Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Champions League Quarterfinal Preview

First off, the television situation:

Roma-Manchester United, ESPN2, 11.45 a.m. PST
Schalke 04-Barcelona, Setanta 11.45 a.m. PST AND ESPN Classic, 2 p.m. PST

Arsenal-Liverpool, ESPN 2, 11.45 a.m. PST
Fenerbache-Chel$ea, Setanta, 11.45 a.m. PST AND ESPN Classic, 2 p.m. PST

Now then...

Roma-Manchester United
These two met at this very stage last year, and Roma won the first leg 2-1 only to get absolutely hammered 7-1 at Old Trafford in the return leg. Roma under Spalletti are tricky in that they play an unusual formation and style, some call it a 4-6-0, others see it as a loosely structured 4-2-3-1. Either way, Roma seem a stronger side this year than last, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them win today, but to have a real good chance I think they also need to keep a clean sheet. Like many Champions League games, this could be a tight and boring 0-0, but if the game gets a goal then it could really open up and we could see some real fireworks. Of course, watch for fireworks in the stands and around the grounds as well, as there were the typical fightings & stabbings last year with the added bonus of Italian riot police beating the shit out of Man Utd fans. UEFA has threatened Roma with revoking their already awarded 2009 Champions League final at Stadio Olympico if there is more violence today.

*Update* I didn't realize that Roma talisman Totti will miss today's game with a thigh injury. With that in mind, a draw would be a wonderful result for Roma, a scoreless draw even more so. This game might be a snoozefest if and until there is a goal scored.

Roma 0-2 Manchester United.

While the play was fairly even, United scored two goals, the first one a great goal by C Ronaldo from a Scholes cross, the second one of the crappiest goals you will ever see, as Roma went Keystone Cops in defense and the keeper and 3 different defenders managed to all fall down/crash into each other/fail to clear it/fail to mark Rooneh who tapped into an open goal from 3 yards out. After that Roma looked like they knew it was all over, but they still tried in vain to score despite winning 10 corner kicks to ManUtd's 1.

This tie is basically over, with ManUtd not only 2-0 up but with 2 away goals.

Schalke 04-Barcelona
There's no two ways about it: it is really difficult to see anything but a comfortable Barcelona win here, and I, like everyone else, would be shocked to see anything different. For some reason Barcelona's road woes in La Liga have not followed them over into the Champions League this season, and even with Messi still out they have so many horses in the stable that this should be meat and drink for them as the Brits say.

Schalke 04 0-1 Barcelona
I only saw the goal, so can't comment much about the rest of the match {Schalke had 24 shots to Barca's 5?!?!???}. The goal was a beautiful and clever through ball by Iniesta to the onrushing Henry, whose first shot was saved, but like a good shooting guard Henry followed his shot and worked hard to cross it to Bojan at the far post for a simple tap in.

Barca return home next week ahead and with a road goal. At this point I'll be amazed if it isn't a clash of the titans, Barcelona-Manchester United semifinal matchup.

I have absolutely no idea what will happen here; it all depends on which teams show up. Liverpool in the prem are truly mortal and often completely average, but in the Champions League they always seem to step it up a notch and play like the 5 time European Champions that they are. For Arsenal, the team that outclassed AC Milan twice can beat anybody, but the team that recently played 5 EPL games earning 4 draws and a loss was pretty damn rubbish. The key for Arsenal is don't concede tomorrow, I think they would be happy with 0-0. On the other hand, so what if they do? Just last year they beat Liverpool 6-3 at Anfield with a mostly reserve team.

Torres is on fire and should be feared, but other than that they don't scare me on paper; besides Torres only Gerrard and Mascherano are world class in my opinion, but again, on European nights something Pavlovian happens and they almost always step it up. A key matchup to watch for is the central midfield, and who wins that battle: Cesc & Flamini against Mascherano and Gerrard.

To sum up, I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen here, and there is not any result that would really shock me.

Fenerbache are the first Turkish side to make it to the Champions League quarterfinals, so you know they are excited and you also know that their fans will, be, ummm, up for it. Even after 1 billion dollars in player transfers under Abromavich, Chel$ea's game plan still often breaks down into hoofing hopeful route 1 longballs up towards Drogba and hoping for the best. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Fenerbache win the first leg tomorrow; if they can win and not concede an away goal to Chel$ea then I think they have a great chance to pull off the shock of the tournament thusfar. One thing we all know for sure- they will enjoy an unbelievable home field advantage tomorrow.

