UEFA Champions League Preview

UEFA Champions League Preview

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On March 9, 2010
  • Arsenal, Bayern Munich, FC Porto, Fiorentina, Geoff Reid, UEFA Champions League

By Geoff Reid

As we start the second leg match-ups of the last 16 of this season’s Champions League, there is not one tie that is already won. Before we preview the two ties tomorrow, it must be said that all of my predictions were well off base which just goes to show why we all love this game: unpredictability.


Arsenal vs FC Porto From The Emirates Stadium, London (Porto leads 2-1 on agg.)

Arsenal have their backs up against the wall in this match and to be honest they’re lucky not to down by more then a goal on aggregate. Two very simple, schoolboy errors led to them losing the first leg in Portugal and it just goes to show that even at the very highest level, mistakes can be made. This time, Mauel Almunia will be back in goal for the gunners after being healthy and replacing the number two choice Lukasz Fabianski. The north Londoners have been dealt a massive blow though with the loss of club captain Cesc Fabregas due to a hamstring injury. Joining Fabregas on the treatment table is Kieran Gibbs (broken foot), Johan Djourou (knee), Robin van Persie (ankle), William Gallas (calf), and Aaron Ramsey (broken leg). Sol Campbell has recovered from the groin strain that kept him out of this past weekend’s match against Burnley. So with all the injuries, it will be a massive uphill task for Arsene Wenger, and if they can take confidence from anything, it’s that their Portuguese opponents have lost all previous six visits to London against Arsenal and Chelsea, and don’t seem to travel well to England.

Even though Porto do not have a good record on English soil, it should not give them a reason to fear Arsenal. They understand that they were the better side in the first leg and were unlucky not to win by more goals. Add to Arsenal’s injury worries, Jesualdo Ferreira’s men will be confident they can finally end this bad run in England and progress to the quarter finals yet again. The team has been struggling of late being outside the top two spots in the domestic league for the first time since the 2001/02 season, but with Ernesto Farias (knee) and Fernando (thigh) the only injury worries this is as good of a chance as they will get to progress and get the result they need.

This one will be played at Arsenal’s pace. They will dictate the game being at home, and being a goal behind they will attack. Without William Gallas, veteran Sol Campbell will anchor the back line and his experience will be needed in this game more then ever so far. With Fabregas out for this one, expect the gunners attack to flow through Czech Tomas Rosicky and French winger Samir Nasri. With the continued absence of Dutchman Robin van Persie, Dane Nicklas Bendtner will be expected to provide a physical presence up front. Porto will have the ever reliable Helton in goal with club captain Bruno Alves trying to organize his troops from the back. Ruben Micael and goal scorer from the first leg Silvestre Varela will look to provide the ammunition for strikers Hulk and the in form Falcao.

Prediction: 2-2. After an open game with Arsenal trying to stretch the field, goals shouldn’t be difficult to come by in this one and Porto will progress on aggregate.

Fiorentina vs Bayern Munich From The Artemio Franchi, Florence (Bayern leads 2-1 on agg.)

Fiorentina didn’t get the perfect away result in Bavaria in the first leg, but they managed to get the all important away goal which can prove crucial in this second leg in Tuscany. La Viola manager Cesare Prandelli is calling for his squad to be patient in finding the equalizer on aggregate and a 1-0 victory would send them through on the away goals rule. After a good performance against arch rival Juventus this past weekend, Prandelli’s side should be full of confidence and have no fear playing against the Bavarian giants. The only injury to the Florence club is Alessandro Gamberini (shoulder) and nobody is doubtful although Massimo Gobbi and Adrian Mutu are serving suspensions. The only other worry is striker Alberto Gilardino is one yellow card away from suspension for the next match should they qualify.

Bayern Munich managed to get a tricky draw away from home this past weekend against former player Lukas Podolski and FC Cologne, and this should have been good practice in the build up to their trip to Tuscany. Defending a one goal lead on aggregate will not be easy, but should the Bavarians concede a goal, the talent in the final third of their attack should be able to grab some goals if necessary. The only players that are definitely out of this second leg are defender Martin Demichelis (cheekbone, upper jaw) and Diego Contento (cut right knee), while the big news will be if French wizard Frank Ribery will be able to go as his injury status is unknown as of right now but manager Louis van Gaal thinks he’ll be okay.

This one has the makings of a game of two halves. With Prandelli saying he wants his side to be patient and calm and Bayern defending a one goal lead, this shouldn’t pick up until the second half. La Viola will have French shot stopper Sebastian Frey in goal, while Danish international Per Koldrup will be responsible for keeping the defense in tact. Argentinean midfielder Mario Bolatti will drive the midfield on and should be the creative spark to supply Italian hit man Gilardino and if Fiorentina want to qualify, they will have to rely on their top marksman. FC Hollywood will have Hans-Jorg Butt in goal, and in the absence of Demichelis, Martin Van Buyten and Philipp Lahm will be expected to keep the shape of the back line. Assuming Ribery is good to go, he will be joined by Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger and midfield anchor Mark van Bommel with either Mario Gomez or Miroslav Klose leading the front line.

Prediction: 2-1 Bayern. I just feel that the Bavarians have more match winners in their squad to win anywhere in the world and with Ribery, Robben and Klose up front who seems to show up when it really matters most, you’d be foolish to bet against them.

Editor’s Note: Geoff Reid appears on WVHooligan each week. Feel free to leave your thoughts/comment/predictions below.