Wednesday, March 11, 2009

UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Leg 2, Day 2

Some good match ups today, with the two teams I think most likely to make it to the final taking the pitch today. Manchester United will host Inter Milan and Barcelona will play host to Lyon today. Here's hoping for another spectacular day like we had yesterday.

Roma hosts Arsenel. The Stadio Olimpico is the venue for the Champions League Final this year and Roma supporters are all claiming that they are "destined" to get there. But I have to tell you, while Arsenel have been struggling in the Premier Leauge, they are getting some of their key playes back to form. Eduardo and Theo Wolcott will probably be in the starting 11 today and the back line anchored by Gael Clichy and William Gallas have been solid for the Gunners for most of the season. A goal by Roma early will make the game interesting since the Gunners come into the match with a 1-0 lead on aggregate. An early goal by Arsenel will put Roma into the position of chasing the game and needing three goals to advance. But a defensive set by Arsenel could deny the aggregate equalizer. I think Arsenel will advance on a 2-1 aggregate.

Barcelona hosts Lyon. This ties stands at 1-1 on aggregate with Barcelona getting a vital away goal. Barcelona, when the draw for this round occurred, was flying high in La Liga and looked almost unstoppable. But recent weeks have seen a dip in form, including the draw with the French Champions. Lyon travel to the Camp Nou to take with a slight disadvantage due to Barcelona's away goal. But with all the weaponse that Barcelona have, Messi, Henry, Eto'o, et al, it seems like playing at home on a European night will give Barca's weapons the impetus to get moving and scoring. If Barcelona can get a an early goal, Lyon will need two goals advance. A 1-1 draw will force extra time, but a score draw in excess of that scoreline will see Lyon through. Barcelona's defense has been a little shaky and I thing Pep Guardiola's men need to stick with what they know, possession and attack. I think Barcelona will win 3-1 tonight and advance 4-2 on aggregate.

Porto hosts Atletico Madrid. This is a 2-2 on aggregate scoreline and Porto carry an advantage on away goals going into tonights match. But Porto has a big fat, confiddence killing monkey on their back--they have been eliminted from the Champions League in teh round of 16 for something like three years running. Not an omen that should be forgotten. But in Madrid, the Porto side dominated play and could have had as many as four or five goals. Atletico has had improved form in the past couple of weeks in La Liga. But for Athletico to advance, a defensive mindset is likely to be the favored approach. A 1-1 scoreline will not see Atletico through, but neither will a scoreless draw. So Atletico will need to get a goal or two and hold the Portuguese to a clean sheet. With Porto playing at home, I would put the advantage to Porto. Tonights result 1-1, with Porto advancing 3-3 on the away goal rule.

Manchester United hosts Inter Milan. The marquee matchup of the day and indeed the leg, will pit the leaders of their respective leagues against each other as well as two of the most accomplished managers in the game today as Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho meet each other again. Mourihno is looking for lightning to strike again like it did five years when Mourihno led FC Porto to a win over the Red Devils five years ago. Rumors are swirling that Mourinho would be Ferguson's replacement when Ferguson finally retires. Manchester United has been practically unbeatable at Old Trafford this year and certainly the atmosphere will be fantastic. An early goal by Inter will probably unleash the United offensive machine and make for a spectacular game. Unlike the last match, United will have Vidic back in the line-up and the addition of the most consistent defender in the Premier league will help. While a lot of people think Ferguson will start Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov up top, my favorite is to see a Rooney-Carlos Tevez pairing, particularly since Tevez has been fantastic of late and proves to be a difficult man to defend against. Advantage goes to Old Trafford and United. I think United will take a 2-0 win and advance 3-1 on aggregate.

Given the 19 goal performance yesterday, it will be hard to top the scoring total, but some exciting games certainly are possible.

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