Ball Watching

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 November, 2000, 12:00am

Another week of Champions' League drama passes by without the majority of Hong Kong fans having the chance to see it.

Reading accounts of thrillers involving Rangers, Manchester United and Leeds this week, not to mention Juventus' amazing exit in Greece, is entertaining enough.

But it would be much better to be able to actually see these events with our own eyes. After all, the printed word can be a bit misleading when it comes to match description. How many '35-yard screamers' on the page have whetted your appetite, only for the television evidence to reveal a reasonably good shot from the edge of the box.

You would hope that STAR in their selection of which of this past week's matches to show tomorrow in their token Champions' League game slot, that they weight up the potential fare very carefully. It would appear to come down to just a few options - Manchester United v Anderlecht, AC Milan v Leeds, Lyon v Olympiakos, Panathinaikos v Juventus or Rangers v Monaco. All had qualifying places at stake and all involved high drama. It's a toss-up, which one STAR will opt for but precedent points to the United game.

Now that this group phase has finished there is a wait of a few months before the competition resumes. The hope must be that by then, the long wait for the resumption of live Champions' League coverage on mainstream channels here will be over.

It's all contingent on the newly licensed television companies coming on stream before March, of course. Then there's not inconsiderable matter of customers paying for connection and subscription fees to the new companies. Until then CABLE Sports, who have been left high and dry by ESPN's defection, continue trying to make amends for missing last month's England v Germany match. Next Wednesday night (Thursday morning) they will air the Italy v England friendly match live (on SPORTS 2), giving England fans a chance to see how caretaker boss Peter Taylor's experiment with youth pans out.

That match is part of a busy night's live action which also includes the Spain v Netherlands friendly and two South American World Cup qualifiers - Brazil v Colombia, with Brazil under new coach Leao, and Chile v Argentina.

There are two standout live games from England and Italy this week. Sunday's Premier League match sees Chelsea host Leeds. The Blues have continued to suffer from inconsistency under Claudio Ranieri and Leeds could be suffering withdrawal from their Champions' League drama. But after the weeks they've had against Liverpool and Milan their confidence must be soaring. A good sub-plot to watch will be Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's determination to score against his former club.

The Serie A highlight is the late Saturday match when Juventus host Lazio. Juve are coming off a terrible string of results including losses at home to Hamburg and Udinese, plus Wednesday's costly defeat to Panathinaikos.