FC Bayern Munich, F.C. Internazionale Milano: The two names that are going to be on everyone’s mouths from now until the end of spring. One of them will take home the biggest club soccer trophy in the world, and the second most prestigious team trophy next to the World Cup.
For those of you who don’t know much about professional soccer – the Champions League is like March Madness in a way, but more lengthy and international.
The top placing teams from the year before in each European league compete against one another in a tournament, which spans the entire year. Each team plays only a few games a month. The number of teams who qualify from each league depends on how competitive it is.
For instance, England, Spain and Italy all have three teams that qualify directly, and one, which enters to play the preliminary qualifying playoff round. A less competitive league like the Montenegrin First League have only one team which is entered into the first round of playoff qualifying (there are three before the playoff round). This means that although teams from several countries and of several skill levels are entered, you don’t have a nearly non-pro team from Latvia playing Manchester United in the first round. They tend to be sorted out from the beginning.
Inter and Bayern have both had to overcome some serious challengers in order to reach the final. Bayern had to play 2008 champions Manchester U, while Inter had the misfortune of facing 2009 champions Barcelona both in the group stages and in the playoffs for a total of four games. Although they lost twice to Barça and only beat them once, that one win couldn’t have come at a more perfect time and rocketed them to the final. Inter also had to face their coach Jose Mourinho’s previous club Chelsea.