Monday, May 4, 2009

Champions League Semis; round 2 this week

Several interesting subplots are forming for the 2nd legs of the champions league semis on 5/5 and 5/6. Lets take a look and offer some predictions.

Semi 1: 5/5 2:45 EST: Arsenal hosts Man Utd.

Arsenal returns home after losing away 1-0. They were lucky not to lose 3-0 in Old Trafford (aka, the "Field of Dreams" and one of the hallowed soccer grounds in the world). Despite this deficit, I actually give Arsenal the edge here. Man Utd has shown itself to be vulnerable to Arsenal over the past few seasons and beat them 2-1 earlier this season at home. Arsenal won 2-1 at home despite playing without their top THREE strikers that day, and enter this match in relatively good attacking health.

Arsenal probably plays a 4-1-3-2 with Adebayor and van Persie up top, Fabregas coordinating and Nasri/Walcott speeding down the wings. One from Denilson/Song/Diaby will hold in the midfield. Arsenal's biggest worries are in defense where injuries have taken out their preferred right back and central defenders. But in the end, it won't matter.

I believe arsenal will use the home crowd strength and its attacking presence to power its way to a 2-0 victory and a spot in the finals.

Semi 2: 5/6 2:45 EST: Chelsea hosts Barcelona.

Barcelona is largely considered to be the most talented squad in the world, yet was held 0-0 at home in the first leg by an extremely negative Chelsea side. So now what happens? Barcelona is decimated in the back (Marquez knee injury, Puyol suspended) and struggled to contain Chelsea's big men in Drogba and Anelka already. Meanwhile, despite *killing* Real Madrid 2-6 away from home last weekend (a pretty amazing result ... i bet Real Madrid has not given up 6 goals at home in 25 years), they suffered an attacking blow by losing Henry to a slight injury (enough to keep him out).

I believe Chelsea will be fired up and will out class what's left of barcelona in front of its rabid fan base in the intimidating stadium of Stanford Bridge and wins easily. 3-1 or 2-0 perhaps.

And we'll be left with an all-London final. And for the first time a team from England's capital will hoist the European Crown. Lets just hope its Arsenal.


  1. Well, I could not have been more wrong about the first semifinal prediction. Man Utd absolutely crushed Arsenal today 1-3 at Arsenal's home ground, going up 0-2 within 12 minutes and just demoralizing the team.

    Arsenal's back line was already thin because of injuries and was playing a near-rookie Keiran Gibbs at left back ... sure enough he slipped and fell as a pass came through the box, giving Man Utd's winger Park an easy finish. The vital away goal already meant that Arsenal would need 3 to have a chance ... a tall task against (arguably) the best team in the world Man Utd.

    Arsenal was badly outplayed and once again shown why they're a small step behind Man Utd in the pecking order of power teams.

  2. Well, after watching the other CL semi final last night on mostly fast forward, both my predictions were proven to be wrong.

    Barcelona scored a very late equalizer at Chelsea to tie the game 1-1 and win the home-and-away on the "away goals" rule. The game looked rather choppy; both goals were just wonder-strikes and not the result necessarily of good build up or attacking prowness.

    There was severe controversy caused by a play at the very very end of the game. Chelsea stormed down the field after the equalizer and in the 95th minute took a shot that hit the upper back arm of a barcelona player who jumped to block it. No hand-ball, no penalty given and the Chelsea players went beserk. I thought Michael Ballack was going to slug the referee.

    Subsequently, there's been death threats coming out and that ref (a very experienced international ref from norway) may be a marked man for the rest of his career. He had to basically be smuggled out of the country by the police and received a number of death threats.

    So, the final will be Man Utd versus Barcelona. And Barcelona will be without Dani Alves (2 yellows), Marquez (season ending injury), and Abidal (straight red in the semi) in their defense. This is essentially most of their defensive line and could mean doom in the final...

    but, at least we got the final that everyone has talked about since the beginning of the season. Pretty much all season people have spoken of Man Utd and Barcelona as the two teams to beat, and now they get to play for the continent's biggest crown.

    Prediction: Man Utd repeats as European cup winners easily, like 3-1.