Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Champions League Round of 16 Preview

Tuesday's games

  • Liverpool v Inter: Inter are cruising on top of Serie A, while Liverpool are fighting for fourth in Premiership and their form has been, shall we say, uneven recently (I'm trying to be kind). Still, you can never count Liverpool out in the big European games. And Rafa Benitez desperately needs his team to step up and perform like they did against Barcelona last year. Liverpool has most of their injured players back, with the exception of Daniel Agger, who's still not back from that damn metatarsal injury. So that means Jamie Carragher will presumably get the job of coping with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is joint top-scorer in the Champions League this year; oh, and Carra just happens to be one yellow card away from a suspension. It's slightly terrifying. Actually, I am going to be one big bundle of nerves through this whole game. A final note: the two teams last met in 1965, when Inter beat Liverpool in the semis and went on to win the European Cup. So that's a good omen right there.

  • Roma v Real Madrid: Roma lost 1-0 to Juventus -- their challengers for second place in the league -- at the weekend. And they've been dealing with all sorts of dressing-room drama, including a training-ground spat between Panucci and Aquilani. Real also lost over the weekend, with Barcelona cutting their lead in La Liga down to five points. But they seem to have built a solid team in the post-Galactico era, and I think they can beat Roma, although it probably won't be the kind of ass-whipping that Man Utd administered last year. (Sorry, just had to bring that up.) What I'm most interested to see is whether Roma are still playing that post-modernist no-striker style. (I did actually watch their game against Juventus over the weekend, but I didn't really pay much attention. Oops.)

  • Olympiakos v Chelsea: Chelsea are reportedly leaving Lampard and Terry out of the squad tonight; does this mean that Olympiakos < Huddersfield? Drogba should be back, though, with Anelka relegated to the bench. Countdown to sulking starts...now. (Also: rotation, apparently, is okay as long as you're not Liverpool.) Chelsea are still chasing the quadruple, but I think the Champions League is probably their priority this year, and they should get past Olympiakos relatively easily. The Greek team will put up a fight at home, but really they were doing well just to make it this far, into the knockout stages for the first time in nine years.

  • Schalke v Porto: A.k.a. the game nobody cares about; Setanta aren't even airing it until Wednesday. Porto are 10 points clear at the top of the league in Portugal, while Schalke are down in fifth place in the Bundesliga. I guess that makes them the Liverpool of Germany. Schalke have also been struggling to keep clean sheets lately, which is going to be a big problem for them with the importance of away goals here.

Wednesday's games

  • Lyon v Man Utd: United are coming off a high from their FA Cup win over Arsenal. Now they just have to try not to choke against Lyon, who may still be on top in their domestic league but whose form has been slipping recently. The player to watch -- aside from Juninho and his free kicks -- is striker Karim Benzema, the wonder-boy of France. But I think Vidic and Ferdinand can cope with him, whereas Lyon's defence is definitely their weak point. The big question for United is going to be who starts up front. Rooney has proved his worth to the team, but will Tevez come back in, or maybe Louis Saha will hobble onto the pitch this time?

  • Arsenal v Milan: I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen here. It really depends on which teams decide to show up. Do we get the Arsenal that plays teams off the pitch, or the spineless babies who lost to United on Saturday? Do we get the all-conquering Milan that has won a gazillion European trophies, or the team that can't win at home for love nor money? Other questions: Who will play in goal for Milan, with their first- and (possibly) second-choice keepers both injured? Will Pato be allowed to stay up past his bedtime for this game? And what are the odds on Eboue and Gattuso kicking the crap out of each other?

  • Celtic v Barcelona: Looking into my crystal ball, I predict that Celtic will put up a sturdy performance at home in the first leg, only to totally collapse in Spain as Lionel Messi dribbles circles around them, Thierry Henry shrugs Frenchily, and Ronaldinho does...whatever it is that he does. Barcelona have seemed sort of aimless to me this year, but the chances that Celtic will knock them out at this stage are slim to none. As for Celtic, well, at least they'll have the bragging rights from making it farther in the competition than Rangers did.

  • Fenerbahce v Sevilla: Ah, another game that nobody really cares about. Sevilla are stuttering this year, in sixth place in La Liga -- although they did beat Arsenal to top their Champions League group. Fenerbahce, on the other hand, are just one point behind Galatasaray in Turkey. But if I had to guess, I'd say that Sevilla will edge this one over the two legs.


Serkan said...

what the do u mean another game noone cares about..u dont anything about fotball..sevilla and fenerbahce are the two teams that play the greatest football in europe..one of these teams will go all the way to the finals...

Jen said...

Ok, well, I'm sure there are people out there who care about that game; I'm just not one of them. And I very much doubt that either of those teams is going to make it to the finals, unless there's a massive upset somewhere along the way.


mate no one does care about that game stop getting all anal.. we want an all english finish that would be nice