26 November 2013

Group F Permutations: BVB's fate, and ours, is in our hands

Dortmund did their damnedest to complicate the Group F standings, and their 3-1 win over Napoli does just that. It may not be enough to keep them in the Champions League. They might just be the first club to finish with 12 points but fail to advance. They'll play Marseille, a club that looked to have thrown in the towel against Arsenal if the starting line-up on Tuesday is any indication. It included a number of second-stringers, and it was only when our 1-0 lead looked a little tenuous that they looked to throw on Valbuena and Thauvin to seek the equalizer. With absolutely nothing to play for, perhaps not even pride, they look likely to roll over for Dortmund—but it wouldn't matter how many goals Dortmund scores. They do have to win, though, to claim the points. More on that in a minute.

Goals against Marseille just don't count in determining the standings anymore. If we manage a draw or better against Napoli, we're not only through to the next round, we've won the Group. That matters a great deal in determining who we'll face. Instead of facing the likes of Real Madrid or Bayern right off the bat, we might draw Olympiakos or FC Basel. That's not something to turn one's nose up at. Yes, we very nearly upended Bayern last year and have shown that we can beat almost anyone on our day, but there's little wrong with looking for a favorable draw.

However, should we fall to Napoli, things get a little more interesting. Rule 7.06b of the UEFA Champions League Regulations stipulates that "superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question" if two or more teams are equal on points. At the moment, we have a +2 goal-differential against Dortmund and Napoli. Dortmund is +1. Napoli is -3. Here, then, are a few scenarios (assuming Dortmund defeats Marseille):
  • If we lose to Napoli by three goals or more, we finish 3rd in the group and fall into the Europa League. 
  • If we lose to Napoli by two goals, we end up with a goal-differential of zero, but Napoli ends up at -1, so we would finish in 2nd place behind Dortmund's +1 (edited after being corrected in comments section below).
  • If we lose to Napoli by one goal, we're through because we'd still be at +1 and Napoli would be at -2.
Of course, I would like to see us reduce the preceding break-down to absolute rubbish by simply winning. In years past, we've had to resort to such shabby, miserly points-hoarding. I don't see the need for that this time around. I say we swagger into the Stadio San Paolo and smash them. Did you know that they refer to themselves as "I ciucciarelli"? It means "little donkeys." Where I'm from, we sometimes refer to donkeys as asses. It's enough to give new meaning to "kick their asses." Indeed.