OT: Need Help with European Soccer Viewing

Submitted by profitgoblue on August 23rd, 2011 at 10:55 PM

I need your collective MGoHelp:  I am an admitted novice when it comes to European soccer but have recently become more interested in it.  I have a fixed amount of time to spend in the evenings watching games and I'm having trouble deciding even what league to focus on during my time.  After reading up a bit, I sense that the UEFA Championship League might be the way to go.  But then I read that the British Premier League is the best league overall.  And I know that Fox Soccer channel also shows games of the Italian Serie A as well (and probably others too).  I guess what I am saying is that I have no f-ing idea what I should be watching.  Can anyone help point me in the right direction with respect to the league to focus on?  Is the UEFA Championship League the way to go for a late bloomer like me?

(As an aside, I still don't understand how the UEFA Championship League works - how can teams play in it while their regular season is ongoing?  For example, how can Arsenal play in it while the Premier League is in-season?)

Thanks in advance.




August 24th, 2011 at 7:30 AM ^

I would disagree. La Liga has two teams. The rest of them would struggle to win Ligue1. European soccer leagues are like their teams: they all have a different personality, so it depends what you are looking for. Following Champions League alone isn't recommended because it disappears from late October until February, plus you often find the top clubs don't play their full squad until the knockout rounds. As I mentioned, La Liga (Spain) is like the old Big Ten. The Big Two (Barcelona and Real Madrid), which have seemingly endless purchasing power and buy virtually any player it wants, many times through unscrupulous means. The rest of them are feeder teams to the Big Two or other big clubs in Europe. Once in a while Valencia or Villareal are decent, but they have no chance vs. the Big Two. (Case in point: Valencia was pretty good a few years ago with David Villa. Then it sold David Villa to Barcelona). England's Premier League is the best when it comes to drama. While Manchester United and Chelsea have dominated the championship over the last six years, its always close and often, in the last month, there are up to four teams with a realistic shot. Plus, there's Champions League qualifying drama (the top four qualify), and relegation drama (the bottom teams drop to the lower division, often the last week will find up to six teams in danger). While other Euro leagues have the same consequences, for some reason, it's different in England. Ligue1 (France) is kind of like watching college football. It doesn't have the glitz of England, Spain or Italy, but it features many of the most talented younger players right before they are purchased and brought up to bigger clubs. I like to watch this league in passing for that reason. Serie A (Italy) has evolved to be like La Liga in that the two Milan teams (AC Milan and Inter) splash money around the continent to buy up as many big name stars they can and the others are relegated to simply trying to keep up. This is sort of new, as Juventus used to be involved in the fray, but it was hammered with UEFA's version of the death penalty when it was relegated to the lower division for match fixing. I don't care for this league much and I really can't put a finger on why. Probably the incessant flopping that Italian teams are known for. Finally, it you want to see an action-packed goal scoring extravaganza, try Germany's Bundesliga. Germany has a rule called 50+1 that allows the fans to have a majority ownership in the teams. It has worked as a sort of salary cap as German teams really aren't allowed to splash money around. The effect is that this might be the most competitive league in the world in any sport, including the NFL. Bayern Munich used to dominate the league, but now it's just a good team. The games are on GolTV. And they are a lot of fun to watch. There are other leagues as well, but these are probably the top five options. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm now late for work. See what I do for you, MGoProfit?

swan flu

August 24th, 2011 at 8:07 AM ^

If La Liga is so lame, then why did Sergio Aguero struggle to score in La Liga?  Why couldn't he keep Sevilla in the top 4? 

And yet, this year, he is lighting the EPL on fire and saying things like "The Premier League is too easy."


The notion that the EPL is some bastion of parity and competativeness is so much garbage.  What teams have won the EPL the past 6 seasons?  Chelsea and Man U.  How many teams have EVER won the Premier League?  4.  4 teams.  that's it.  How the hell is that parity?!?


A game between Tenerife and Espanyol is infinitely more exciting to watch than a shit-show between Blackburn and Stoke City.


