- Posted by Geoff Reid
- On March 8, 2011
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- 2010/11 UCL, Geoff Reid
By Geoff Reid
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Roma from the Donbass Arena, Donetsk (Shakhtar lead 3-2 on agg.)
The Ukrainian hosts are up for this one, and are ready to fight according to manager Mircea Lucescu. The 3-2 win in the first leg at the Stadio Olimpico was a massive result, giving Lucescu’s side three away goals and one foot in the quarter finals. He firmly believes his side are in the drivers seat not only because of the fantastic first leg result, but having just completed their first league game since November by beating FC Sevastopol 1-0 on the weekend and thinking his team are fresh and ready for this big clash.
With Roma, a lot has changed since the first leg defeat at home. Former manager Claudio Ranieri is out, and has been replaced by former striker Vicenzo Montella. He has had his work cut out for him, but the feeling is the side are back to playing attacking football and swagger they had under former manager Luciano Spalletti. Montella already picked up two wins and are unbeaten under his leadership. The fact is Roma have to go for it and win today, and with Shakhtar not looking likely to sit on their aggregate lead at home, we could be in for a cracking match.
Long time absentee Fernandinho is back for the hosts after recovering from a broken leg, while Kucher is ruled out due to a knee issue. Also, a number of players for Shakhtar are one yellow card away from a one match ban so they may be walking a very fine line should they progress tonight. For Roma, Menez and Marco Cassetti are both serving one match bans. Adriano is still out with a dislocated shoulder, and Simone Perrotta is also one yellow card away from suspension.
Prediction: Shakhtar Donetsk 2-2 Roma (Shakhtar win 5-4 on aggregate)
Barcelona vs Arsenal from the Camp Nou, Barcelona (Arsenal lead 2-1 on agg.)
The tie that everyone will be paying attention to has all the ingredients to be a wonderful spectacle of football. With the aggregate score being on a knife’s edge, it should be an incredible game. All Barcelona have to do is win 1-0 and they would go through on away goals, and manager Pep Guardiola knows this. The Catalans are unbeaten at home in 20 matches in all competitions having beaten Real Zaragoza 1-0 this past weekend. Argentine destroyer Javier Mascherano believes fellow countryman, and the world’s current best player Lionel Messi could get five goals today if he really wanted to. We know the hosts will attack, Guardiola has said as much, and anyone who’s watched Barcelona these last few years knows that’s exactly what they’ll do.
Arsenal may be coming in with a 2-1 aggregate lead, and putting on a wonderful second half performance in the first leg, but consistency has been a problem these last two weeks since. Question marks remain in defense still, and especially after the Carling Cup Final defeat to Birmingham City. While the Gunners kept a clean sheet in the league this past weekend against Sunderland, it was unusually at the other end where they were having trouble putting the ball in the back of the net. However, they are still very much in the title race domestically with Manchester United’s two defeats in a row to rivals Chelsea and Liverpool. Manager Arsene Wenger still believes his team are finally maturing this season after years of asking when that was going to happen. Buckle up, this is going to be one wild ride!
Barcelona will be missing captain Carles Puyol with injury, and fellow defender Gerard Pique due to suspension, so Guardiola will have to reshuffle his backline. Midfield dynamo Andres Iniesta is one yellow card away from suspension too. For Arsenal, the big question mark is over Dutch striker Robin van Persie being included in the squad to Spain, but will go through further fitness tests before deciding whether he will take any part. Alex Song, and Theo Walcott are both out with injuries, and Emmanuel Eboue is another one who is one yellow card away from suspension.
Prediction: Barcelona 4-2 Arsenal (Barcelona win 5-4 on aggregate)