Champions League Group Stage Preview: Ireland style
The Group Stage of the 2010-2011 UEFA Champions League gets under way tonight, and you’ll find plenty of previews and predictions in print and online. This is a little different, as we’ll look at the Irish players in each Champions League squad (unfortunately there’s not too many this time around), and assess their chances of getting game time.
There’s only one Irish player in this group, Robbie Keane of Tottenham Hotspur. It’s Spurs’ first ever Champions League appearance, but they do have European pedigree, being the first English team to lift a continental trophy with their Cup Winners Cup victory in 1963. They also won the UEFA Cup in 1972 and 1984, and reached the final in 1974. There is currently a lot of competition for match places amongst the Spurs’ forwards, and Keane will be starting most games on the bench. However, if manager Harry Redknapp heavily rotates his squad between European and domestic games, that could mean further game time in the Premier Leaue. During his short spell at Inter Milan, Keane did not get a chance to play in the Group Stages, due to the side’s embarrassing defeat in the Third Qualifying Round to Swedish side Helsingborg. He did, however, feature for Liverpool in the 2008-09 Champions League Group Stage, scoring against both PSV and Atletico Madrid as Liverpool topped the group table.
Sep 14 – Werder Bremen v Tottenham
Sep 29 – Tottenham v Twente
Oct 20 – Inter Milan v Tottenham
Nov 02 – Tottenham v Inter Milan
Nov 24 – Tottenham v Werder Bremen
Dec 07 – Twente v Tottenham
Manchester United included two Irish players in their 2010-11 Champions League squad. John O’Shea has plenty of experience in the competition, with 69 appearances in Europe as well as 2 goals. He also holds one winners medal, when United defeated Chelsea in the thrilling 2008 final played in Moscow. He only appeared twice last time out in Europe, and will be hoping to increase that number as well as double his medals total this season. The other Ireland international registered to Man Utd’s European squad is midfielder Darren Gibson. He has yet to appear for his club this season, but will definitely get his chance sooner rather than later. He also has Champions League experience, with 6 games and 1 goal in continental competition for United. That goal coming in a wonderful match for the 9-game-Ireland international against Bayern Munich in April this year.
Sep 14 – Man Utd v Rangers
Sep 29 – Valencia v Man Utd
Oct 20 – Man Utd v Bursaspor
Nov 02 – Bursaspor v Man Utd
Nov 24 – Rangers v Man Utd
Dec 07 – Man Utd v Valencia
Ireland’s solitary player in Group F is not actually with the English team, but rather the third seeded Russians, Spartak Moscow. Aiden McGeady moved to the Russian Premier League champions for £9.5 million, making him the most expensive export ever from the SPL. After recovering from injury, McGeady made his first start for his new club on Saturday, and should slot straight into the starting eleven for tomorrow’s visit to Marseille. McGeady has a decent amount of continental experience with Celtic, as was part of their 2006-07 and 2007-08 Champions League campaigns, with the team getting out of the Group Stage twice, even beating Man Utd along the way.
Sep 15 – Marseilles v Spartak Moscow
Sep 28 – Spartak Moscow v Zilina
Oct 19 – Spartak Moscow v Chelsea
Nov 03 – Chelsea v Spartak Moscow
Nov 23 – Spartak Moscow v Marseilles
Dec 08 – Zilina v Spartak Moscow