August 24th, 2011 at 10:13 AM ^

Who said it was lame? As a league, it's top heavy. When those two teams play each other, it's fantastic. But the league isn't anywhere as deep as the EPL.  I said the rest of La Liga would struggle to win Ligue1. But then I said I like to watch Ligue1. So I didn't say it sucked. I just don't find it to be the best. 

It's parity because it's not necessarily a fait accompli that United and Chelsea will win. There are six teams that will battle for the top four positions this year, with Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal and City filling out what has turned into a Big Six. City can certainly win it. That's much more parity than you can find in Spain.

And "lighting the EPL on fire?" He played Bolton and Swansea, both of which will fight to stay up. And isn't it possible that his start has more to do with the fact that he's on a team with actual good players around him?

If you love Spanish football so much, that's great. I didn't say it was shit. I think it gets too much prestige based on two teams that play with different financial rules than everyone else. La Liga is like Major League Baseball if the Yankees and Red Sox spend like they do and everyone else was the Rays, who develop good players only to let them go when it's time to pay them.

swan flu

August 24th, 2011 at 10:18 AM ^

i totally disagree that english soccer is deeper than La Liga.  After Man U, Man City, Chelsea, the EPL sucks. so boring to watch. 


Besides, your argument of the EPL being deeper holds no water.  Who has ever won the Premier League?  4 teams.  Thats not deep. Who has won it in the past 6 years?  Only Chelsea and Man U


What else are you going off by saying the EPL is deeper? brand recognition?

swan flu

August 24th, 2011 at 8:14 AM ^

And another thing!


Barcelona grows their talent.  8 of their 11 starters came from the teams' youth system (including their 5 most important players).  tell me how Man U got their hands on Ashley Young, or David De Gea, or Phil Jones, or Johnny Evans... or how Chelsea got Juan Mata, Fernando Torres, or Lukaku?




August 24th, 2011 at 10:12 AM ^

Every team has homegrown talent (or at least talent they bought young and developed). 

But please tell me how Barca got their hands on Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas, David Villa, Yaya Toure, Dani Alves, Zlatan Ibrahimavich, Samuel Etoo, and Thierry Henry? Not exactly homegrown are they?  (okay, fine, Toure was definitely a depth player, but still...)

Plus, RM and Barca live on depressing the market for players they want by feeding bullshit stories in the media and scaring off other potential suiters. 

BTW, I'm enjoying this debate. 

swan flu

August 24th, 2011 at 10:51 AM ^

Cesc Fabregas came up through Barcelona's La Masia, so there goes your argument there...


Find ONE player from Chelsea who came up through their youth ranks.  Same with Man City. Arsenal has Jack Wilshere.  Liverpool has Steven Gerrard. Man U has Danny Welbeck.  Even Wayne Rooney came up through Everton first.


Barcelona has Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Sergio, Puyol, Pique, CESC, Victor Valdes, and Pedro.


No comparison.


August 24th, 2011 at 12:10 PM ^

The way that team is leveraged to spend the money they do (on everything) makes the past financial crisis look sound. Yes they have the best academy in a very talent rich country and grew Messi in a test tube from when he was like 11. They have a wonderful generation together which is basically the spanish national team plus Messi.

They also play in a less than demanding league where they can avoid injuries and stay fresh for the international tournaments. Life's not so hard when you have almost nothing to worry about from any team outside the top four. You talk about how the EPL has had 4 winners (Man Utd, Chelski, Arsenal, and Blackburn with Shearer) but in the EPL the top teams can have a freaking dogfight with almost any team in the division (there's usually one or two pushovers). There are maybe 5-6 teams in La Liga who are even remotely competitive with Barca and Real. Look at the record and goal difference. 

The parity isn't close, which you'd expect when two teams split HALF THE TV MONEY.


Cunts. No time for them.


August 23rd, 2011 at 11:07 PM ^

Shut the television off ... it's just as exciting when staring at the screen ... it's about the same amount of action and scoring ... if you have a chick wit you and can see the reflection in the tv ... u will see alot more scoring


August 23rd, 2011 at 11:09 PM ^

I used to think the same thing but its actually pretty exciting when you get into it.  Europe's biggest knock on American sports is that we are so concerned with the number of points on the scoreboard.  Instant gratification or something like that.  I think since I don't know sh-t about soccer and am trying to learn the point totals do not bother me.  I'm just constantly amazed at the way they can control the ball - stop it, pass it where they want it, etc.



