Sevilla here, but I think few, if any, thought Mallorca would be in this conversation. The Islanders owe their terrific home record and timely striking for their high tbale placement, but still could sneak into the Champions League, especially with Sevilla having to face Barcelona. Valencia is secure in 3rd.
Just below these five are Getafe, Villarreal and Bilbao. It is an odd group to say the least, the still one worth discussing. I am a Villarreal fan, and frankly their season as a whole has been a disappointment. With the kind of talent on that roster, there is no reason they should not be snugly in fourth or fifth, but instead they sit 7th and have a lot of work to do if they want to catch Getafe, who are a point above them. The Yellow Submarine ( so named for their all-yellow uniforms) still must face Valencia and Zaragoza in their final two matches and four points from those matches would be a good result for the Sub. However, Getafe has only to face Malaga and Europa-tied Athletico Madrid in a derby. Expect the standings to remain the same, though I certainly hope the Sub rises to torpedo depth and sneaks into 6th. Still plenty going on in Spain.
Serie A (Italy)
Barring collapse, Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan will win the title here, though Roma has certainly made them work for it. Inter just defeated Roma in the Coppa Italia as well, so Roma know who to aim for come next campaign. A lot of talk has been swirling around Juventus, who stumbled to a very mediocre finish and appear to be in the process of restructuring and re-tooling the squad. Expect a lot of money flying around. If Villarreal is willing to sell, Giuseppe Rossi could join Juve, but we will save that for our Transfer Window talk, which will commence in about 75 words.
I will not pretend to know much about German football, but unless Schalke gains 18 goals on Bayern Munich (literally) and Bayern loses, it will be Bayern’s title. We will talk more about Bayern in our Champions League section.
Ligue 1 (France)
Marseille ran away with it and Champions League semifinalists Lyon struggled. That is all I got in France really.
Here are a few ideas I have in the transfer window that may or may not be entirely speculatory.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Barcelona) to Manchester City
With David Villa headed for Barcelona, it appears the big Swede’s services are no longer needed. Carlos Tevez is also reportedly unhappy at Eastlands (and no one is surprised since he is a whiner), which opens the door for Ibra to head to Manchester in the transfer window. I think it makes a lot of sense for all sides and would like to see it. On a scarier note, Barcelona will be starting Lionel Messi and David Villa up top with the rising Pedro making it an unthinkably deadly trio up top. Yikes.
Carlos Tevez (Manchester City) to I Have No Idea FC
He is probably going to move, but I really cannot figure out where he will end up. From a football standpoint, there are not a ton of guys I would want more then Tevez. He is a striker, but defends with gusto, strikes with venom and just generally plays well. However, he is a bit of a prima donna, and at this point it is hard to see what club would take a flyer on him. It would by easy, though lazy, to just say Real Madrid will sign him, and they might, but we try to be more creative than that here at OTC. Maybe AC Milan will make a run at him or Juventus will make a run at him, but I am not really sure at this point. Depends on where other chips fall.
Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal) to Juventus
If Juventus do not opt for Tevez, expect the Italian striker’s name to fly around quite a bit. He is young, talented, and had a less than satisfactory campaign at Villarreall this year, leading to some talks of his departure. He has always held a place in his heart for Italy (though he was born in East Rutherford, NJ) and a move to Juventus would seem to fit everyone’s interests.
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) to Manchester United
Edwin Van Der Sar is not getting any younger, and Ben Foster is going to be leaving Old Trafford. The result will be Buffon, a man regarded as one of the top two goalies in the world (with Iker Casillas) to be moving to Old Trafford this summer. Just a good move for both parties.
Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich) to Real Madrid
It is unknown if Ribery will move at all, but I have a feeling he is Madrid bound. I think the prospect of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, and Ribery in the midfield is too much for the Moneybags of Madrid to pass up and they will ultimately make Bayern Munich an offer they cannot refuse. The chances of this would have been further bolstered if he could have made and impression in the Champions League Final, but after his innocuous-looking, but clearly malicious foul, he will not have the chance to make that impression. I am not sure how successful he will be in Madrid, but I believe he will be wearing the white shirt come next year.
Jose Mourinho (Inter Milan) to Real Madrid
I know managers are not really transfers, but expect Mourinho to be on the sidelines for Real Madrid next season, regardless of his Champions League result. He has the flash and the charisma to make it in Madrid, and he loves the bright lights like few other managers in Europe. It makes all the sense in the world for him, and we all know Madrid is not shy about making outlandish offers and snap judgments, and the combination of the two will mean Jose in Madrid.
Champions League Final
Inter Milan vs. Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu. Madrid, Spain.
I forget who once said it, but soccer was once explained as “22 men kick the ball around for 90 minutes and at the end, Germany wins.” While there was certainly humor involved, the fact that Germany wins should not be overlooked. Inter has the names, the glamor, the flash, and everything you look for in a Champion, including their defeat of previous champions Barcelona, but that does not always mean victory. They are my pick to win. However, we should not overlook the typical German efficiency of Bayern and that while it may not always be pretty, it is undoubtedly effective. I have Inter winning 2-1, but we will have further breakdown of the match closer to game time.
I hope to make this a somewhat weekly segment, but if there is no interest, it will not be. Let us know if you want to know more about soccer, or if you would like for u to drop it completely. Do not forget to follow us on Twitter @outtatownclowns!