UEFA Champions League Preview

UEFA Champions League Preview

  • Posted by Geoff Reid
  • On March 31, 2010
  • Arsenal, Barcelona, CSKA Moscow, Geoff Reid, Inter Milan, UEFA Champions League

By Geoff Reid

Big games today in the UEFA Champions League, Barca and Arsenal square off in London while CSKA Moscow hopes to continue their run in Milan.

Arsenal vs Barcelona From The Emirates Stadium, London
For all the football purists out there, this tie should be for you, at least on paper However, we all know that on paper is completely different from reality. In saying that though, we all should be in for one cracking tie. In the previous round, Arsenal walked all over FC Porto breezing them aside with ease, while Barcelona basically did the same against Stuttgart. The Catalan giants will be the favorites for this one, and the big side story here is the return of Thiery Henry to north London. How will be react playing against his former club? What state of mind will he be in? Other questions that will have to be answered is ultimately what Arsenal team will show up here? The one who shows the never say die attitude in the Premiership, or the inconsistent side that dropped points in league play like this past weekend?

Arsenal just has the usual suspects out due to injury: Aaron Ramsey (broken leg), Robin van Persie (ankle), Kieran Gibbs (broken metatarsal), and Johan Djourou (knee). The big concern will be captain Cesc Fabregas (knee) and will be a game time decision for Arsene Wenger. Besides Fabregas, Gael Clichy is one yellow card away from missing the second leg if he gets booked. Arsenal have a lot to prove in this tie, especially at home and no greater challenge more then playing the defending champions on your own turf. The gunners defense has been a question mark all season, as well as the goalkeeping situation. Arsenal will go out and attack right from the first whistle and try and gain as much of an advantage as possible. Arsenal must test Victor Valdes as much as possible early on.

Barcelona have a major blow in that Andres Iniesta (thigh tear) will miss the first leg,as well as Eric Abidal (groin tear). Former Manchester United player Gerard Pique (knee) is questionable for Pep Guardoila’s men tonight. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for the third match in a row this past weekend in their 1-0 win against Mallorca and expect him to cause the Arsenal defense all kinds of problems along with Lionel Messi and company. We all know Barcelona are capable of scoring plenty of goals, but they are also well organized at the other end.

Prediction: Arsenal 1-2 Barcelona. We saw in the first leg against Stuttgart that Barcelona will not pour men forward in the first leg, let alone away from home so expect a patient style from Guardiola to set up the return leg at Camp Nou nicely for the Catalans.
Inter Milan vs CSKA Moscow From The San Siro, Milan
This tie will not get the headlines pre match as much as the Arsenal vs Barcelona or Bayern Munich vs Manchester United ties, but when a certain Jose Mourinho is involved you are always guaranteed some drama, even if he has to get all the attention on himself. The sense in the air here is that this tie could be the upset of the round. Inter aren’t in the best of form domestically, although that’s probably because one eye was on this game and this challenge, while the Russian club played very well and upset Sevilla in the last round. Of course what’s even more interesting is Mourinho, again in the headlines, has said he’s not happy in Italy which fuels the speculation that a return to England is imminent. This can not be good for the Inter squad in the dressing room.

The only absentee for Inter is Davide Santon (knee) through injury, but Lucio and Thiago Motta will both be suspended for this one due to yellow card accumulation. Walter Samuel, Maicon, and Javier Zanetti will also miss the second leg if they each pick up a yellow tonight. The good news is playmaker and former Ajax man Wesley Sneijder has returned from a thigh injury this past weekend in their loss to Roma. The attack should flow through Sneijder, while getting help out wide from both fullbacks to feed the ammunition to Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito. While Sneijder is playing the provider, behind him doing the dirty work is Argentine Esteban Cambiasso.

CSKA don’t have anybody officially ruled out, but Chilean winger Mark Gonzalez (muscle), and Japanese midfielder Keisuke Honda (ankle) are both listed as doubtful but should play. Honda may only make the bench at best, but he has shown in the last round how important he is to this team. He scored his third goal since moving to the Russian capital from a direct free kick, so look for Russians to be dangerous from set pieces. This is also the farthest the Russian club have gone in the European Cup so just like the last round against Sevilla, they should show no fear over the Italian giants in this one.

Prediction: Inter Milan 2-1 CSKA Moscow. The Milan club should pick up the win here, but it should set up the second leg on a knife edge. This could possibly be the upset of the round.

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