The UEFA Champions League is not the most unpredictable tournament. Usually one of the big teams from the big leagues will beat another big team from another big league, ad nausem.
Things started to look different this year early on, when the English giants Manchester United and Manchester City were eliminated in the group stage. Suddenly a flurry of new and unpredictable teams made it into the Round of 16.
Results in the first legs showed that this trend has no signs of letting up, with upset victories by teams like FC Basel and Marseilles against teams like Bayern Munich (one of the favorites to win it all) and Inter Milan. Zenit St. Petersburg was able to defeat Benfica, and APOEL (a small team from Cyprus) was able to show a respectable performance with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Lyon.
Things were expected to right themselves by the time the second leg rolled around. No such thing happened.
Benfica barely scraped by Zenit with a 2-0 victory that was a lot closer than Portuguese fans may have liked. Most impressive of all, mighty APOEL made it to the quarter finals after tying the game with a 1-0 win over Lyon in regulation, ultimately advancing in the penalty shootout.
While the juggernauts of Barcelona and Real Madrid may still be destined to the final (unless the draw again places them together in an earlier stage), the rest of the tournament has been a wonderful roller coaster that shows sometimes heart is more important than money and experience.
No matter what happens this week, the mighty fires of teams like APOEL, Zenit, CSKA Moscow (which drew the mighty Madrid), have brought life to a tournament that was expected to be little more than simple procedure until the semifinals.
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