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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SPECIAL

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

MOST LIKELY TO…

Teenage crack shots, cursing club chiefs, sub-zero leg wear – you can always count on ‘Old Big Ears’ to provide magic and madness in equal measure. Here’s what to look out for this season...

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OUTSHINE RONALDO

Fabio Coentrao “Impossible!” you cry, but the 23-year-old’s Rod Stewart haircut alone will give Madrid’s opponents “nothing but a heartache” (sorry). He’s transformed from a one-dimensional pacy winger with benchwarming splinters and no football brain into one of the best attacking left-backs in the world. Coentrao can tackle, dribble, create and score, and will offer Madrid versatility and more energy than a Duracell bunny on e-numbers. He was better than Ron in the 2010 World Cup too. WordsSheridan

PLAY IN GLOVES, LEGGINGS & HEADBANDS

CSKA Moscow It’s a Champions League fact that no one likes playing CSKA – not because of Leonid Slutsky’s brand of functional but effective football, but due to the unforgiving Russian winter. That the whole team, including the natives, often play decked out in neckwear, headbands, gloves and leggings tells you all you need to know: visiting CSKA is as close as it gets to playing football in a meat locker.

64 October 2011 FourFourTwo.com CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SPECIAL

FIELD 11 DIFFERENT NATIONALITIES

Inter Milan They say football is a universal language. ‘They’ should get down to Inter HQ sharpish. The 2010 European champs are the United Nations of calcio. Nerazzurri coach Gian Piero Gasperini requires Swahili for mountainous Kenyan midfielder McDonald Mariga, Japanese for dynamic wing-back Yuto Nagatomo, Serbian for grouchy veteran Dejan Stankovic and Romanian for big-boned Cristian Chivu. A bucketload of Spanish and Portuguese is also essential for Inter’s many Argentines and Brazilians. Of course, he could just sulk in the ‘Italian corner’ with Giampaolo Pazzini and Andrea Ranocchia.

FIELD AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD

Ajax The Dutch club’s first team make Arsenal look like weathered, world-weary warhorses. There’s wee midfielder Christian Eriksen (19), ickle forward Lorenzo Ebecilio (19) and a creche load of tiny 22-year olds. The big boys will aim to leave the Amsterdam Arena with three points and their lunch money.

OFFEND EVERYONE

Aurelio De Laurentiis, Napoli The Gulf of Naples: perfect for a relaxing evening of Mediterranean repose, yes? No. Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis is always on hand to shatter the peace. The 62-year-old purveyor of naff films is on a quest to offend everyone, having delivered corkers like “English people live badly and their women don’t wash” and “I don’t give a s*** about the Europa League – it is worthless thanks to Blatter and Platini.” The bearded ragebox, whose feat of genius at Gokhan Inler’s unveiling can be seen on p113, also reacted to Napoli being given a tough start to their league campaign by storming out, ranting, “It’s a disgrace – everything is fixed”, and hopping on the back of a passing motorcycle. Aggro Aurelio even called harmless, cuddly golden boy Lionel Messi a “cretin”. Meanie.

UPSET THE ODDS

Andre Villas-Boas, Chelsea This isn’t an insult, or a reference to how the former Porto manager flapped his wings and flew to London in a heartbeat. No, Villas-Boas is a praying mantis on the touchline, whose stance will soon have a cult following in southwest London and beyond. Constantly stalking, crouching and leaping into the air, the new Chelsea boss simply can’t keep still, which may explain his side’s highoctane, high-pressure game. Try to take your eye off him to watch the game when you can – or else you might be hospitalised with exhaustion.

FC Porto AVB may be gone, but the Dragons have serious faith in his former assistant, Vitor Pereira. They had a superb transfer window, welcoming newcomers while seemingly keeping their own prized assets locked in the basement. Young talents Danilo (joining in 2012 after playing in the Club World Cup with Santos) and Juan Manuel Iturbe have joined the likes of Joao Moutinho and Radamel Falcao, whom Porto have managed to protect from the grasping reaches of the European giants. And last year, they not only won the Europa League but topped the domestic league with 27 wins, three draws and zero defeats. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

DO A PRAYING MANTIS

Andre Villas-Boas, Chelsea The former Porto manager is not only a widely respected tactician and man-manager; he’s a praying mantis on the touchline, whose stance will soon have a cult following in south-west London and beyond. Constantly stalking, crouching and leaping into the air, the new Chelsea boss simply can’t keep still, which may explain his side’s high-octane, high-pressure game. Try to take your eye off him to watch the game when you can – or else you might get hospitalised with exhaustion.

FourFourTwo.com August 2011 65