August 23rd, 2011 at 11:02 PM ^

but that's just me.  They have games now early on Saturday/Sunday mornings on ESPN2 and then FSC, so it's usually always on.  The Champions League is more of a tournament than an actual league, in my view.  The games are usually during the week as opposed to league games on the weekend.



August 23rd, 2011 at 11:04 PM ^

I think the English league is the deepest, but Barca seems untouchable so I'll say they're the best team in Europe.

The UEFA Champions League (UCL) is not really a league so much as a tournament. Every year, the best teams from the European leagues qualify for the UCL. For example, in England the top three teams in the EPL qualify automatically and the fourth has to qualify on its own (This is why Arsenal is playing Udinese, because they just missed the automatic qualifying qut in their respective leagues).

You hear about teams going for the "double" or "treble" because you can win multiple trophies in the same year. For example, if Arsenal were to win the EPL, UCL, and FA Cup, they would have won the "treble."

Does this make sense? Let me know if you have any other questions. I'm a big soccer fan.


August 24th, 2011 at 1:35 AM ^

I've been living in Central and South America for the past year and a half and, needless to say, by association I've been watching tons of soccer.  I've started to love it.  But, I just want to say that I think there is no doubt that Barcelona is the best team in the world.   I think "Barca" is likely even better than almost every national team out there.  Put Barcelona up against Argentina for example, who has tons of great players but haven't played well as a team recently, and I think Barcelona wins.  Barcelona is just the best TEAM out there.  It's amazing how well they play together.  Spain, Brazil maybe would be better than Barcelona, but I'm just trying to point out how great Barcelona is right now.  Without a doubt in my mind the best team in the world.  I mean, they just won the UEFA Champion's League Cup a couple months ago so it practically goes without saying.  If you want to watch good soccer, watch Barcelona.


August 24th, 2011 at 8:54 AM ^

National teams are almost always worse than club teams. The coaches get so little time to implement their tactics and the players hardly know each other. National teams often only get ten days together at most before big fixtures.

Club teams, however, are together all the time and play in multiple tournaments together. 

Wolverine In Iowa

August 23rd, 2011 at 11:04 PM ^

I prefer the EPL (English Premier League), and I have been following it with varying intensity for the past 15 years.  I got hooked during the season when Manchester United tracked down Newcastle to win the title.  Man Utd also won the "double" that year when they beat Liverpool in the FA Cup final.  You can watch EPL matches on Fox Soccer Network and ESPN.

The UEFA Champions League is made up of the top teams in each UEFA country (Europe), who, based on their performance in their domestic league the year before, play in a multi-tiered group round system and then a knockout round.  Today and tomorrow, the final teams are being selected for the first group round of the CL.

WIth your example of Arsenal, they play in the EPL, the Champions League (based on their performance last year in the EPL), the Football Association (FA) Cup in England, and also the Carling Cup.  From August to May, some big teams play in about 50+ games, which is actually a ton of games.  This doesn't include the games that players play for their national teams.


August 23rd, 2011 at 11:12 PM ^

So, for a novice, would you say that the UEFA is the way to go to get a little taste of all the leagues until I decide where to focus?  I'm trying to narrow it down so that I can pick a team to support - I need a team to root for so I can increase my interest in the game itself.  (Yes, I have a very technical approach since there is no passion involved yet.)

Thanks to you and Samer for taking the time to explain.



August 23rd, 2011 at 11:24 PM ^

When you watch the UCL, you are seeing the best of the best in Europe, however you might not get to see a team's style of play. The UCL is played in home-and-away legs. So for example, last year Arsenal (they're my favorite team if you can't tell) beat Barca at home. Thus, all they had to do was tie in the second leg. Had you watched that game, you would have seen a very boring offense from Arsenal, which is usually an attacking side.

