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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bayern, Liverpool and Barcelona to progress according to my Champions League predictions

The Champions League second round draw produced a list of matches that is simply fantastic. Here is my verdict on who will prevail:

Chelsea v Barcelona: This promises to be a phemomenal encounter. Chelsea will badly miss the suspended Essien in both legs as they attempt to shut down the on-fire Barcelona attacking machine. Ronaldindho and Eto'o are guaranteed to make an impact, and I doubt if Chelsea can retaliate in kind. The second leg will be in a seething Nou Camp who won't have forgot last season's shenanigans. Barcelona victory.

PSV v Lyon: Guus Hiddink is a better coach than Gerard Houllier. But Lyon have better players and a fluid attacking team-style that is one of the purest in world football. I'm a big fan of PSV's Jefferson Farfan but I think he will lose out to the still unbeaten French champs. Lyon victory.

Bayern Munich v AC Milan: Visiting Munich in mid February is one of the toughest challenges in football- on a par with visiting the great Kiev of the nineties in early December. Bayern are acclimatised to the ultra-freeze conditions and will also be well-rested after a long winter break. They are 100% in their fantastic new stadium and I see them gaining a first leg lead that will not be overcome by Milan who are increasingly leaking goals. Munich victory.

Real Madrid v Arsenal: As a Gunner I hestitate to call this match. If both teams are at their best it will be an amazing attacking football encounter that must be watched by all. Present-form Arsenal will struggle. But an Ashley-Cole-plus Arsenal can make all the difference. Can't wait to see it!

Ajax v Internazionale: Adriano, Martins, Figo, Stankovic, Veron, Zanetti and Cordoba managed by motivated Mancini will easily overcome Ajax's lightweight youngsters. Inter victory.

Werder Bremen v Juventus: Vieira has lifted Juve who looked terrible against Liverpool in Turin last March. Emerson, Vieira, Nedved, and Camoronese boss the midfield in matches against lesser opposition and Bremen will fall into this category. Klasnic/Klose partnership is potent but Bremen are not sound defensively and I expect Ibrahimovich and Trez to fire Juve into the quarters. Juventus victory.

Rangers v Villarreal: Oh boy, Riquelme is on fire and is now one of the top ten best players in world football. Villarreal are improving after a slow start to the season and their passing game is one of the best in Europe. Really like Sorin's committed midfield running. I expect Rangers to fight hard and keep the game in the balance after the first leg at Ibrox. But the technical quality of Villarreal should be enough for them to prevail over two legs. Villarreal victory.

Benfica v Liverpool: By match-time Karagounis, Simao (if he hasn't been sold), and Miccoli will be available to strengthen the attacking potential and experience of the team that knocked out Man Utd. Koeman also knocked Arsenal out of group stage football a few years back when with Ajax, so it is clear that he has a proven good knowledge of how to tackle English teams. I expect Benfica's technical flair game to cause Liverpool a real scare in the Estadio de Luz. But Liverpool will roar back at Anfield and continue their remarkable run in Champs League competition. Liverpool victory.

5 Comments:

Blogger RedsMan said...

Superb analysis, T, I too had my opinions and was about to publish them until a fatal touch erased it all!!!

I look on the tie of the round in Chelsea v Barcelona. Best in England and Spain, best and 2nd best European Players of 2005, and a chance to exact revenge. They met last season, were paired in the rehearsal presentation in Nyon, and then they were thrown together like an omen officially. I would say that was a conspiracy, if I was that conspiratorial! It's about as thorough a test as can be for Mourinho who wishes to be acclaimed as the best in Europe.

Then to 2nd it, Real Madrid are paired with Arsenal. As T stated, Ashley Cole should be back by then and revert the back four to its original choice, like resetting an otherwise painful vertebrae. The question is then how the midfield is structured, because stabilising that area to coincide with Henry and Van Persie, and it can be a serious cracker of a game. Looking forward to it.

