Champions League Preview

Champions League Preview

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On May 4, 2009
  • Arsenal, Chelsea, FC Barcelona, Geoff Reid, Manchester United

Editor’s Note: Geoff Reid appears on WVHooligan each week (typically on Mondays). Today he is back once again with a preview of the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. As always feel free to leave your thoughts below.

Arsenal (ENG) vs Manchester United (ENG) at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, United leads 1-0 on aggregate

If we learned anything from the first leg last week it was that Arsenal looked toothless in attack without Andriy Arshavin. What was particularly disappointing was the play of Theo Walcott. He didnít give Emmanuel Adebayor the service he needed to do what he gets paid to do. To be fair to Walcott, his first responsibility was to do the dirty work and help out on defense since the Gunners were playing at Old Trafford and United were going to attack from the opening whistle. However, itís his job to help the strikers on counter attacks and with his pace, he should have done better. Some of the blame also lies with Samir Nasri.

What Arsene Wenger will do is attack from the start and play open, attractive football. What the Gunners must be careful of is conceding a goal. At 1-0 the tie is still very much open, but if United get an away goal, the tie will swing massively in their favor. Wenger can also count himself and his team lucky because if it wasnít for possibly Englandís new number one Manuel Almunia, they would have had a daunting task in front of them. Expect Arsenal to try to open the game up and use the flanks to stretch United as teams have done in recent weeks and been fairly successful.

The one thing Sir Alex Ferguson will regret from last weeks performance was that his team didnít score more goals and get more of an aggregate lead. Carlos Tevez or Wayne Rooney should start up front again due to the lack of form of Dimitar Berbatov. While whoever starts up top should be flanked by Cristiano Ronaldo on the right and Park Ji-Sung or Rooney on the left if Tevez gets the nod in the lone role. Rio Ferdinand should be healthy enough after having a little bruising to the ribs. The United captain was rested this weekend with the semi-final in mind. His leadership will be key for the red devils to thwart Adebayor and the deep runs from Walcott, Nasri and Cesc Fabregas. Canít help but think this is also a match made for Paul Scholes after he tends to show up in the big games such as last seasonís semi-final second leg against Barcelona netting the winner.

United will go through to the final for the second season in a row because they will steal at least one away goal and therefore Arsenal would have to score three goals and with Arshavin being cup-tied, their attack looks fairly predictable with United just overpowering the Gunners with quality player for player.

Chelsea (ENG) vs Barcelona (ESP) at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, 0-0 on aggregate.

Itís definitely fair to say that my prediction for an open match in the Camp Nou went out the window very quickly. Once again, Guus Hiddink demonstrated why he is one of the best managers in the world. His temporary Chelsea team were organized and didnít make one mistake. It wasnít attractive for the neutral thatís for sure, but if I were a Blues fan I would be delighted…even Didier Drogba was helping out defensively.

The Dutch manager had his troops push high up the pitch and didnít give Barcelona any room to play their fantastic passing game. You would have thought Real Madrid would learn from the west London club but obviously didnít know how to get tight enough on Saturday. In the second leg, expect Hiddink to loosen the leash on his players and therefore keep an eye out for the deep runs from Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Michael Ballack to support Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

For Barcelona, what will be interesting to see is how will Pep Guardiola try to combat Chelseaís attacking threat since Barcelona are one of the best attacking sides in the world themselves. They donít play defensively all that much and therefore expect the Catalan giants to push forward from the start.

Drawing 0-0 at home was not a bad result at all for them because theyíve proven they can score anywhere, and in Europe the away goals rule has proven a massive advantage. All they need is a scoring draw. If Barcelona can play a little bit quicker against Chelsea and step up the pace of their off the ball movement just a tiny bit faster they could get the away goals that are so important. They have the players to do so and nobody needs reminding of the talent they have on offer.

A repeat of last seasonís final is whatís calling out here. Barcelona will score, but Chelsea have gotten their home edge back that stuck around for four years before Liverpool broke it earlier in the season. Guus Hiddink has got them very organized so he wonít completely let the Blues play with freedom, but donít be surprised if Lampard gets a free role. Rome will see Manchester United vs Chelsea at the end of the month in the Stadio Olimpico.

  • Gary Miguel

    Thanks, I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Here's to some attractive football.

  • Gary Miguel

    Thanks, I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Here’s to some attractive football.