UEFA Champions League Preview

UEFA Champions League Preview

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On March 10, 2010
  • AC Milan, Geoff Reid, Lyon, Manchester United, Real Madrid, UEFA Champions League

By Geoff Reid

Real Madrid vs Lyon From The Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid (Lyon lead 1-0 on agg.)

This tie is set up perfectly in what should be an entertaining second leg in the Spanish capital. It’s fair to say that the Spanish giants were not at their best in the first leg in France, and were somewhat lucky to escape with a 1-0 defeat. However, they will be favored to progress being only a goal down on aggregate and with the fire power that is available to Manuel Pellegrini that is no surprise. There will be some holes in the side with Pepe (torn knee ligaments), Ryston Drenthe (torn left thigh) and former Lyon man Karim Benzema (groin) all out injured while Xabi Alonso and Marcelo are suspended. What will also be interesting is how three players, Alvaro Arbeloa, Iker Casillas, and Lassana Diarra are all one yellow card away from being suspended for the next match should they qualify, especially for Diarra who is traditionally a midfield enforcer. One area that the galaticos have shown they are very shaky in is at the back and after this weekend going 2-0 down against Sevilla before making a comeback to win 3-2 will give the French club confidence going into this match.

Lyon manager Claude Puel believes that his club needs to play to win this tie because in his eyes it would be dangerous to sit back and allow Real to attack them and that’s a fair point. The more defending you can force the galaticos to do, the less time their attacking talent will have to do the damage. Most importantly, Lyon seem to believe in themselves, especially after the wonderful performance at home a fortnight ago. The only injury concerns are Anderson (knee, calf, shoulder), Francois Clerc (knee) and Michel Bastos (thigh). Nobody is suspended, but Lisandro, Miralem Pjanic, and Sidney Govou are one yellow away from suspension should they qualify. Good news is Cesar Delgado, who has been out injured since the first leg due to a hamstring injury, made his return off the bench on the weekend against US Boulogne.

This one should be open from the start with the Spanish club needing to score and wanting to do that early, while on the other hand Lyon going in with the mentality of needing to score in order to progress. Real will have Casillas in goal, with a backline consisting of Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Raul Alboil making the core. In the midfield, Fernando Gago and Mahamado Diarra should be joined by Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo with Gonzalo Higuain and Guti up front. Lyon will have Hugo Lloris in between the pipes while Cris should marshall the defense that will include Jean-Alain Boumsong next to him in the middle. It will be interesting if Delgado gets inserted into the starting lineup now he’s healthy, or have the option to come off the bench. Either way we should expect Swedish international Kim Kallstrom to do the dirty work and free up playmaker Govou to create chances for Lisandro up front.

Prediction: Real Madrid 3-2 Lyon. There will be goals in this one. Unfortunately for the French side, Real have more match winners and they will be determined to get to the final where their own stadium will host in May.


Manchester United vs AC Milan From Old Trafford, Manchester (United leads 3-2 on agg.)

Is Sir Alex Ferguson at his old mind games again when saying his club are not good at defending leads so they will go on the offensive again Milan? Possibly. His defense has been shuffled this season due to the injuries of captain Rio Ferndinand and Nemanja Vidic. Of course, the big story will be prodigal son David Beckham returning to the ground he called home for so long before an abrupt departure almost seven years ago in 2003. Putting all that aside, this really is a mouthwatering matchup with the aggregate score 3-2 in United’s favor and with the talent on offer from both sides, this is what the Champions League is all about and why it’s the best club competition in the world. The only injury concerns for the red devils are John O’Shea (leg), Ryan Giggs (broken right arm), Micheal Owen (hamstring), Anderson (cruciate knee ligament) and Wes Brown (foot) are all ruled out with Jonny Evans (knee) a doubt. Michael Carrick is suspended for this tie.

Coming off the first leg defeat at the San Siro, Beckham hasn’t started for Leonardo and being that Dutchman Clarence Seedorf came off the bench and got the second goal for the Rossoneri it was a wonder why he didn’t start the game. The good news for Milan is that they have conceded just one goal in their last four away games, but going up against in form Wayne Rooney will be a completely different kettle of fish here. The only player ruled out is Massimo Oddo (thigh) with striker Pato (thigh) a doubt and will be game time decision. The Brazilian wonder kid suffered a thigh strain against Atalanta on February, had an MRI scan Monday, and has made the trip to England.

United will have the evergreen Dutchman Edwin van der Sar in goal with a backline most likely consisting of Patrice Evra, Ferdinand, Rafael and if fit, Vidic. Paul Scholes will be in the center of midfield along with Darren Fletcher while one person out of Nani, Antonio Valencia, and Ji-Sung Park will miss out on the two wide positions. Up front, Rooney will be partnered most likely by Bulgarian misfit Dimitar Berbatov. Dida will be in goal for Milan, with Alessandro Nesta, Daniele Bonera, Luca Antonini, and Tiago Silva in front of him. Andrea Pirlo will be the link between defense and attack with his pin point passing from the holding midfield role and he will likely be joined by Seedorf instead of Beckham. Further forward, Massimo Ambrosini should compliment Ronaldinho to supply striker Klass Jan Huntelaar and it fit, Pato. Leonardo could also use former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini instead so plenty of options in the middle of the park that is available for the Rossoneri boss.

Prediction: Manchester United 4-3 Milan. Milan have to go for broke, everyone knows that. Whether Sir Alex thinks United can’t defend leads remains to be seen, but the English champions are the overall better team and while Milan are expected to give it a go, it be very foolish to bet against the red devils at Old Trafford.

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