Prediction #5: UCL to Real Madrid
Unfortunately, these days I do not get FOX Soccer and thus I have only caught a few highlights on the Champions League.
I hate this pick. I realize the days of Franco are long gone and the ties between Franco and Real Madrid are somewhat suspect, but I can’t get the taste out of my mouth. Maybe it’s just the aristocracy associated with the term “Real.” Regardless, much as I like to cheer for the plucky Bilbao side for political reasons, the truth is I don’t have the time or energy to care about Spanish football.
With Madrid well out of the La Liga race, it is clear they are focusing on the UEFA Champions League. Of course there are other competitions like the Copa del Rey. Madrid is losing after the first of two legs in the Copa del Rey. We will find out on January 9th whether they go through to the next round or not.
Aside from focusing on this particular competition, I think Mourinho is motivated to get his European Cup and move out of Madrid. The pressure is too great. I think Mourinho is Jones-in for the United job. Only someone as egotistical as him could want to try to replace SAF. He’s good enough that he might just do it too. I’m sure most United fans would prefer Pep, but I’m not sure I do. Pep has only experienced one club and he’s shown he is willing to leave a winning team. If Pep came to United, how long would he be there? Mourinho already knows what he is getting into in England and while he’s not known for staying places a long time, I think he might be willing to settle down at United. Of course, SAF wants another European Cup. So, maybe Mourinho will have to wait one more year to take over United. He can already go out on top at Madrid though!
Probably nothing more needs to be said about Barcelona. The team is so good that even 60 Minutes did a report on them last night. Even though the new coach thing can be a motivational spark (see UCL Chelsea last year and Tubby Smith’s Wildcats in 1998), I just don’t see it happening. Certainly stranger things have happened.
If United can get over the Madrid hurdle, they have a serious shot at winning it all. RVP gives United something it hasn’t had since Ronaldo left — a world-class second option. Porto v Malaga, PSG v Valencia and Schalke v Galatasaray all show that there will be beatable teams in the round of 8. Of course, the four teams I’ve listed alongside United for the “other contenders” are the ones United doesn’t want. Ultimately though, a Barcelona v United final where SAF wins would be a fantastic conclusion to his career. Of course, he still won’t have beaten Pep, but he will have been the Barcelona system.
Munich & Dortmund
I don’t see enough German football to say too much about the prospects of Munich or Dortmund. It’s going to take years of making it close to the end of the UCL for Dortmund to be considered among the best of Europe by most. I think they are there right now. However, I don’t think either of these German giants can topple one of the true European giants.
Juventus has something special going to be sure, but I’m not sure they have the individual talent needed at the highest level. Like the Tubby Smith Kentucky teams of the late ’90s and early ’00s, you can build a great collective for a fantastic season, but come tournament time, you need an individual that can grab the game by the scruff of the neck. Certainly Pirlo is that type of player but does he still have it at 34?