Hello! The wait is finally over and I can officially welcome you to the first episode of Champions League Manager 97/98. We’ve stripped all of the teams out of the Scottish premier league and replaced them with nine champions league-winning teams from the 90’s, and one from the noughties. Each team will be managed by a member of our blog squad and it will be a bloodbath to see who comes out on top. We played and recorded the first two rounds of fixtures on Tuesday night, and this is how it played out…
First up was Philip’s Barcelona 92 side against Dean’s Ajax 95. Philip said that due to the lack of width in his squad, he was exploring some narrow formations, drawing inspiration from tactical mastermind Nikolai. Dean was relieved to see Patrick Kluivert injured, having said the striker had “always been crap”, and the Welshman opted for Peter Van Vossen and Kanu as his attacking options on the bench.
Barca led early through Stoichkov and dominated the first half an hour, but Ajax equalised and it was level at half time. Dean’s men started the second half as they’d ended the first, and scored a further three goals with Litmanen completing a hat trick. But Barca weren’t finished, and Stoichkov’s second was followed by Salinas and Amor to secure a point. Dean will feel aggrieved to let a 4-1 lead slip, but with 26 shots on goal, a point was no more than Barca deserved. A cracking game to open to the tournament.
Up next was an all-German affair between Andrew’s Bayern 2001 and Nathan’s Dortmund 1997. Andrew hasn’t fancied his team’s chances from the start, and in his pre-match comments he had little to say other than “they’re all crap”. Nathan was a tad more optimistic and said that there three players he liked, and it was just a case of filling the other positions with players who could play there.
If Andrew’s negative comments were said to get a reaction from his men, then it worked a treat as Bayern raced into a 3-0 lead through an Elber strike and a Scholl brace. Kirovski pulled one back but the come back was brief and former Woy Boy Ciriaco Sforza made it 4-1 at half time. Lars Ricken reduced the deficit further at the start of the second half, but four more goals were then traded up until the final whistle of a match that saw 10 goals, 37 shots, 16 corners and 18 free kicks. Wunderbar!
To say that Ross was disappointed with drawing Man Utd 99 (or a “bunch of arse holes” as he called them) would be a slight understatement, but he’ll have to put his club loyalties aside if he’s to challenge for this title. Rob appeared to draw the short straw with Red Star, but after reading his write-up on his team, there’s no doubt he’s taking this seriously and is fully committed to getting the best out of his players.
Teddy Sheringham struck late in the 99 final, but this time he was on the scoresheet early for United, and Beckham doubled their lead on the stroke of half time. Substitute Jordi Cruyff made it three shortly after the break and Red Star looked to be dead and buried, but a quick tactical shuffle from Rob inspired his men as Savicevic reduced their arrears on the hour and they had a goal disallowed 9 minutes later. Pancev made it 3-2 with six minutes left, but that was all the Serbians (Yugoslavians in old money) could manage, but Rob wasn’t too disappointed with the result or his formation.
Another derby followed, this time in Italy, with Dave’s Milan 1994 hosting Matt’s Juventus 1996. Dave was another manager disappointed with the team he was drawn, and his assessment was that they were all “really slow”. Paolo Maldini was his only absentee, while Matt’s squad was the worst-hit by injuries, with his strike pairing of Vialli and Ravanelli both out, and two of his back line, Torricelli and Carrera. He said his side “didn’t have much in the middle”, so he adopted a modified 2-3-1-2-2 formation, with the two central midfielders side by side, and a flat back four.
Matt drew first blood through his Crystal Palace reject Padovano, but his lead lasted about five seconds as a Papin brace turned the match on its head. It was however Juve who led at half time after Paulo Sousa and Matt’s other Palace cast-off, Lombardo made it 3-2. Dave was not impressed and said that his keeper Rossi was going to be a problem. The second half was almost all Juve, as Matt piled the misery on Dave with second goals from Padovano and Sousa, and two for Del Piero, and there were chants of “vogliamo otto” from the away support at the end. Matt was sympathetic however, and offered the comforting words “sorry Dave” to his opponent.
Next up was another derby (or sorts), with me playing a fellow Cornishman, Zak. Marseille had done well in my test saves, so I knew this was going to be tough. I set up with a modified Christmas Tree formation, with the wingers pushed up. Zak wanted to stay as true to the actual formation that Marseille won the cup with, while trying to get the best out of a young Didi Deschamps. Zak’s decision to include a goalkeeper on the bench came as quite a surprise to Andrew.
I breathed a sigh of relief on 18 minutes as Alen Boksic ballooned his penalty for the visitors. As we approached the half hour mark, Ross kindly pointed out that this had been the longest period in any match without a goal, and with that, Davor Suker struck to give me the lead and Franck Sauzee immediately equalised for Marseille and it stayed 1-1 until half time. Angloma headed in to give Zak the lead on 56, but as before, there was an instant equaliser, but this time from my side and Raul. Rudi Voller gave I’OM the lead just past the hour, but Middlesbrough legend Christian Karembeu nicked a point for me. I will be having words with a certain Yugoslav.
Philip’s Champions League qualifier with Banik Ostrava appeared to be going swimmingly as they led 2-0 at half time, but the Czech hosts stunned their Spanish counterparts by turning the game on its head to lead 3-2 with 13 minutes remaining. Thankfully for Philip, the in-form Julio Salinas was on hand to net a late brace to spare his manager’s blushes and give his side a 4-3 aggregate lead to take into the second leg at the Nou Camp.
Dean may be missing Rijkaard, but he’s there in spirit as his background image. However his presence couldn’t prevent his side from falling to a home defeat to Rob’s Man Utd, with Teddy Sheringham netting his second goal in as many games just past the hour. This was also the first match that saw a clean sheet, something that could prove rarer than rocking horse sh*t in this blog.
Matt would have been keen to build on his 7-2 win over Dave, while I was after my first victory with Real Madrid. My eyes lit up when Raúl gave us an early lead, but my joy was short-lived as Padovano continued his fine run of form with his third goal in two games to level the match. It ended all-square and the game was pretty much level in terms of chances, but I think I was the happier of the two managers with the result.
After the penalty miss against Real Madrid, Zak was also looking for his first win against Andrew’s Bayern Munich, who were fresh off the back of that ten-goal thriller with Dortmund. Out of all the Germans on the field, it was the one in a white shirt who grabbed the first goal, and it was one-way traffic from there on in, and Bayern’s cause was probably not helped by Andrew’s decision to bring on Carsten Jancker for Oliver Kahn and play with no goalkeeper for much of the second half, not that Zak was complaining.
Rob and Dave had both suffered defeat in their opening matches, and were keen to get their first points on the board in the last game of the night. Dave was hoping that Rossi had grown some hands, Rob not so much. After an even opening 20 minutes, it was Red Star who led, and they wasted little time in doubling their lead, but West Ham legend Florin Raducioiu halved the deficit and it was 2-1 at the interval. The Romanian then got his side back on level terms, but it was future Milan man Dejan Savicevic who grabbed the headlines with the winner on 72 minutes. Perhaps this was what caught Milan’s eye and prompted them to sign him.
So there we go… After nine action-packed league matches, this is how the table looks. Rob Leeds the way (see what I did there?) with maximum points, and Matt and Zak just behind him on four points. Dave pointed out that the teams who are top and bottom have both scored the same number of goals, and Dean, who had been keeping himself ‘refreshed’ throughout the evening, was pleasantly surprised to see that his Ajax side had a point, after thinking that he’d lost his first match (don’t drink and Champ, folks). Early days but a thoroughly enjoyable first week and if you want to watch the action on our YouTube videos, please use the links below. See you next week!