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Confusion regarding FC Bayern’s next Champions League opponents

It seemed pretty clear last Friday. The legendary former FC Bayern left back Paul Breitner put his hand in the pot at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon and pulled out FC Basel’s name, to FC Bayern’s glee.

Paul Breitner at the UEFA Champions League 2011/2012 last 16 draws

Paul Breitner couldn't help smiling at the draw

Indeed, out of the six possible opponents (AC Milan, Basel, CSKA Moscow, Lyon, Marseille and Zenit), Basel looked to be the easiest on paper, a fact that Bayern’s director of football Christian Nerlinger didn’t hesitate to admit when he told reporters ”when you see the other opponents in the hat, then Basel were the one we wished for.”

But while fans of either clubs started planning their trips to watch their favourite team in action, bookmakers slashed out highly favourable qualification odds for Bayern Munich and Manchester United haters sniggered at the Red Devils’ potentially tricky match-up with Ajax Amsterdam in the UEFA Europa League, FIFA dropped down a big bomb.

Manchester United drawn to play against Ajax Amsterdam

Man Utd were drawn to play against Ajax in the Europa League

It all started way back in February 2008, when Swiss club FC Sion illegally signed Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary from Al Ahly, which led to FC Sion getting a transfer ban for two transfer windows, starting from June 2009. Despite this ban, FC Sion signed six players and played them in this season’s UEFA Europa League qualifiers, by virtue of having won last season’s domestic cup.

Essam El-Hadary celebrating

Essam El-Hadary doesn't give a damn anymore

In the qualifiers, FC Sion successfully eliminated Scottish giants Celtic, but their celebrations were cut short when UEFA decided to eliminate Sion from the competition and Celtic were called in to fill in the empty spot.

FIFA has now intervened and imposed a deadline on the Swiss FA to punish FC Sion, with the consequences of failing to do so being that they would be banned, meaning that neither would the Swiss national team be allowed to play any matches, nor would Swiss teams be allowed to play in European competitions. What this comes down to is that should the Swiss FA fail to obey FIFA’s orders by January 13th 2012, FC Basel would automatically be eliminated from the competition.

If FC Basel are to be eliminated, there would be two possible options for UEFA to do: hand FC Bayern a walkover and free passage to the Champions League quarterfinals, or more probable promote Manchester United back to the Champions League.

Rob Faulkner, UEFA’s Head of Communications said: “UEFA is confident that the Swiss FA will comply with the FIFA request before the deadline of January 13, 2012 and before the Champions League round-of-16 first leg match between Basel and Bayern Munich on February 22. Should this not be the case UEFA will review the situation nearer the time.”

Sir Alex Ferguson praying

Ferguson is praying

In the meantime, Manchester United aren’t very hopeful of this mini-miracle for them, with a spokesman for Manchester United having been quoted as saying: “We are not holding our breath over this. It does seem a very long shot.”

A long shot, but not too long. If Basel are indeed banned from the competition, then UEFA would be under pressure to give Manchester United the same treatment they gave Celtic and allow them to play on as if they had managed to qualify, and then UEFA would need to see who will face Ajax Amsterdam, and that could possibly be FC Oţelul Galaţi, the club that lost all of their six matches in Group C of the Champions League. I’m sure Ajax Amsterdam wouldn’t mind at all.

Whether it be Basel or Manchester United, Bayern Munich will start as favourites. But of course, until now, we cannot know for sure what will happen, and who will play who.

Edit: Check out our follow-up article!

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  • Paddy says:

    It’s sounds very unlikely to me. The Swiss will cave, otherwise they’ll lose a lot of money and there’s ranking points to consider here, not to mention more attention to their league which means a extra money for the league, clubs and players. They’d be mental not to punish Sion.

    • MUTU says:

      With FC Bayern favourites to win both legs, the chances that the decision would have any effect on the UEFA country coefficients is pretty low if you ask me.

  • Paddy says:

    Well yes it would, because it means a lot if you come through to the knock out stages and if they got banned Basel would finish 4th. I bet you you get a lot more points of you go through than if you winish last in the group.

    • MUTU says:

      I see what you mean, but I don’t think the past results (except the Sion ones of course) would be taken out of the calculations for the UEFA coefficients. But as UEFA haven’t decided what would happen, you are right in that they may not want to risk this.

      Personally, I think the Swiss FA will punish Sion, but it’s fun to talk about the “what ifs” 🙂

      • Paddy says:

        And if they banned them they can’t give them points for qualifying…that wouldn’t make any sense. They’d take the past results out of the calculations by banning them.It’d be so unfair to Basel who qualified fair and square. FIFA should rather take a closer look to Dinamo – Lyon game that outcome was fishy.

        • MUTU says:

          Indeed it was, especially seeing how, from their same group, Ajax had two perfectly valid goals disallowed by the referee against Real Madrid.

  • armbrust says:

    That would be like a bizarre nigthmare for us.

    • MUTU says:

      … or a blessing in disguise. I’m sure practically all Bayern Munich fans would rather eliminate Manchester United from all competitions than FC Basel. As things stand at the moment, the Manchester clubs are the top favourites to win the UEFA Europa League.

  • Paddy says:

    No, not really. United has a very weak midfield and I’d be very confident on taking them on.

  • MoFattal says:

    I don’t mind playing United as we could certainly beat them. The tricky point is that the CL is still a long time away, so who knows what happens till them. Maybe United will buy new players (eligible ones) and might witness a resurgeance of form. That would make it a tricky fixture for us.

    Yet again, we would still beat them, but with higher pressure and more effort.

    • MUTU says:

      Good point. I had forgotten all about the winter transfer period! It does indeed make it trickier…

  • tflags says:

    Whatever happens, those tickets for the game in Basel are going to be quite cheap; at least until January 13th.

  • MUTU says:

    There is some new information here: http://www.insideworldfootball.biz/worldfootball/europe/10092-head-of-swiss-fa-hits-back-over-fifa-threat-to-suspend-switzerland-from-international-football

    Most important is this paragraph:

    “However, when Ukraine was faced with a similar threat last year, UEFA said at the time that teams from the country would forfeit their Champions League ties.”

    Which basically means that FC Bayern would qualify automatically to the quarterfinals.

  • MoFattal says:

    Well if that’s the case then we should start adding Neuer and some Bayern defenders in whatever fantasy leagues we’re playing as both games will be 3-0s 😀

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