It is a rare occasion in the life of a football journalist that you can claim you got something right. Far more likely you are obliged to admit error. And in my case, the mistake was a sizeable one. On this site in September I wrote the following:
"The group stage of the world's foremost club competition is now so skewed to the big clubs' advantage that all competitive interest has disappeared. United's autumn promises to be about as taxing as Wayne Rooney's offshore pay arrangements. Chelsea will be required to break sweat for about half an hour."
As a prediction it wasn't what you might term accurate. More Russell Grant than Nostradamus. It turns out this has been a humdinger of a group stage, a real testing autumn for many of Europe's elite. Sure, Barcelona have strolled through qualification with customary haughtiness. But Dortmund, the German champions, finished bottom of their group, failing even to make it to the Thursday night compensation of the Europa League. As did Shakhtar Donetsk.
Meanwhile, teams no-one expected to be there are among the final 16. Anyone who put money on APOEL Nicosia topping Group D should be signed up by HM Treasury immediately: with gambling instincts like that they could get us all out of our current hole.
And last night, there was something I really did not expect from the group stages: genuine tension. As Olympiacos' players waited on the pitch after their victory over Arsenal to learn of the result from Germany, a potent brew of possibility etched into their faces, the television viewer could only think that this is what the competition should entail. Unless, of course, as the unlikely result from Germany came through indicating it was Marseille not Olympiacos who would still be involved next March, they supported the Greek side.
Tonight, our old football friend permutations will be in vivid attendance at the Etihad stadium. In their first venture into the competition, Manchester City were indeed dealt a tough hand. Even I couldn't have mistaken that compared to the rides Chelsea and United were given, being grouped with Napoli, Villarreal and Bayern was always going to be difficult for the newbies. Still, with the scale of squad at his disposal, Roberto Mancini would have expected to progress.
Instead, City are dependent on results elsewhere. Not only do they have to beat one of the continent's form teams tonight, they have to hope for serious help from the group whipping boys. In his press conference yesterday, the manager's demeanour suggested he was preparing mentally for some busy Thursdays ahead.
So why is it that the big boys have struggled? Arsenal apart, all of England's representatives have put their supporters' fingernails at risk. The Spanish representation has halved, even the allegedly muscular Bundesliga has struggled.
In part, for the English quartet, it has to do with increased competition domestically. With Tottenham and Liverpool pressurising the top four, it is not as easy as it has been in previous seasons to spread resources. Sir Alex Ferguson in particular has been caught out by playing squad players midweek in order to preserve his big battalions for Premier League action at the weekend. An assumption that his lesser lights could wing it against Basel at home is what has put him in danger this evening. That and the serious creative hole that remains in his team's centre.
For City, the issue is somewhat different. Whatever tinkering Mancini has done with his line-up this season, that central core of Silva, Yaya Toure, Kompany and Hart has been ever-present. His problem is that however good they looked away in Villarreal - and believe me, they looked very good indeed - the Champions League is a new thing. There may be plenty of individual experience of the competition - Balotelli was part of a squad that won it, after all - but the collective knowledge is missing. It will come. But, as Roman Abramovich has discovered over eight years of substantial investment, no amount of money can buy you instant access to the top table.
So, as the competition rolls forward to its winter break in the rudest of health, its preliminaries roundly undermining the sceptical view, it is time to make a prediction as to what happens next. Given the utter hopelessness of my previous forays into star-gazing, maybe I should go for Zenit St Petersburg taking on APOEL Nicosia in Munich next May.
But as it happens, when I make a private arrangement with my bookmaker, my investment will still be on Barcelona against Real Madrid. With Madrid ultimately prevailing. And in the process sealing Jose Mourinho's sense of himself.