I guess what I'm saying is you would be watching the best teams, but not necessarily their best play. In the later draws (quarters, semis and final) you'll see great soccer generally, however.


August 23rd, 2011 at 11:27 PM ^

That explains what I just watched tonight - Malmo v. Dinamo.  The team in black (Dinamo) were playing defense the entire time and I finally figured out that it was because they only cared about cumulative point totals, not winning that particular game.  It was very strange watching until I figured that point out near the end of the game.  (That said, it was exciting watching the guys for Malmo fly around trying to hurry and score!)



August 23rd, 2011 at 11:15 PM ^

I watch EPL, La liga, and UEFA champions league.  EPL is the deepest league.  Man City, Man u, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal.  La Liga has two of the top 5 teams in the world in Real Madrid and Barca.  Champions League has the best in Europe playing each other.  I have only been a fan of soccer for 3 years but it only rivals football as my top sport to watch.  


August 23rd, 2011 at 11:10 PM ^

Anyways, I would focus on teams if you are looking for good soccer.  As mentioned above, la liga and the Premiership are arguably the 2 best leagues in the world.  UEFA Champions League being the number 1 tournament in the world.

But more specifically, try and catch Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich... and then go from there.  Those will be the best quality soccer games, but sometimes it's the lower level Premiership games that I really enjoy becuase the players just try so damn hard, where some of the more "premier players" tend to feel entitled to getting every call from the ref.

Oh, and I almost forgot about Footytube.com <- by far the best way to quickly see the highlights of recent top level games.  Just wait a day or two after the actual game is played, and there is always a top quality highlight of the game with commentary and everything. 


August 23rd, 2011 at 11:12 PM ^

Despite the protests of my friends following football (soccer) in Spain, Italy and Germany the Premiership remains by far the deepest and best overall league to enjoy. Find yourself a team, pick up a shirt and set aside your Saturday mornings (or find their games online...)

I'd recommend Manchester City.



August 23rd, 2011 at 11:16 PM ^

I actually caught one of their matches last week and found them very exciting to watch. 

I think one of my problems (one of the many) is that I don't even know what players to focus on (other than Wayne Rooney and I don't like that dude).  Any ideas of players I should really try to watch?



August 23rd, 2011 at 11:27 PM ^

I think you might be getting confused between Manchester City and Manchester United.

Man United is one of the most storied teams in England. That's the team Wayne Rooney plays for.

Man City recently got new billionaire ownership and have been throwing money at the top players to get them to City. For lack of a better comparison, Man U would be like Michigan and City would be like Michigan State. Man U has more history and City is kind of like "little brother."

But if you are watching Man U, keep an eye on Nani, Anderson and Chicharito. They're exciting scorers.

If you're watching City, Gareth Bale, new addition of Samir Nasri, and Rafael van der Vaart are probably my favorite players on that team (even though Nasri just left Arsenal)


August 23rd, 2011 at 11:29 PM ^

The most exciting players in the league right now would probably be Rooney, Silva, Aguero, Suarez, Bent, J. Hernandez, Dempsey, and Van Persie. So for flashy players see those guys. Though, the more soccer you watch you may find that your favorite player is a hard worker instead of a flashy player (ex. Dirk Kuyt, Jack Wilshere, Paul Scholes).


August 24th, 2011 at 3:39 AM ^

You should root for Fulham because of Clint Dempsey.

I'm really afraid of Man City this year.  They are picking up players like crazy.  They just signed  Samir Nasri from Arsenal.  I guess you can equate Man City to the Yankees right now if that comparison helps.  They have lots of oil money to throw around. 


August 23rd, 2011 at 11:17 PM ^

would be to watch the Champions League when you can (best teams, less familiarity between opponents, most sense of urgency in matches). I know thats hard because they typically play on weekday afternoons.

In addition, ESPN/2/3 does a fairly decent job of broadcasting EPL games on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The Italian league has great players, but the style of play can be very annoying (fake injuries, etc. all the things people usually complain about).

