UEFA Champions League Preview

UEFA Champions League Preview

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On April 6, 2009
  • Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, FC Barcelona, FC Porto, Geoff Reid, Liverpool, Manchester United, UEFA Champions League, Villarreal

Editor’s Note: Geoff Reid appears on WVH every week. Today he is stepping out of the MLS box and is previewing the UEFA Champsions League. Feel free to post your comments to Geoff below.

With the last eight teams in Europe locking horns this week I thought it would be appropriate to throw my predictions out there. Before I do, I will mention firstly I am as big of a Liverpool fan as you can get so if I at all sound bias I apologize. I like to think I am one of the most moderate football/soccer fans around so Iíll try my best to give my opinion right down the middle. As always if you agree or disagree with my thoughts please feel free to leave comments.

Villarreal CF (ESP) vs Arsenal FC (ENG): First Leg at Estadio El Madrigal on the 7th, Second Leg at The Emirates Stadium on the 15th

This is a tough one to call because both sides are in about the same position in there respective leagues. The interesting stories going into this tie is how big of a role will gunners old guy Robert Pires play, Villarrealís mission to revenge their semi final loss to Arsenal in 2006 and both clubs are out of their domestic title races so while securing qualification for next seasons competition is a must financially as well as for bragging rights, this represents their best chance of silverware.

Most of the Arsenal team that started the final in 2006 against FC Barcelona have moved on, but a good chunk of the yellow submarineís side is still there so you can count on players such as Marcos Senna will be fired up more then most. A massive decider in Europe whether itís the Champions League, UEFA Cup or the old Cup Winners Cup is where the second leg will be held.

I donít think that the Emirates Stadium is as intimidating as Highbury used to be but my head is with Arsenal on this one, however I will not be surprised if Villarreal pull this one off. Itís really a toss of the coin for this tie. The gunners have Adebayor healthy again and in form which will decide this tie.

Manchester United FC (ENG) vs FC Porto (POR): First Leg at Old Trafford on the 7th, Second Leg at the Estadio do Drago on the 15th

While the other three ties are harder to judge who will go through to the semi-finals, this one is not necessarily easier to predict the score, but the outcome is one most will agree on. Unless youíre the most die hard and optimistic Porto fan, I think the neutrals will all favor United.

Players such as Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes can come out and join their manager in saying 2004 is not on the minds of the players for various reasons, but you have to think that in some way, the players that were at United when Jose Mourinhoís Porto knocked United out at Old Trafford in the last minute will want to put the ghosts that haunt them away for good of that famous night. Player for player this time around, United are far more superior and defending Champions at that. The second leg may have a bit of good luck on Portoís side since they will host it. When these teams met in 2004, a big part of Portoís lineup was a good chunk of the Portuguese national team. Make no mistake about it, United will win this tie, but I do think it will be a lot closer then people may think just because the second leg will be at the Estadio do Drago.

FC Barcelona (ESP) vs FC Bayern Munich (GER): First Leg at Camp Nou on the 8th, Second Leg at the Allianz Arena on the 14th

Just like the Villarreal vs Arsenal tie, this one is tight to call. A lot of folks will think the Catalans have this wrapped up, especially after seeing Bayern get thrashed 5-1 this past weekend against Wolfsburg. However, I think these ties will bring the best out of the Bavarians and to be honest, as a professional, you donít need any extra motivation to play in the Champions League at this stage with a chance of winning the tournament.

I feel Bayernís defense it their biggest let down. Michael Rensing, a very fine goalkeeper, doesnít have the same presence as Oliver Kahn did and that is massive shoes to fill. Lucio has too much work to do to compensate for the mistakes of Demichelis and van Buyten on an ordinary day let alone the prospect of facing Messi, Henry, Eto, Xavi Hernandez, Iniesta, and Danny Alves coming at you. I think weíll see a high scoring affair in this one. I look forward seeing Frank Ribery, Luca Toni and Miroslave Klose going against the Barcelona back four and the weak link is undoubtedly Rafa Marquez so be sure Jurgen Klinsmann will look to exploit that. Also, Ribery does not get enough praise and he is just as good as Messi, Kaka and Ronaldo. In a high scoring affair and the most entertaining tie of the round, the Catalans will prevail.

Editor’s Note: WVH is a Bayern fan, but he’s with Geoff on this one…Bayern has looked very weak defensively lately and you just can’t go into a match with a poor defense when a club has a Henry, Messi and other waiting. But to be more honest WVH cares a little more about the next pairing as he’s a bigger Blues fan than Bayern.

Liverpool FC (ENG) vs Chelsea FC (ENG): First Leg at Anfield on the 8th, Second Leg at Stamford Bridge on the 14th

Yawn. For the fifth time in five years these two sides meet and it will be the way it always is: tight, narrow affairs and donít be surprised if it goes to penalties or the tie being decided on away goals. Unless youíre a red or a blue, this tie wonít be very entertaining. The interesting fact regarding these two clubs is the one whoís hosted the second leg has moved onto the next round in the knock out rounds (the second year they were both drawn in the same group).

I think with the second leg being in west London, that should give Chelsea the advantage. However, Liverpool have beaten Chelsea twice already this season, once at the Bridge. That was before Guus Hiddink became caretaker manager and he is one of the best and so is Rafael Benitez. While I think Phil Scolari was a top manager, Hiddink has given a new lease of life to Chelsea and because the second leg at home for the Blues, I think that will be the ultimate difference. If it would have been at Anfield Iíd be picking Liverpool.

So my semi-final picks are: Arsenal vs Manchester United and Barcelona vs Chelsea. Theyíll probably be completely wrong because predictions never pan out and thatís the beauty of this sport. Itís why this is the best sport in the world. And stepping back on this side of the pond, itís also important that we all get behind the Puerto Rico Islanders this week in their quest to gun down Cruz Azul. How amazing would it be that the Islanders from USL-1 would face off against the European Champions in January?