With Europe coming to a standstill (or the whole world, if you believe Scudamore) for the 2nd leg of the Champions League round of 16, we’re not doing the daily news today, just a wrap-up of Champions League action. Of course, there’s the small matter of Liverpool being taken over (ok, I mean under discussions), but let’s save that for a different article.
On to the review / preview:
Milan might have started this game well but by all accounts they were out of it by the end, with Arsenal’s 2 goals underlining their control on the game. They become the first English team to defeat Milan at the San Siro, which is great for the record books and especially if you want to rub it in the faces of United fans…
You could talk about Milan’s poor form but on the other hand Arsenal were playing away AND had drawn their last two games, so there really are no excuses – Arsenal showed up and outplayed Milan, and that’s that.
For more, read Marco’s report.
United went through without thrilling anyone, although there were moments in the first-half when you thought that Lyon would be thrashed like Arsenal, such was the incisiveness and speed of United’s passing. Almost every single time though, United gave away the ball in the final third and the game finished with United going through by scoring just one goal at OT.
This side, this set of players, could have done a lot better. Over-elaboration got to United in the end (especially where Ronaldo was concerned) and Rooney was mostly with his back towards the goal, a role that’s not his forte (and a role the Lyon defence allowed him to play, knowing that there wasn’t anyone strong enough to break through the center. Saha would have made a difference here, although it would have been harsh to drop Anderson or Fletcher (and Carrick, on his passing form, is too valuable to be dropped).
Barcelona 1-0 Celtic (Agg 4-2)
Barcelona comfortably dealt with Celtic but the major drawback was Leo Messi’s injury (a tear in his left leg femoral bicep muscle) which could keep him out for at least a month. Depending on who they draw in the quarters, they might be able to deal without Messi in Europe but how will they cope in La Liga, considering that they’re 5 points behind Madrid?
Celtic did well over the two legs and were somewhat unlucky to come up against Barcelona in the 2nd round (especially when you consider the Fener v Sevilla and Schalke v Porto pairings), but they have a good side and a good manager and they will bounce back from this.
Sevilla 2-3 Fenerbahce* (Agg 5-5)
I saw the first half highlights and I remember thinking that the Fener keeper was a moron for letting the two Sevilla goals in, both of which should have been stopped. In the end though, Fener did enough to take the game to penalties and then progress to the quarterfinals, which is absolutely massive for them. The second-half turnaround, in my view, should be credited to Zico as much as anything else (well, you could blame Sevilla’s defending and their poor penalty-taking skills), he’s done a great job in taking his team so far in the Champions League.
Wonder who they’ll meet in the quarters? It would be funny if they were paired up against the winner of Porto-Schalke, because then you would fancy them going through to the semis and after that, you never know…
Chelsea v Olympiakos (Agg 0-0)
A Chelsea team without Terry or Lampard saw out an away 0-0 draw against Olympiakos but you’d expect Grant to play a relatively full-strength side at Stamford Bridge tonight to ensure a win and progression into the next round.
I’d expect Essien to start for Chelsea and possibly Drogba starting up front ahead of Anelka (why cant those two can’t play as strikers upfront together?).
Chelsea also have an FA Cup quarter-final away game to Barnsley after this but they have the players to effectively rotate and you *should* a first-team lineup for both games.
FC Porto v Schalke (Agg 0-1)
Porto have a good / great record at home this season and considering the drab affair in the first leg, Schalke will be hard-pressed to get out of this tie as winners. Still, they only need 1 goal to make Porto score thrice, so the advantage is with them.
I don’t see Schalke sitting back and defending that 1 goal advantage, but they’ll be playing on the counter and will be under a lot of pressure during the game.
The game to watch tonight, with both sides with a decent chance of going through to the next round. Madrid aren’t the best defensive side in the world and Roma will be looking at scoring at least once, which leaves us with Madrid needing 3 to win and 2 to take the game to extra time. I’m expecting this one to turn into an end-to-end game by the 70th / 80th minute, and plenty of goals (although for that to happen one of Roma and Madrid need to score early in the game).
Internazionale v Liverpool (Agg 0-2)
To be played next Wednesday – and the money’s on Liverpool to go through, and Marco should be there with a preview next week, as usual.
So…predictions for tonight?