Posts Tagged ‘Champions League quarter finals’

Champions League Quarter Final Preview – Villarreal vs Arsenal

05/04/2009

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Sportboy 2 is usually very good about getting his Champions League previews done but this round Sportboy 2 has been very bad. In fact, I have left it to the day of the match for this one. While that means hardly anyone will read this before the match has been played, it also means I am incredibly excited and will transpose this into blog excellence.

 

The boys are back in town

Yes, like the song you only hear being played pre-kick off in football grounds… the boys are back in town. Not any old boys but Emmanuel Ade-bayor, Ade-bayor and Cesc ‘let’s talk about Cesc baby’ Fabregas. Having been at the match on Saturday, it was nice to see both of them look sharp and productive in their first game back.

Both players will be massive tonight, particularly because Arsenal are suffering new injuries and ineligible Russian play-makers who can’t open their eyes very well.

 

Arsenal Lineup

With aforementioned returning players and aforementioned absences, the lineup is likely to be one we haven’t seen this season. Wenger seems to have a new found fondness for a Liverpool-esque 4-1-4-1 formation, with Fabregas playing the ‘Gerrard’ role. Alex Song has impressed me recently, looking like he has finally found a sense of positioning and using his strengths well – literally… the man is a brute. Theo is looking very lively and will give us some much needed pace and width. Hopefully we have Nasri back but Eboue can fill in with a slight more defensive midfield role, especially as we  are away from home.

Predicted lineup:

Almunia

Sagna   Toure   Gallas   Clichy

Song

Walcott   Denilson   Nasri/Eboue

  Fabregas

  Adebayor

 

Return of Le Bob

Le Bob

Le Bob

Tonight Arsenal fans will be reacquainted with the legend that is Bobby Pires. He may have possibly the weirdest way of running but man do we miss his goal-scoring feats and finger wagging. He may have been a diver but god do we miss his sexy strip beard thing.

Tonight he will be a 35 year old former shadow of himself that can barely play 60 minutes but he still has the quality and Los Submarinos Amarillos love him too. He even got himself sent off during Villarreal’s 3-0 defeat at Almeria at the weekend, partly because he wanted to rest himself for tonight and partly because he was so psyched up with that part Basque blood of revenge for Wenger’s withdrawal of him during the Champions League final of 2006.

 

Return of Psi-bubba

Pascal Cygan

Pascal Cygan

Oh his bald head, how shiny it is… let’s not forget that for it we got 3 and a half million squids.

 

Oh yeah, and a bit about Villarreal

Most Arsenal fans seem to have this one down as a foregone conclusion but I think Villarreal are a dangerous team to play, even if they are susceptible to the same kind of crap performances that see them in fourth place, same as Arsenal. Manual Pelligrini is a very astute manager, who has a shockingly similar hairstyle to our very own Arsene.

They undoubtedly have better strength in depth this season than in 2006, even without the mercurial Riquelme and Scouse teaser, Diego Forlan. Particularly in midfield they have some real talent – Cani, Ibagaza, Cazorla, Pires and Senna. They may not be household names in England but then again, I doubt Gareth Barry is in Spain.

Lucky for us then that Santi Cazorla, the play-maker of the side is injured for the rest of the season. Nevertheless, Villarreal are a team comfortable in possession and have the ability to restrict Arsenal’s ability to play the game they like.

 

Prediction

While I think that Arsenal are more than capable of going away and winning this tie, especially in light of their recent good form, the likely outcome will be a draw. Villarreal are strong at home and I think chances for both sides will be restricted to a minimum despite both sides attacking instincts. I will go for a 1-1 draw – although if Pascal Cygan plays I will go for an Arsenal win.

 

P.

Champions League Quarter Final Preview – Liverpool vs Chelsea

05/04/2009
Yes, again

Yes, again

Sportboy 2 – Pavel’s Prediction

The most predictable draw of the quarter finals, Liverpool versus Chelsea has now become an annual Champions League fixture. Having spent most of their encounters thinking I would rather eat my own fist, hopefully this year’s tie will build on the exciting matches from the semi-final stage last season, rather than reverting to type – i.e. a sack of steaming crap.

First Leg Focus

Minus the defeat at Spurs, Chelsea now look the side that could have been real title challengers alongside Liverpool and Man United. Drogba is scoring goals again and Essien brings midfield power play, while Hiddink has got them back to a solid unit despite lingering injury concerns over Carvalho.

The main question I have is over how they will be able to mix it up against Liverpool in the first leg. I think Hiddink is the type of manager who will try to take the initiative, knowing that needing a result at Anfield will be a big ask. There is no doubt that playing it up to Drogba is going to cause any team problems and he did just that against Liverpool at the semi-final stage last season.

However, with Mascherano and Alonso buzzing around central midfield and Gerrard forcing Mikel into a very retreated role, I think it will be difficult for Chelsea to play it through the middle. So once again, the Blues will be looking to their full backs to get forward and provide crosses from deep on which they can feed the Drog. The fitness of Bosingwa will be crucial, although Belletti may be a good option despite Hiddink’s lack of faith in his defensive abilities.

Liverpool will go into this match knowing exactly what they need to do. Rafa will have them well drilled and as a rarity we will see a largely unchanged line up. The aforementioned partnership of Alonso and Mascherano impressed in the last round and again they will be the launchpad for Gerrard and Torres to work their magic. If the lumbering Alex plays, I expect Chelsea to play a deep back-line in an attempt to deny Torres the space in behind. Although this might restrict Liverpool counter attacks, it could open up space for Gerrard in midfield as Essien, Ballack and Lampard push on.

I have mentioned on this blog before that I am a big fan of Yossi Benayoun and ‘the Kid’ again scored an all important injury-time winner against Fulham at the weekend. He may not start against Chelsea but I am sure he will play some part. As he showed in Madrid, he can get into very good positions and is an astute scorer. Should the Blues cancel out the Gerrard-Torres tandem, Yossi may well have the key to unlock the Chelsea back-line.

The Call

You really never know with these two but I have an inkling that Chelsea will sneak a narrow win but not improbably with a Liverpool away goal. I will go for 2-1, Drogba, Essien and Benayoun scoring the goals.

 

P.


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