UEFA Champions League Preview

UEFA Champions League Preview

  • Posted by Geoff Reid
  • On April 6, 2010
  • 0 Comments
  • Arsenal, Barcelona, CSKA Moscow, Geoff Reid, Inter Milan

By Geoff Reid

The next two days should provide us all with some of the most exciting football of the year. Some cracking matches on paper, and some possible upsets in the making.

CSKA Moscow vs Inter Milan From The Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow (Inter Milan lead 1-0 on agg.)
This match will kick off earlier then usual because of the time difference from Russia. With the aggregate score being only 1-0, CSKA should play without any fear in front of their own fans. I think that the first half should be a cagy affair because of the close score line and nobody will want to make mistake. The second half should be much more open, especially if the score is still 0-0 and 1-0 on aggregate to Inter. The Nerazzuri will be favorites, but make no mistake, CSKA have the guns to beat the reigning Italian champions and could very well cause the shock of the round.

The only player ruled out through injury for CSKA is Uros Cosic (left leg), while Evgeni Aldonin, and Milos Krasic are suspended. Manager Leonid Slutsky did not mention in the last press conference who would replace Aldonin and Krasic, however if reports are to be believed it will be Elvir Rahimic and Alan Dzagoev. We all know that the main weapons the Russian club have is Japanese international Keisuke Honda and Chilean international winger Mark Gonzalez.

Davide Santon (knee) is ruled out for Jose Mourinho’s men, while Dutchman Wesley Sneijder is a doubt (ankle). Inter will need Sneijder to play to have the best chance to advance and Mourinho knows this. Sneijder is one of those players who deserves to be mentioned in the conversation of best player in the world and will be key for the Milan club to keep possession in what should be a hostile environment. Of course Inter have key players one yellow card away from suspension: Walter Samuel, Maicon, and Javier Zanetti. One player who could also prove very important if given the chance is Serbian midfielder Dejan Stankovic.

Prediction: CSKA Moscow 1-2 Inter Milan. I was almost prepared to give the Russians the upset in this one, but then Inter have way too many match winners available and they don’t match up. But we could be wrong.

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Barcelona vs Arsenal From The Camp Nou, Barcelona (2-2 on agg.)
If today’s second leg is going to be anything like the first, then we all will in for one special treat. Last week at the Emirates Stadium, we saw one of the finest performances in recent memory of any football team anywhere. Even someone like myself who appreciates defensive tactics was blown away with Barcelona’s play in the first half. To be quite frank, the Catalans should have put the tie to bed in the opening twenty minutes, but give Arsene Wenger’s boys some credit for fighting back the way they did to give themselves a chance. With some key players missing however, their chances of qualifying look slim, but Pep Guardoila has a number of players also missing this match so Arsenal have every chance of winning this tie if they’re smart.

Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is definitely ruled out (calf) which is a big blow. The players listed as doubtful for Barcelona are Jeffren (calf), Yaya Toure (bruised ankle), and Andres Iniesta (thigh). The big problem for Guardiola is that club captain and icon Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique are both suspended for this one which will mean a big chunk of their defense will be missing. The boss has said they have to approach this tie to attack for the off and to win the game in hand, just as they did in the last round against Stuttgart. You wouldn’t expect Barcelona to play any other way. When Ibrahimovic went off during the weekend, his replacement was Bojan Krkic and the young Spanish sensation getting on the score sheet with a brace in a 4-1 win over Athletic Club . His most likely replacement will be former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry although he’s been plagued with his calf for a little while. Either way, there is plenty of strength in depth if you add in the other Spanish youngster Pedro into the mix.

Arsenal have quite a few injury troubles and have their best player suspended. Aaron Ramsey (broken leg) is done for the season, Robin van Persie (ankle ligaments) has been out for months, Kieran Gibbs (broken metatarsal), Johan Djourou (knee), Cesc Fabregas (leg), William Gallas (calf), Andrey Arshavin (calf), and Alex Song (right knee) are all ruled out. Veteran Sol Campbell is a doubt (hamstring) and club captain Febregas would have been suspended but he’s injured anyway. If Campbell isn’t good to go, veteran French defender Mikael Silvestre may have to start at center back. With Fabregas and Arshavin missing, much of the responsibility will fall on the shoulders of English winger Theo Walcott who is expected to cause Guardiola problems and has admitted as much with his pace. Wenger believes the gunners can make history tonight. We can’t wait to see what happens.

Prediction: Barcelona 3-2 Arsenal. With both sides believing in attacking football, and holes in both clubs back lines, this should be a real match for entertainment purposes. Don’t expect a lot of defending to be done, and good defending at that. The man of the match might actually come down to either one of the goalkeepers. This tie so far has been an example of how to sell the sport to people who don’t know much about it and this second leg will be no different.

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

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