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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bayern Munich's Kahn will retire if his team win Champions League

German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn admitted on Tuesday that he might retire from football if Bayern Munich won the Champions League.

"It is really likely for me to retire the game if we clinched the Champions League trophy this season," German media quoted Kahn as expressing.

In fact, the 37-year-old international, who was the second-choice keeper of the German team that won the bronze medal in the World Cup earlier this year, said he wants to quit on top before people call on him to retire.

What's more, coach Felix Magath told the club's website that he wants to give Kahn's long-term successor as competitive matches as possible.

"We all know that Rensing is Kahn's designated successor for us, so I believe he needs match practice when there's something at stake. I have complete faith in him," he stated.

And now it's fair to say that during his 12-year career with the Bavarians, Kahn won seven league titles and one Champions League trophy.

In the most important moment of his career, he led Germany to the final game of the World Cup 2002 before losing to Brazil. Though, he was named FIFA's best footballer of that Cup.

Great encounters to take place in the next stage

Current champions Barcelona were pitted against England's Liverpool Football Club in a meeting of the Champions League winners of the past two season as the draw for the first knock-out stage of the competition threw up a series of attractive clashes.

The catalan team, who were among the second seeds in the draw in Nyon, Switzerland, will be pleased to be avoiding some of this season's top favourites, but still face a stern test in the 2005 kings and five-time European champions.

In fact, Barcelona president Joan Laporta expressed: 'It will be a meeting between the last two champions, so it is going to be an great tie.

"I can say that I am happy with the draw. Liverpool are one of the sides I fancied meeting at this stage. They are powerful opponents who play very physical football and have players we know very well, like Luis Garcia and Xabi Alonso. But let's not forget, we are the squad to beat this season."

As we know, Liverpool club secretary Bryce Morrison said the clash with Barcelona could be the launchpad for another assault on Europe's top prize.

"They don't come much bigger than that. We are relishing these matches. And we hope we can go all the way once again, starting with this big one."

Furthermore, the draw brought together two familiar foes in record nine-time European champions Real Madrid and German Bayern Munich.

In fact, the two sides have met 10 times in the competition since 2000, with Real Madrid knocking Bayern out in the last 16 in the 2003/2004 season and in the quarter-finals on the way to the 2002 title.

It's important to consider that Bayern Munich did the same to Real in the 2001 semi-finals before beating Valencia in the final for their fourth and so far last title.

And Real Madrid sports director Pedja Mijatovic admitted: "We have had a bit of luck. I think we can be satisfied. Bayern have a strong, battling team but we have the opportunity of going further. Maybe on paper we are the favourites."

But Bayern manager Felix Magath described the meeting with Real as 'a cracking game' and quipped: "I said beforehand it would be Real - I'd arranged it with UEFA."

In another major game, British champions Chelsea - regarded as one of the favourites - come up against Portugal's Porto, pitting Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho against the club he led to the Champions League title in 2004.

As we know, the two clubs met in the 2004/2005 group stage when Chelsea won 3-1 at home and lost 2-1 in Portugal.

What's more, six-times champions AC Milan face Scottish side Celtic while cross-town rivals and Italian league leaders Inter Milan have an intriguing tie against Spanish side Valencia.

Let's mention that of England's remaining clubs in the last 16, last year's losing finalists Arsenal come up against Dutch title-holders and 1988 European champions PSV Eindhoven while English league leaders Manchester United meet French side Lille.

Also important: in the remaining tie, fancied French champions Lyon, regarded as one of the top contenders for this year's title, will have to overcome Roma.

The "Red devils" will be seeking to make good against a Lille team who helped put the Reds out in last season's group stage. United lost 1-0 Lille and were held to a goalless draw at home.

Red coach Sir Alex Ferguson told the club website: "We just had a bad experience last year but this is a different United squad.

Finally, we must keep in mind that the round of 16 matches are to be played over two legs on February 20/21 and March 6/7, 2007. The final game is scheduled for May 23 in Athens, Greece.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Liverpool failed in Istanbul

The Champions League night saw Liverpool Football Club make an unsuccessful return to Istanbul as they lost 3-2 to Galatasaray despite two goals from veteran frontman Robbie Fowler.

Spanish coach Rafa Benitez opted to rest a number of first-team regulars, with the Reds already safely through to the knockout stages of the competition.

As we saw, the opening minutes of the clash saw little action in either goalmouth, with neither side having much to play for.

But the encounter burst into life after 22 minutes as Craig Bellamy found space down the left and his ball into the area was bundled home from close range by Fowler.

And within two minutes it was 1-1 as Xabi Alonso's poor pass was intercepted by Necati Ates, who raced clear to beat Jerzy Dudek with a low shot.

It's important to see that three minutes later Gala were 2-1 in front as a corner from the right was only half-cleared and Okan Buruk volleyed home superbly from 25 yards out with his right foot.

The home team almost got a third right on half-time as Dudek blocked Sabri's shot with his legs after some sloppy play in defence.

Furthermore, Gala went close again eight minutes into the second half as Ergun's free-kick in from the left was headed against the far post by Umit Karan, with Dudek well beaten.

And eleven minutes from time it was 3-1 to the home side as substitute Mehmet Guvan got clear on the right and his cutback into the area gave fellow replacement Sasa Ilic an easy finish.

That was game over for Liverpool, but they at least kept fighting until the final minute, when Jermaine Pennant found space on the right flank and his stand-up cross was headed home at the far post by Fowler.

Barcelona beat Bremen and advanced in Group A

The defending Champions Laegue king, FC Barcelona, avoided becoming the first European champions to be knocked out at the group stage with a Group A win over Werder Bremen while Chelsea defeated Levski to assure the first place in the group.

In the city of Barcelona, Ronaldinho fired the home side into the lead on 13 minutes when he slid a free kick beneath a leaping Werder Bremen wall, the ball rolling past a helpess Tim Wiese in the German goal.

And just five minutes later, Eidur Gudjohnsen tucked home the second goal for Barcelona when he touched home a pass from the right by French striker Ludovic Giuly.

In fact, the German team improved in the second half, but Barcelona continued to be the best side with Wiese having to make several nice plays to keep the scoreline respectable.

In the other game of the group, Chelsea defeated Levski 2-0. The Bulgarian team's first foray into the Champions League ended pointless after they were beaten by a superior Chelsea side at Stamford Bridge.

Indeed, Ukrainian forward Andriy Shevchenko was able to put the Blues in front in the 27th minute after punching home a pass by Frank Lampard from inside the penalty area.

We must mention that Levski's defense held out well for much of the game although Chelsea were clearly the better of the two teams, and they managed to add a deserved second goal seven minutes from time when striker Shaun Wright-Phillips bagged the score.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Tiago: "Lyon can win the Champions League"

Tiago is part of a very competitive French club: Lyon. And he has revealed his belief that his team can win the UEFA Champions League this season.

Indeed, Gerard Houllier’s side are once again leading the pack in Ligue 1 and can now divert some of their attention to European matters when the knockout stages come around.

"Honestly I am convinced that we can win the Champions League," said the Portuguese player.

"It's just that we qualified quickly for the knockout stage - that was very important and that showed our ability.

"We are still leading Ligue 1 and have really high hopes for the Champions League."

We must consider that the ambitious French side have performed well in the competition in recent seasons and are many experts tip as a ‘dark horse’ for the title.

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