Thursday, March 08, 2007

Champions League Recap - Arsenal pain

We have the final 8 for the Champions League -

ManchesterUnited
Chelsea
Liverpool
Valencia
Roma
Milan
PSV
Bayern

Thoughs on their journey:

Manchester United - Lille: A definate case of David vs Goliath, Lille could not even host the home match since their stadium does not meet UEFA regulation for European cup matches! ManU was definately the best squad and deserved to win, I am happy in a way, that they won 1-0 at Old Trafford otherwies the "questionable" goal in France would still hang over the teams.

Chelsea - Porto: Ahhhh what could have been, it would have been great seeing the "Great Whiner's" old team defeat his current team. Porto was let down by their keeper that made a horrible gaff on the first goal at Stamford Bridge. A low driven shot by Robben should have been saved, instead Helton did not get enough of his body behind the shot nor got his hands properly on the ball seeing it skip over him and into the back of the net. After that equalizer it appears that Porto lost all its steam and mental lapse allowed Ballack a clean turn on a ball inside the 18...aweful.

Valencia- Inter: Wow was that ugly....I did not see the match but did see the "higlights" of the Inter team chasing around Navarro trying to give him payback for having completely sucker punched one of their teammates, Brudisso, breaking his nose. It was a completely cowardly act by the Spanish player, but made for great theater as the battle continued into the tunnel and locker room....The match itself was of little interested based on the post game activities. Surprising that Valencia is the last Spanish team left in the Champions League. But let us not forget that Valencia was a two time finalist in the early 2000s. This team has the talent to go further in the tournament.

Roma - Lyon: Ugh, once again the pundits dark horses crashed out earlier than anyone would image, the best chance for the French to bring home the trophy with "big ears" is once again heading home sooner than expected. After un ugly game at Rome, it was thought that Lyon had a good chance to win back at home, only to see the Romans explode early for 2 quick goals...maybe next year for Lyon.

Milan - Celtic: Hmmm what to say about a team that was punching above its weight in Celtic heading to Italy where they had never done well. So Milan moves on, no surprise, although there was definately 2 clear times that Celtic might have been granted a penalty shot.

Bayern - Real Madrid: In the battle of imbattled footballing giants saw Bayern come back to win 2-1 at home and take advantage of their 2 away goals to knock out the beleagured Spanish giant. It appears that it will be one more season with out any silverware for El Gallatico. Can Capello be far behind interms of heading for the exit?

This loss is the lates in a number of poor performances by the Madrid squad. They are fighting for their Champions League lives in Spain, trying to ensure they finish third, appears that the outright title will not happen. Losing 2-1 at Bayern, and the Real goal came very late, was a poor showing for a team that has 9 total trophies in their lobby.

PSV - Arsenal: Ugh...what can be said the runner up from last year crashed out to a team that has been quietly successful in the Champions League the past two seasons (semi final and quarter final runs). After a lack luster 1-0 loss away, Arsenal had a good chance coming back home. But they could not even score at the Emirates! Their goal coming on an own goal......

Wenger then threw caution to the wind throwing onto the pitch an injured Henry...who subsequently injured himself even further, now missing another 3 weeks. Arsenal was not the champions league machine it was last year. They started out well in the group stages but fizzled poorly against Moscow in the back to back matches, this started a poor run of form. This loss is difficult for the North Londoners who crashed out of all three cup competitions they have been playing in - Carling Cup, FA cup and Champions League. The Arsenal youth gives the club a bright future, but this season has been a disappointment from the trophy stand point. But look out for PSV...they will sneak up on teams.

Liverpool - Barcelona: Okay this is the game I was very interested in watching...after going down 2-1 at home, Barca knew it had to score 2 goals at least. With that in mind they came out with an interesting formation, throwing 3 backs on the field, putting their starting sweeper Marquez at holding midfielder, sticking Eto'o on the wing, Ronaldino at the point and Messi on the opposite wing, with Deco to provide the service. What struck me was the lack of creativity or ideas that Barcelona offered the first 45 minutes. Ronaldino looked fat and out of place as the high striker, Eto'o was tired and lost on the wing as was Messi. Eto'o who has not been back 100% in terms of playing time should have been starting on the bench as the wild card off the bench. Guily came in for Eto'o and the dynamics instantly changed, his pace gave Liverpool too much trouble with the deep diaganol passes behind the fullbacks...

The problems were also apparent having Marquez trying to pretend he was Roy Keane and Puyol try to be Maldini out on the wing. Puyol should have been slotted in the middle of the park (rather than Thuram, cannot believe I said that....) why not have Zambrotta on on the wing, he is much more of an offensive threat and is at least not playing out of position.

If Barca really wanted to play offensively let Ronaldino play along side Deco, with Guily and Messi on the wings, and start Gudjohnsen as the point man. Xavi can play behind the two attacking midfielders and give cover. This is a very offensive team, however Barca could really afford to give up a goal since irregardless they need to score at least two goals (had they won 2-1 in regular time it would have gone to extra time). Rijkaard could have used Eto'o late in the game, given him 20 minutes in the place of the Icelandic international up front. If Barca score 2 or more goals, he could have then shifted to a more defensive team, taking out one of his attacking players for a Thuram or Marquez to give Barca four across the back...instead the Dutch man allowed the Spaniard out coach him.


The match ups I would like to see next round -

ManchesterUnited - Chelsea: after all the heated exchanges this season it would be great to see this match up as the Premiership winds down and heats up between the two managers.

Liverpool -Valencia: Match up between Benitez and his old club....

Roma - PSV: the two dark horse teams going head to head.

Milan - Bayern: Another match up of teams that are not living up to their domestic league expectations.

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