Yostbound and Down

August 23rd, 2011 at 11:20 PM ^

I played soccer, albeit poorly, through high school, which meant I came into contact with plenty of soccer snobs. As I am a Michigan fan and Detroit sports fan I find it hard to squeeze in soccer watching aside from the big tournaments, so here's what I try and follow...I'll be fisking your suggestions.

  • Champions League works like this: Basically a bunch of teams from all over UEFA are thrown into various pools (I believe eight still) of four teams each. Each team plays the others twice. The top two teams from each group by points advance to the next stage. From there it's a knockout tournament between the final 16 teams (NCAA bracket style) until they get to the championship final. All the matches leading up to the final are home-and-away matches which are decided on goal differential (kinda complicated but hey) and then the final is played at a neutral field. It does rival the Super Bowl in scale, which is pretty neat. I would definitely suggest watching the final, and then some of the knockout games.
  • Teams make it into Champions League (and the Super Cup, which is kinda the B-tournament) based on domestic (i.e. Premier League, Serie A, La Liga) success. And each league in Europe gets a certain number of teams in both Champions league and the Super Cup based on the strength of soccer in that country. So while England, Spain and Italy may send 4 or 5 teams to the Champions League, Norway would probably send one, Netherlands maybe two or three, etc. 
  • Champions League and Super Cup run during the regular domestic seasons. Again, they're based on prior year success.
  • As far as what games to watch, I'd start with the Premier League (EPL) as it has quite a few entertaining teams, and I believe regular Fox Sports Network has a game of the week on Tuesday. If you have Fox Soccer Channel you have access to a whole lot more, which is really fun to see the different styles of play in different leagues. Aside from EPL i would recommend any Barcelona or Real Madrid games (particularly when they play each other), any Inter Milan/ Milan games, and Celtic/ Rangers  if you can find it. These are some of the big soccer rivalries.
  • Assuming you follow the World Cup (you should) you should also look into following the European Championships. They're on the off years between World Cups (so the next one is next year) and there will start to be qualifiers going on for them soon (if not already). The actual championships are great stuff, close for me in scale to the World Cup in terms of hype. I was in Poland for the last Euro Championships in 2008 and even though it was Germany v Spain the ENTIRE COUNTRY of Poland shut down to watch. Again, Super Bowl level stuff.

You can find games on FSC, Fox Sports Net (I believe) and then ESPN360 and ESPN2 usually. I haven't followed as closely the last few years as the seasons take place during football, hockey and basketball season, but definitely follow the championship games if you can. It's also fun to arbitrarily pick a team and cheer for them. 

And if you don't mind seeing a lesser product and you can't make it to Europe, take a look at MLS. The caliber of play has risen at least a little bit and more importantly the games are on TV and are fairly reasonable as far as price to go see. Best case scenario is to wait until next summer when the European clubs tour the US and get tickets to see them play an MLS team.


August 23rd, 2011 at 11:47 PM ^

I wouldn't want the literal format of the Champions League used in the BCS.

Just the settlling of "hey we have a dozen or so league champions and runners up that haven't really aplayed each other or any common opponents. So lets figure out which team is the best".


August 24th, 2011 at 12:17 AM ^

Regardless, it's a bit much.  You can finish 4th in the EPL and make it in, and every one of the little national leagues gets a team in (at least to the qualifiers).  It's like the NCAA tournament.  Fun, but not really the best way to decide a champion.


August 24th, 2011 at 11:11 AM ^

Celtic (no "s") and Rangers (known collectively as the Old Firm) are the top two teams historically in the SPL.  Both are in Glasgow and they have combined to win 96 league titles.  No other team has won the league since Sir Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen team did in 1985.  Since forming the SPL in 1998, only one team has ever cracked their hold on the top two spots in the table (Hearts finished second in 2006).  Both have huge followings (over 50,000 seat stadiums in a league where the next biggest hover around 20,000).  Celtic were also the first British side to win the European Cup (Champions League before they called it the Champions League).  They are enormous rivals that also have a huge history of sectarian violence/strife/racist chants (Celtic is largely supported by Catholic, Irish Republican sympathizers while Rangers is home to many a Protestant, Union Jack-flying British Unionist).

Both club's supporters are for the most part a bunch of knob ends.