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.