If I was forced to pick today's/tomorrow's matches, I would guess a Roma-ManUtd draw{without Totti more like a ManUtd win}, a Barca win, an Arsenal-Liverpool draw {if so then 0-0 please} and a Fenerbache win.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

The Arsenal really looks to be fading hard at the end. What a pity. They had a helluva run, though. But Arsene always seems to have a trick up his sleeve. Their EPL quest apparently over, this is their last shot for some hardware. Tough, tough assignment.

Kanu said...

Yes, they have been punching above their weight all year in the EPL, and now a lack of depth seems to be their downfall. But in a one off cup competition, or even the two-off CL format, I think they are capable of beating anyone. On the other hand, they are capable of losing to anyone. We'll just have to see how it all shakes out.

beast in 'bama said...


Now that we've gotten that out of the way, a prediction: 0-0 tomorrow, 3-0 Arsenal in the league game, 2-1 Liverpool in the return game @ Anfield - Liverpool advances on PKs (is that right?).

P.S.: Oh, and your manager looks like one of the caricatures displayed during the credits of the 70s-80s Britcom "Yes, Minister!"

Kanu said...


Well, 0-0 and then 2-1 to the Pool at Anfield, and PKs would not be necessary my man.

I'd be SHOCKED if Arsenal win 3-0 on Saturday.

Either way, good luck man. Well not really, but you know what I mean. Here's hoping 1) no major injuries and 2) the players get to decide the tie and not the referees {see: Liverpool-Inter, Inter-Liverpool. not saying you didn't deserve to win, but you know what I mean}.

11.45 a.m. cannot come fast enough. Bring it!

Kanu said...

Oh, and I don't give a shit what he looks like- I would not trade Arsene for any other manager in the world. Period.

beast in 'bama said...

Totally agree on point 1) and especially on point 2). Add a 3) for me: Let's hope the game is entertaining. I know Arsenal will at least attempt to do their bit. Liverpool is capable of playing an open style, but I'm not sure they will.

As for all this aggregate crap, it takes time for a Southerner raised on football (ours) to get used to. 1-0 Liverpool @ the Emirates, then 1-0 Arsenal @ Anfield will force PKs. Sorry. (If it did somehow go to PKs - which it won't - I'd bet Liverpool.)

Just kidding about Arsene - but he does look like a living caricature at times. My daughter says I do a spot-on impersonation of him. Therefore, I really shouldn't be saying anything.

Kanu said...


Impersonating Arsene is one of the most fun things in the world- I do it all the time. If I ever have a cat I will name him Arsene Wenger and constantly talk out loud in AW's voice what I think is going on in the cat's head.

Just be sure to mention "team spi-rit" in every single impression you do of him, since he mentions it in every interview.

beast in 'bama said...

Announcer dude on ESPN: 200th meeting of Arsenal & Liverpool, 31 English 1st Division titles between them. Cool.

Kanu said...

BIB- Congrats, man. I'm guessing that based on how the match played out today, you're thrilled with 1-1.

We'll see you next week at Anfield...

beast in 'bama said...

Kanu - Welcome to "Rafa World." As always with Liverpool, "thrilled" isn't quite the right word. Aside from 10 seconds of brilliance by Stevie G., there wasn't much to admire. The first half was a pretty good game, but once Rafa got his road goal, he packed it in TIGHT.

I have to admit the lack of a penalty call on Kuyt left me with a bad taste; 2-1 to Arsenal wouldn't have been all that bad a result for us - and hell, there's always the chance that Pepe stops a PK. He's good on the line, but once he wanders off... (see Utd, Man last week)

Kanu said...

As far as the penalty- fuck it, I'm over it. We know what we have to do, and that is score a goal {at a minimum}.

The trick is that after the first 15 minutes when Liverpool will be sky high off the emotion/ferver of the Anfield crowd, Rafa will pack it in, play for 0-0, and try to catch Arsenal on the break with a moment of Torres brilliance, so getting that goal largely against 9 & 10 men behind the ball will be tricky.

I have a feeling that Rafa will send out a weak squad Saturday, while we don't have that luxury {injuries}, so that's good for us in the league but good for you next week.

Here's to 2 more good matches, Sir.