Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Sweet Sixteen, 2 Weeks Early

Champions League Round of 16 2nd Legs, today & tomorrow

Below are the 2nd leg matchups with the scores as they stand after the 1st legs, which were played 2 weeks ago. The winner will be determined by aggregate (total) score after the two legs. The first tiebreaker is road goals, so if a match ends in a draw whichever team scored more goals away from home goes through to the quarterfinals. If both teams have scored the same number of road goals, then 30 minutes of extra time will be played -if still tied then the match will be decided by penalty kicks. If you can't get to watch any of them you can follow all of the action here.


Liverpool 2-1 Barcelona. 11.45 a.m. PST. ESPN2
A colossal matchup featuring the 2 time & defending champions (Barca) and the 5 time champions who won the year before last. Liverpool came from 0-1 in the Nou Camp to win and those 2 road goals put them in the catbird seat. A draw of any kind or even a 0-1 loss will see them through. Barca on the other hand must win by 2 goals at Anfield, where Liverpool have only lost 3 times all year - to Arsenal in the FA Cup, Arsenal in the Carling Cup, and Saturday 0-1 to Manchester United in the prem (although it was a match they dominated). A 2-1 Barca win would mean extra time, while a 3-2 or higher 1 goal win would see Barca through on road goals. Barca are a bit of team termoil at the moment, but certainly nothing as bad as the sensationalist press would have you believe. I think with Eto'o back they can actually do the business, as his incisive runs tend to open up defenses and give Ronaldinho, Messi, & Giuly more space to operate, which is the key to their games. Deco will need to find a way not to get bossed by Sissoko who plays the Vieira role for The Pool. Either way it should be a cracking match. If you only watch one match today and tomorrow, watch this one.

Good luck to bigtime Barca fan Michael. Dude, if you watch at the BrewHouse, beware the stocky bald total nutter who frequently screams "Come on THE POOL!!!", he always struck me as a dude not to be messed with...

Prediction: Eto'o scores 2 and Barca pull it out somehow, either 3-1 or with an extra time winner.

Valencia 2-2 Inter Milan. 11.45 a.m. PST. ESPN Deportes
The best match by a mile that is not on TV. ESPN Classic was to show this match today at 2 p.m., but over the weekend they switched and decided to show Chel$ea-Porto instead, which is completely retarded since Setanta is already showing that at 11.45, so this match is left out in the dark, unless you can find a place that has ESPN Deportes.

Valencia are in the catbird seat here with their 2 road goals from the first leg, so all they need is a draw provided that it is 0-0 or 1-1. 2-2 would mean extra time. Inter have not lost all year, which is impressive even if Serie A is weakened without Juventus and with AC Milan pretty old and feeble. They are trying to match Arsenal's Invincibles of 2004 in their domestic league, and amazingly could get knocked out of the Champions League without losing. Valencia are a very good team as well, and they are damn tough to beat at The Mestalla. I wonder if their fans have changed their ways - a few years back when Arsenal played there in the Champions League the fans booed and made monkey noises whenever Arsenal's black players touched the ball - disgraceful. PV4 is not playing due to injury, but a few others may get the same treatment. Inter are also without Cambiasso, their other defensive midfielder, so that is a major worry, as well as the fact that Adriano is struggling to be fit and will be a game time decision as well. Inter lost at this stage last year to Villarreal, so they will be super disappointed to go out again this year at the same stage. This should also be a cracker, and it is an absolute joke that it is not on TV.

Good luck to my good friend and Inter fanatic A10, who amazingly has a restaurant with ESPN Deportes right next to his office in the East Bay. Enjoy and good luck dude.

Prediction: penalties or as the Brits say, "the lottery of the shootout".

Chel$ea 1-1 Porto. 11.45 Setanta Sports USA. 2 p.m. ESPN Classic.
Chel$ea got a crucial road goal in Porto, and should be able to handle the Portuguese club with their army of overpriced superstars. Drogba is absolutely on fire right now and seems to score damn near every time he touches the ball. Porto are massive underdogs but I say: Vamos Porto!

Prediction: Chel$ea 2-1

Lyon 0-0 Roma. 11.45 a.m. PST (replays later in the day on Setanta/ESPN Deportes)
Roma have the edge here, as any kind of scoring draw will see them through on away goals. Lyon must win outright. Roma are a solid team that go as their inspirational talisman Totti goes: he could boss the match, score 2 and take Roma to the last 8, or he could spit in someone's face or find another way to get red-carded and be the reason Roma get knocked out. Lyon are 5 time defending French champions who really want to make a deep run at the Champions League to validate their success in the eyes of the soccer world, who view their success as good but not great since their league is not one of the top tier leagues in Europe. Lyon's Brasilian maestro Juninho is worth the price of admission alone - in France he has acquired the nickname "Mr. 50/50" because he is so good at taking free kicks that they claim he scores 1/2 the time. A bit of an exaggeration, but his is certainly great at them and is one of the most underrated and underappreciated superstars of world football. I sure hope Lyon can knock out the Italians.

Prediction: Lyon 2-1, with the winner coming in extra time from Sylvain Wiltord.

Previews later today/tonight...

Bayern Munich 2-3 Real Madrid

Arsenal 0-1 PSV Eindhoven

AC Milan 0-0 Celtic

Manchester United 1-0 Lille

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