As the return leg of the Champions league 1/4 Finals is about to get started today, let me share with you my thoughts on the upcoming games.
Barcelona vs Arsenal at the Nou Camp – When talking about teams producing good football and passing the ball around nicely, these 2 teams are often mentioned. The difference here though is that Barcelona is a class above Arsenal in all the different positions, from defense to attack. Barcelona actually could and should have wrapped things up at the Emirates last week in the first leg, but they missed too many chances in first half and thought the game was over in second after getting a 0-2 advantage. This time, they are playing at home, have the crowd behind them and know what is at stakes, they won’t make the same mistakes. Arsenal’s only chance is to try to take advantage of the absence of both regular central defenders (Puyol and Pique both suspended), but I really can’t see Arsenal making it at the end of the day, even if they score 10 goals, Barcelona at the Nou camp will score 11 to move through. I also think that Messi will show up this time around; Song did a very good job against him in the first leg and he will be out of the lineup this time around. I can’t see who else will be able to stick with him for the whole game as well as Song did last week. I definitely see Barcelona progressing here.
CSKA vs Inter – I didn’t see the full first leg, but here is what I envision: Inter will play them like they played Chelsea. I don’t expect them to sit at the back and play defensively the whole game. They know that if they score a single goal, they are almost guaranteed to go through because Mourinho knows his defense can do the job at the back. Look for an Inter goal to solidify their lead and take them to the next level.
Bayern vs ManU – This is the closest one. I actually see Bayern going through on this one, just because they have Robben and Ribery who can each make something out of nothing at anytime. They each can score on set pieces, dribble their way to the goal or create goal scoring opportunities. They play on opposite flanks, so they can stretch out ManU’s defense and create a gap through the middle for Mario Gomez or Olich to exploit. ManU on the other hand will be at home, but without Wayne Rooney. The team is quite diminished without him, but you can never count ManU out. I still give Bayern a slight edge to make it to the next round.
Bordeaux vs Lyon – I’ve tipped lyon all along to be the French side to make it the farthest, and they are about to prove me right. They have shown strength and organization defensively and their midfield has been outstanding so far. Their midfield will be the key against Bordeaux on Wednesday. They have a 3-1 advantage and I expect them to play conservative football and try to hurt Bordeaux on the counter. I see them in semi-finals.
Here are my prognostics for the rest of the competition:
Semi finals: Barcelona vs Inter / Bayern vs Lyon
Final: Barcelona vs Lyon