Mouth-watering. Clash of the Titans. Return of Cristiano Ronaldo. Sir Alex vs. Jose Mourinho.
These were some of the multitude of exclamations that were uttered when the draw for the Knockout Stages of UEFA Champions League 2012/13 was revealed earlier today.
For the standout tie of the round was Manchester United vs. Real Madrid. The two biggest football clubs in the world will do battle in the round of 16 come February and again in March 2013 to secure their passage into the last 8 of the competition. Full draw is as below:
Other tantalizing fixtures include Arsenal taking on Bayern Munich, Barcelona tussling with AC Milan and Juventus getting to battle Celtic. But those pale in comparison to the battle of the big two in club football!
One has to hark back to the 2002/03 season for United & Madrid’s last meeting at the European stage – Madrid running out eventual winners by 6-5. The stakes are much higher this time around. With their La Liga defense looking all but over, what with a 13 point deficit to Barcelona, and talks of Mourinho heading for the Bernabeu exit, the CL remains Madrid’s top priority.
For Sir Alex, another European triumph might only be second on his to-do list after wresting back the EPL crown from City but that doesn’t make it less wanted. Especially after those defeats to Barcelona and their disappointing campaign last season in the CL.
As I said in my post about the group stages’ draw – once gain, Le Jeu Commence!
Red Bull were back to winning ways as Sebastian Vettel ended his nine-race winless streak with a fortuitous victory at the Singapore Grand Prix. Pole sitter and race leader Lewis Hamilton retired after 22 laps with a gearbox failure on his McLaren, handing over the race on a platter to Vettel who was running second behind him. Jenson Button rescued some points for McLaren with a second place finish and Fernando Alonso finished third, maintaining his lead atop the drivers’ championship.
Force India’s Paul Di Resta finished fourth ahead of the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg in fifth, the Lotuses of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean in sixth and seventh, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in eighth, Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo in ninth and Red Bull’s Mark Webber in tenth. The race was ended two laps early on the two-hour time limit as two safety car periods meant the entire 61 laps could not be completed
The result means Alonso now has a 29 point lead in the championship standings over Vettel in second place with Kimi Raikkonen a further 16 points behind. Hamilton slips to fourth, trailing Alonso by 52 points with six races remaining.
Lewis Hamilton continued his recent good run and took a comfortable pole position for Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay circuit as he wheeled around his McLaren quickest of all in Qualifying. Pastor Maldonado was surprisingly second fastest for Williams ahead of the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.
Jenson Button will start fourth with Championship leader Fernando Alonso fifth, Paul Di Resta’s sixth, Mark Webber in the second Red Bull seventh and Romain Grosjean’s Lotus in eighth. The two Mercedes of Michael Schumacher & Nico Rosberg did not elect to run in Q3 and will start ninth and tenth on the grid. Continue reading
That headline sounds so clichéd but that was exactly how the race panned out at the Belgian Grand Prix. Jenson Button took victory from pole position as he was rarely troubled at the front by anyone else and finished a good 14 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel in second place. Kimi Raikkonen finished in third place as he continued his & Lotus’ consistent season.
Nico Hulkenberg finished in fourth place in what has been a good hunting ground for Force India in the past with Felipe Massa fifth, Mark Webber sixth and Michael Schumacher finishing seventh in his 300th Grand Prix start. The two Toro Rossos of Jean Eric Vergne & Daniel Ricciardo finished eighth and ninth ahead the second Force India of Paul Di Resta in tenth.
Yet, the talking point of the race would be the first lap action at the first corner which saw not one, not two but four cars come together in a horrific-looking pileup – the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, the Sauber of Sergio Perez and most importantly, the Ferrari of championship leader Fernando Alonso! Grosjean swiped into Hamilton and sent them both careening into the back of Alonso’s Ferrari, with the Lotus launching into the air and flying inches away from Alonso’s head in the cockpit. Perez was on the outside of it all but was hit by the out of control McLaren, thereby ending all four drivers’ race prematurely.
The Formula One season is back after its summer break and the second half of the season started off in earnest at the much loved Spa Francorchamps circuit for the Belgian Grand Prix. And it was Jenson Button who scored his first pole position for McLaren and his first since 2009 as he clocked the fastest qualifying time in Q3. Starting from P2 on the grid would be the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi with the Williams of Pastor Maldonado in P3.
Race favourite and four-time winner Kimi Raikkonen was fourth fastest ahead of Sergio Perez in fifth and Fernando Alonso on sixth. Red Bull’s Mark Webber was seventh fastest but will drop down five places due to a gearbox change. Lewis Hamilton was eighth, Romain Grosjean ninth and Paul Di Resta tenth.
With Friday’s practice sessions affected by rain, most teams did not have enough mileage on the cars to get the perfect setup and Lotus, who were expected to run their upgraded DRS system opted not to do so. McLaren had to choose whether to run a new rear wing or not and in the end Jenson rode with it & Hamilton without. Other teams had tyre choice concerns as well as gearbox issues – Rosberg & Webber specifically.
The 2012-13 domestic football season has started off in earnest across across Europe over the past few weeks and it is just a matter of days before the continental championship kicks off as well. The draw for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League 2012/13 was held earlier today and the best of European clubs found out whom they will be facing come September
Holders Chelsea are grouped alongside Juventus whereas Arsenal have Schalke & Montpellier for company. Manchester United have an easy looking draw with Galatasaray, CFR Cluj & Braga being their opponents; but we all know what happened last season with a similar “easy looking” draw! The toughest group has to be Group D with Real Madrid, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund in there…and yeah, Manchester City round off that group…all four champions of their respective leagues!
The first legs of the round robin matches start on the 18th of September and the group stage will complete on the 5th of December. Le jeu commence.
It was a lights-to-flag victory for Fernando Alonso at Hockenheim for the German Grand Prix as he continued Ferrari’s resurgence in the past few races and score the maximum points once gain. Red Bull sorta remained in the hunt with Sebastian Vettel finishing in second position ahead of Jenson Button in third. But that is not a foregone conclusion as his late race overtaking move over Button is under investigation by the stewards for having done so outside the track!
Kimi Raikkonen was a fine fourth for Lotus ahead of the two Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez in fifth and sixth, Michael Schumacher in seventh, Mark Webber in eighth, Nico Hulkenberg ninth and Nico Rosberg in the last point scoring position in tenth.
Alonso controlled the race from the start and remained ahead all through except for the pit stops as Ferrari called the perfect two-stop strategy and chose the right set of tyres this time around for the second and third stints. The second Ferrari of Felipe Massa suffered a lost rear wing at the start and the debris from that ultimately ended Lewis Hamilton’s race causing a right rear puncture. It was a better result for the second McLaren of Jenson Button as he steadily moved up the order as the updates and the dry race worked well for McLaren.