Monday, February 19, 2007

Champions League Round of 16: Part 1

Once again, it's time for me to attempt to make predictions about the next round of games, so that I can look back in a couple of weeks and see how spectacularly wrong I was.

Up first: Tuesday's matches.

Celtic - AC Milan
I happened to catch the end of the AC Milan game this weekend, which featured three goals in the last 10 minutes and did nothing to dispel my conviction that all Serie A games are either utterly boring or utterly insane, with nothing in between. Ronaldo scored twice to help Milan win that game, but he won't be featuring for them in the Champions League, which is a problem because they don't really have any other fit strikers at the moment (and yes, I realize it's stretching things to refer to Ronaldo as "fit"). Celtic have the advantage of starting at home, in what's always an intimidating atmosphere -- just ask Man United about that -- and I think they should win that one, but I'm honestly not sure if they've got the quality to make it through over two legs.

PSV Eindhoven - Arsenal
PSV have been out of form recently, whereas Arsenal -- that mind-numbingly boring draw against Blackburn aside -- have been scoring freely. I expect them to win this one, although they may struggle away from home. Mostly it depends on whether Thierry Henry decides to act like a proper captain and put in a solid performance, or hang around near the touchline shrugging expressively. The other issue is the solidity of their back line, with Emmanuel Eboue out injured and William Gallas possibly coming in to the defence after a long layoff.

Lille - Manchester United
Lille are definitely the underdogs here, although they did give United a lot of trouble last year. But I think that was down to the Red Devils' own poor form more than anything else. They're looking a lot better this season, and I fully expect them to go through. The big question is whether Sir Alex will opt for a 4-5-1 formation for the away leg, despite the fact that it NEVER EVER WORKS. I'm also a bit worried about who's going to be in goal for United -- hopefully Edwin van der Sar will be back, because Tomasz Kuszczak didn't exactly convince me against Reading on Saturday.

Real Madrid - Bayern Munich
The latest in the meltdown at Real Madrid's is a rumour that Fabio Capello is about to quit. Bayern, on the other hand, have the advantage of already getting their coaching drama out of the way, after replacing Felix Magath with once and future manager Ottmar Hitzfeld. They also have Oliver "Most Terrifying Man In Football" Kahn between the posts. Just look at that face: Most opposing strikers won't even dream of scoring against him, they'll be so busy just trying not to wet themselves in terror. Bayern have to go far in the competition if they want to have a hope of salvaging their season, seeing as they're currently languishing 12 points off the leaders. Real are also stuck down in fourth place in La Liga, but with a slim chance of catching Barcelona. I think this one's going to be very tight -- either no goals or a ton of goals -- but Real will edge through.

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