Major Link Soccer: UEFA Champions League Draw

Harold Cunningham

The UEFA Champions League group stage draw was held yesterday morning and UEFA Best Player in Europe was crowned.

The draw for the group stage of the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League took place yesterday morning in Monaco, and the top teams in Europe learned which opponents they will be facing. There aren't any obvious groups of death like there was last year with Real Madrid, Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax all being drawn into the same group. The toughest groups this time around are probably Group F (Arsenal, Marseille, Dortmund, Napoli) and Group H (Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax, Celtic). Manchester United and Chelsea both received pretty favorable draws in comparison to the other teams in Pot 1. Atlético Madrid and PSG were the most fortunate teams in Pot 2, having been drawn in the same groups as the Pot 1 teams from Portugal.

After the draw was completed, the UEFA Best Player in Europe trophy was awarded to Franck Ribery, who beat out Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (who opted not to appear) for the award. While many assumed that Messi would win the award after his stellar season in La Liga, it's worth noting that Iniesta won it last year over Messi and Ronaldo, so there's reason to believe that the voters like to go with a less than obvious candidate.

The UEFA Champions League final will be played in Fredy Montero's new hometown of Lisbon, Portugal next spring. Perhaps the close proximity of the Champions League trophy will motivate Fredy to lead Sporting CP to qualification for next season's Champions League. The logo for the final in Lisbon was also unveiled yesterday.

The Champions League group stage draw wasn't the only draw for a tournament in Europe yesterday. The draw for the third round of the Football League's Capital One Cup in England was also held yesterday. One of the most interesting match ups is Manchester United vs. Liverpool at Old Trafford, in what will be Luis Suarez's first match with Liverpool after serving his 10 game suspension and unsuccessfully trying to force a move away from Anfield this summer. Steve Zakuani's older brother Gabriel Zakuani and his Peterborough United visit Jozy Altidore's Sunderland. In a rematch of last spring's FA Cup Final, Manchester City hosts Wigan Athletic. A lot of Sounders will be interested in the match between Derby County (Alan Hinton, Ross Fletcher) and Leicester City (Arlo White, Kasey Keller).

MLS has reportedly rejected a $750,000 transfer bid by Stoke City for Juan Agudelo. Agudelo has already signed a pre-contract with Stoke and will join the club in January, but Stoke would prefer to bring him in before the summer window closes. Although New England is losing him after the end of the season, they have bolstered their back line with the signing of Jamaican left back O'Brian Woodbine. Woodbine has earned 14 caps with Jamaica. The Revs resident representative of 253, Kelyn Rowe, is currently in the lead in Goal of the Week voting with nearly 40% of the vote.

Remember when the 3 or 4 highest paid players in MLS were foreign players like David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and Robbie Keane? Well, no more. With the signing of Clint Dempsey and the re-signing of Landon Donovan, the two highest paid players in MLS are now Americans. Dempsey, Donovan and Michael Bradley are probably the 3 best American soccer players in the world right now, and the league managed to bring back one of them in his prime and hold on to another, with clubs like Manchester United and AC Milan reportedly interested.

After a deal for a stadium in Queens fell apart, it looks like New York City FC could soon be neighbors with the New York Yankees, who co-own the expansion franchise. The plan is to build a 25,000 to 30,000 seat stadium in close proximity to Yankee Stadium on a subway line. If a stadium in the Bronx works out, the franchise could conceivably share staff with the Yankees, similar to how the Sounders and Seahawks share human resources.

Syed Nabi, India's most versatile player is currently on trial with DC United. He's a true for-mid-fender, capable of playing as a forward, a winger, a wing back or a fullback. One writer feels that DC United signing him could generate a ton of interest in MLS within India, given his popularity there.

Sigi Schmid made an appearance on KJR on Wednesday to discuss the game against Portland, some of Caleb Porter's pre-game comments on the differences between the Sounders and Timbers, and this weekend's match in Columbus. Also in Wednesday, in an interview at Sounders training, Sigi got the last laugh on Portland's Kah.

Top Drawer Soccer has a preview of the Pac 12 men's soccer season, featuring several Sounders Academy alumni. For UW, Darwin Jones is "a speedy weapon" that the UW attack "lacked in the previous seasons". At Stanford, Aaron Kovar and Jordan Morris are "the best one-two punch in the league".

After the controversy surrounding a Seattle capo being used for the upcoming World Cup qualifying match in Columbus, the American Outlaws released a statement concerning why capos are being brought in from different cities to help organize support throughout the record 27 sections of supporters. Some Columbus fans responded by questioning why capos are necessary, pointing out that they don't exist in England. They also appear to be of the opinion that they are being told what to do. Many in Columbus see this as an issue of conflicting styles of support and don't seem placated by the response from the American Outlaws.

Here are the weekend's TV listings:

Friday

  • UEFA Super Cup: Bayern Munich vs. Chelsea 11:45 AM Fox Sports 2
  • NCAA: California vs. Georgetown 2:00 PM Pac 12 Network
  • Liga MX: Morelia vs. Pachuca 5:30 PM ESPN Deportes, Azteca America
  • MLS: Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers 7:00 PM NBC Sports Network
  • Liga MX: Santos Laguna vs. León 7:30 PM Univision Deportes

Saturday

  • Premier League: Manchester City vs. Hull City 4:45 AM NBC Sports Network
  • Premier League: Cardiff City vs. Everton 7:00 AM NBC Sports Network
  • Ligue 1: PSG vs. Guingamp 8:00 AM Univision Deportes, beIN Sport
  • Premier League: Crystal Palace vs. Sunderland 9:30 AM NBC
  • Ligue 1: Sochaux vs. Ajaccio 11:00 AM Univision Deportes
  • Serie A: Juventus vs. Lazio 11:45 AM beIN Sport
  • Eredivisie: PSV vs. Cambuur 11:45 AM ESPN3
  • Liga MX: Veracruz vs. Tigres UANL 3:00 PM Univision Deportes
  • Liga MX: Cruz Azul vs. Querétaro 3:00 PM Univision
  • MLS: Columbus Crew vs. Seattle Sounders 4:30 PM KONG
  • MLS: New York Red Bulls vs. DC United 5:00 PM NBC Sports Network
  • NWSL Title Game: Western New York Flash vs. Portland Thorns 5:00 PM Fox Sports 2
  • Liga MX: Monterrey vs. Atlas 5:00 PM Univision Deportes
  • MLS: Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado Rapids 5:30 PM MLS Stream of the Week
  • Liga MX: Chiapas vs. Tijuana 7:00 PM Univision Deportes

Sunday

  • La Liga: Real Madrid vs. Athletic Club 3:00 AM beIN Sport
  • Ligue 1: Saint-Étienne vs. Bordeaux 5:00 AM beIN Sport
  • Premier League: Liverpool vs. Manchester United 5:30 AM NBC Sports Network, Telemundo
  • Premier League: Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur 8:00 AM NBC Sports Network
  • Serie A: AS Roma vs. Hellas Verona 9:00 AM beIN Sport
  • Liga MX: Puebla vs. Atlante 10:00 AM ESPN Deportes, Azteca America
  • NCAA: Indiana vs. UCLA 11:00 AM Big Ten Network
  • Ligue 1: Olympique Marseille vs. Monaco 12:00 PM Univision Deportes
  • La Liga: Valencia vs. Barcelona 12:00 PM beIN Sport
  • NCAA: California vs. Maryland 2:00 PM Pac 12 Network
  • NCAA: Stanford vs. Georgetown 4:00 PM Pac 12 Network
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