This week sees a huge week of Champion’s League action for the English big four. Liverpool have a must-win game against Besiktas at Anfield, Schalke 04 host Chelsea, Dynamo Kiev visit Old Trafford to play an in-form Manchester United and Arsenal travel to the Czech Republic to play Slavia.
Liverpool vs. Besiktas
Obviously I’ll start with my team purely because it’s the biggest game of the week (no bias there I assure you). Anything less than 3 points is unacceptable at this point of the competition for the Reds. They have 1 from a possible 9, and are languishing at the bottom of Group A.
In Istanbul the reverse fixture was lost in the midfield. Liverpool weren’t holding onto the ball and were beaten to the second ball far too often. Javier Mascherano had lost the ability to pass at one point it seemed. The thing that most disappointed me about the match was the performance of Ryan Babel. Although he has an absolute bullet of a shot he has very little skill it seems, and is unable to beat the man, whereas when Harry Kewell came on versus Blackburn he was turning the full back and the ‘Pool looked sharper and more dynamic in attack. I would back Kewell to start on the left with Yossi Benayoun on the right, and I would also go for a Crouch and Kuyt partnership, despite the Dutchman’s poor form — and also because I don’t rate Voronin.
At the weekend Besiktas were beaten in one of the Istanbul derbies 2-1 by Fenerbahce. I think this may precipitate a bit of a backlash amongst the Turks but I can’t see them doing anything too meaningful against the script on Tuesday. So I think a comfortable(ish) win for Liverpool.
MY SCORE: Liverpool 2-0 Besiktas
Schalke 04 vs. Chelsea
To Gelsenkirchen next where Avram Grant’s Chelsea face an awkward evening at worst against the tricky German’s.
The reverse fixture at the Bridge could have been more comfortable, but both sides had chances. Obviously though the odds are against the stuttering Germans. SWP was in inspired form at the weekend, and Frank Lampard was back playing further up the field again, so we saw flashes of his best form at the JJB versus Wigan too. The thing with Lamps is that he’s not a midfielder; he’s a bit of a Matt Le Tissier player. He plays in the gap between opposition defence and midfield and gets in the box when he can. That’s the only reason I hate him, because he actually thinks he’s a quality midfielder when he’s really just a quality forward player. But I think if SWP and Lampard link up again in Germany then Schalke are in even bigger trouble than first though.
Schalke were also beaten at the weekend by basement boys Energie Cottbus, but in truth it was a match they should’ve won by most reports and highlight streams that I’ve seen. They bombarded Cottbus’s box in the last quarter and how they didn’t walk away with the points I don’t know. But I think at the end of the day it will take something special to beat Chelsea. I’d back them for a goal mind you, purely because they’re at home and have a decent amount of attacking talent on show.
MY SCORE: Schalke 04 1-3 Chelsea
Manchester United vs. Dynamo Kiev
The champions play host to the Ukrainian ‘minnows’ in good form with most of their first XI in good working order. The 2-2 with Arsenal at the weekend was a good performance overall, apart from the scrappy defending which led to both Arsenal goals. One star performer who has stood out this season for United is Patrice Evra. For me he has been doing a great job down the left. He bombs forward, he defends well, he passes well, he crosses well, and he’s been doing excellent work overall for United this season. Obviously all the talk is about Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez up front, who have been working brilliantly together and have collectively outshone Cristiano Ronaldo, which is no mean feat. Also watch for the midfield stability that Owen Hargreaves will bring to the table in the next few games. The 4-2 in the Ukraine will be a result pretty much mirrored at Old Trafford on Wednesday one feels.
Dynamo were beaten 1-0 at home to Metallist at the weekend, and according to some of the reports I read were well beaten and played poorly indeed. So I don’t think this game will throw up anything out of the ordinary and will end in a comprehensive win for United.
MY SCORE: Manchester United 4-0 Dynamo Kiev
Slavia Prague vs. Arsenal
The easiest game to preview. The reverse at the Emirates was a 7-0 rout, since then Arsenal have had been unlucky to draw with Liverpool and put in a decent performance versus United. Fabregas is in glorious scoring form, the rest of the team is playing well, Almunia still looks a little uneasy whilst commanding his box, same old really.
At the weekend the leaders of the Czech league beat Teplice 1-0, but they have lost their captain and top-scorer Stanislav Vlcek, to injury. But I don’t really know what else to say because there really is no contest, whereas at least Kiev will at least have one chance against United, Slavia will do nothing whatsoever against Arsenal I am sure. In short, an Arsenal walkover.
MY SCORE: Slavia Prague 0-4 Arsenal
What your predictions for the mid-week CL matches involving the four Premier League sides?