Sunday, April 5, 2009

Champions League Quarterfinal Preview

The champions league quarterfinal draw has thrown up a number of intriguing matchups. Here's my take on what I expect in the first leg matches.

Villareal vs Arsenal: This match pits two "footballing" sides in a rematch of the 2006 semi-final which Arsenal won thanks to a goal from Kolo Toure at Highbury in the first leg. A lot has changed in both the sides since then, but not their coaches. Expect a match of technical expertise from both sides, with the unit whose mid-field comes out on team likely to win it. There won't be much in this one, but the events of this weekend suggest that Arsenal will have the slight edge going into it. Villareal lost 3-0 at home to Almeria, but more importantly may have lost their sensational winger Santi Cazorla to injury for the rest of the season. Arsenal on the other hand welcomed back Adebayor and Fabregas into the team and the duo were instrumental in a convincing 2-0 win over Mancester City at the Emirates.
My prediction: 1-1 (with Arsenal gaining a precious away goal)
Dangermen: Villareal : Giussepe Rossi (ex Man U - motivation in itself to hurt the Gunners)
Arsenal: Emanuel Adebayor (back from injury, back in form and hungry).

Manchester United vs Porto: This is one of those matches which the press had been claiming to be a walk in the park for the Red Devils. But events since then, with the double loss to Liverpool and Fulham in the league coupled with some injuries to Berbatov etc. have meant that they are not in the best shape. Still, they are quite possibly the best team in the world and at home should prove to be too strong for a Porto team. The revenge angle for the 2005 defeat would only make the Red Devils more hungry.
My prediction: 3-1
Dangermen: Manchester United : Wayne Rooney (Suspended in the league, so would be rested and motivated to do damage)
FC Porto: Lucho Gonzales (The one man in the Porto team who can take the game by the scruff of the neck in the midfield).

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich: Two teams, who can score lots of goals as the last round has shown. Bayern have Ribery, Klose, Toni, Podolski et al. Barca have the trinity of Henry, Eto'o and Messi. Expect goals and lots of them !!! However, Bayern's shock thrashing at the hands of Wolfsburg over the weekend might dent some confidence. The match will showcase the passing, movement and skill of the Catalans against the power and directness of the Bavarians with all the ingredients of making it the most explosive matchup of the last eight
Predictions: 4-2
Dangermen: Barcelona: Lionel Messi (Quite simply the best in the world at the moment)
Bayen : Frank Ribery (Possibly the best European player at the moment :) )
Liverpool vs Chelsea: And finally we come to what has now become an annual fixture of the Champions league. Playing against each other over 5 straight seasons in addition to their domestic meetings means that these sides know all that is their to know about their opposition, quite literally. I expect that this meeting will go ahead on expected lines. Liverpool would be desperate not to concede the away goal and I feel that they just might be successful. Look for a tight, tactical battle in a crowded midfield.
Predictions: Liverpool 1 - Chelsea 0
Dangermen : Liverpool - Steven Gerrard (In good form and with Torres, possibly makes the most dangerous combination in Europe now)
Chelsea: Frank Lampard (Big match player, would need to be at the top of his game to counter Alonso, Mascherano and Gerrard)

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