Viva la futbol

(photo courtesy of zimbio.com) Aresenal defeated Barcelona in a Champions League upset last week.

(photo courtesy of zimbio.com) Aresenal defeated Barcelona in a Champions League upset last week.

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(photo courtesy of zimbio.com) Aresenal defeated Barcelona in a Champions League upset last week.

After one of the best and most favored sides in history was stunned at Emirates Stadium last week, the Champions League proved why games aren’t played on paper. Predicted to be a complete domination by Barcelona, Arsenal stunned the Spanish side 2-1 with an impressive late switch to bring on Andrei Arshavin. In a day that also saw Italian juggernaut Roma upset by the little known Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk 3-2, the Champions League has plenty of opportunities to see crazy results with lots of juggernauts left to play.

In the two-leg rounds, allowing a team to play both at home and away truly gives it the opportunity to show dominance and talent. Arsenal’s side looked out of form and was not in control for much of the game, but due to a key substitution, it proved the be the decisive factor. On March 8, a match at Camp Nou will either demonstrate the resiliency of Barcelona or the superiority of Arsenal. On that same day, Roma will look to bounce back and not make as many dumb mistakes (that’s directed at you, John Arne-Riise) when they head to Ukraine for the second leg with Shakhtar Donetsk.

Even before this, Tottenham Hotspur, a lesser-known English side and their star striker Peter Crouch upset heavy favorite Milan. Just a quarter of the Champions League’s matches for this round have been played, and we’re looking at a rather different landscape. Real Madrid and other heavy favorites are looking to stay awake and avoid letdowns in their opening matches.

If you’re interested in watching any of these matches, head over to footyfire.com for live streams of games. Go to ESPN’s Soccernet online and find the schedule for your club of choice, and then sit back and watch the beautiful game. Even better is the option to hear it in a variety of languages by going through these links. Personally, I think you should tune in at 2:45 p.m. on March 8 to see “Barsenal, Part 2,” but that’s just me.

Meanwhile, Americans are getting chances to make history and continue to build the sport back home. Goalkeeper Tim Howard has long earned credit for playing well for English club Everton, and he continues to show that Americans can perform well at the highest levels. He was lights out for most of the game against Chelsea in the recent FA Cup game, making eight vital saves to help force a decisive penalty shootout. His save on Nicholas Anelka’s shot put Everton back in the game, and eventually Everton stunned the reigning champion. Howard has performed well for years and has a chance to lead Everton into further glory.

On the other hand, Clint Dempsey continues to perform well against Premier League defenses, despite missing a PK that would have helped Fulham upset Chelsea. He is 8th in the Barclays Premier League for goals scored with nine. Fulham experienced disappointment a few days ago with a tough FA Cup loss to Bolton, a team that sees American Stuart Holden as a staple in midfield. The Scottish-American is under the radar, but his high passing efficiency and creative playmaking is helping him achieve success.

For this upcoming weekend, look to Real Madrid to continue its recent run as it makes a move on Barcelona at the top of the Spanish Primera Division. Inter should be able to run down rival Milan, being just five points back, but the Italian Serie A is far from over for the competitors. In the Premier League, look for Chelsea to continue to struggle and for some space to appear between the mid-level teams and the relegation zone.  Germany, France, the Netherlands and Portugal don’t matter much to me, and I don’t feel very qualified to write about who does what there, especially since my favorite players in those leagues have left for greener pastures. Finally, look for the CONCACAF (the region the U.S. plays in) games online, as you can see the future of American soccer go up against the youth teams from North and South America.

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