Guardian, Thursday, December 11, 2008 3:15 PM
The Champions League group stage "has become such a tiresome, irrelevant farce that it is threatening to bring this once-great competition to its knees," writes Scott Murray. He compares the
lack of surprises in this year's group stage with the 1979 European Cup, when it was a straight knockout competition featuring only actual league champions, and when Juventus and Liverpool were
knocked out in the first round, and Real Madrid in the second.
"The Champions League is sold to us with the promise that we'll get more top-quality football, featuring the
biggest teams and the best players," writes Murray. "What's actually happening is that we're being robbed of half-a-season's worth of excitement, every single year." He
calls for a return to a competition that is "a straight unseeded knockout from the off." If this means that teams "might crash out of Europe before the leaves fall from the trees"
then all the better, because "the fear of misery and abject failure is half the fun of watching football anyway."
He acknowledges that the plea to return to the old format is,
"like the Champions League, now 17 years old, [so] it could be dismissed as old hat. Then again, with a once-majestic competition stumbling semi-comatose into the abyss, you could also argue that
the demand has never, ever been more relevant."
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