Liverpool paired with Benfica is another obstacle to overcome. Much may not be known about the Portuguese side but Ronald Koeman is shrewd and Benfica is the kind of side to hit you when you least expect it. Not to be underestimated, which is something Liverpool never do. An interesting match.

I'm glad to see Rangers in the last 16. It could have been Celtic or any other Scottish side but for one to be there for the first time is great advancement. The dominance of the Glasgow sides in the SPL should have seen them through to the QF in past history, and Rangers have had a turbulent season so far, with Alex McLeish's position under threat. Now could be a turning point for them, with Villarreal giving the kind of test appropriate for reviving a side like Rangers.

No predictions from myself, a lot can happen between now and February so perhaps nearer the time I can give a better panorama on who may knock out who. Let me add that PSV v Lyon is another tie from last season's QF tie, when these two met the Dutch side went through on penalties. Interesting to see how Guus Hiddink does this time round, with Gerard Houllier's side looking mostly rampant.


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Rafael Benitez lost his father on Friday, and when he heard the news it meant he could not attend the funeral due to his schedule with Liverpool in Japan. The funeral directors could not delay the funeral either for Rafael to be present. He prefers to stay with Liverpool and then visit his family in Spain when the World Club Championship is over on Sunday, for preparations with the team helps to keep his mind on things until then.

My thoughts and condolences go to the Benitez family during an emotional moment. My respect goes even more to Rafael, who once again shows great loyalty to the club.


RIP Francisco Benitez


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RedsMan.

12/18/2005 12:33 am

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RIP
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The matches are all tight, but the toughest to call are the three involving the English clubs. And Arsenal/Real is just too tight for me too predict, particularly as they both have the potential to improve both with the player they have and through the transfer window. Same with Chelsea/Barca.

Benfica have shown the same ability to fight back that Liverpool displayed in last season's competition. But if Liverpool can continue to develop their attack, I think their midfield, with more composure, guile, and balance than ManU's, can dominate. I also think that Crouch WILL definitely cause problems for Benfica's defense. They alternately looked solid and porous, and their keeper none too assured.

On a side note, I find it funny that Lyon look as strong as ever if not stronger, after many were predicting Houllier to flop on returning to France. I don't think he'll get much credit. It may have been his time to go, but remember that he accomplished a great deal at Liverpool.

12/18/2005 6:07 am

 
Blogger T said...

Thanx Redsman and Anon... can I also add my condolences to the Benitez family.

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I need to update that Lyon are now no longer unbeaten after losing 3-1 yesterday to the scourge of Man Utd: Lille.

12/18/2005 2:01 pm

 
Blogger BlindJak said...

Likewise in adding my condolences to the Benitez family.
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Sat in front of the plasma screen in the office watching the draw and seeing Chelsea name first out of the pot I closed my eyes and stared praying “Please not Barca, please not Barca.” And started to swear a lot when I heard who the names of our opposition.

My initial reaction was that we would lose the tie this time round, even before the draw was made, and I still enter the tie with a sense of foreboding. However, I was involved in a roundtable interview for participants on the last 16 and was comforted by the fact that the Barca fan was just as nervous about the tie as I was.

Interestingly he felt that the tie hinged not on any of Barca’s attacking players but on their defensive lynchpin Puyol. His thoughts were that Puyol is the captain and organiser, not to mention most consistent performer, and that his loss through injury of suspension, or lack of form, would most likely turn the tie in Chelsea’s favour.

From my point of view We have a great defence but not the best attack while they have a great attack but not the best defence. So there is goals for both ties and will probably come down to who’s more clinical and takes their chances best.

Regarding the other ties I pretty much agree with your tips T but would add that if Bayern lose Ballack in the transfer window, as some of the press have rumoured, then I’d go for AC.

12/19/2005 9:07 am

 
Blogger Matthew said...

Well, you know the results now. Read my Champions League round-up at:

http://20thcenturyhistorian.blogspot.com/

2/24/2006 1:56 pm

 

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