Sunday, February 22, 2009

Champions League Picks

Finally. It's here. The first knockout round of the Champions League, after a too-long hiatus. Here are my picks:

1. Porto over Athletico
2. Barca over Lyon
3. Arsenal over Roma
4. Inter over Man U
5. Real over Liverpool
6. Juve over Chelsea
7. Villareal over Panathinakos Panathinakos over Villareal
8. Bayern over Sporting

Discuss in comments below.

22 comments:

lala pathan said...

i agree wth all the rest but i thnk liverpool beats REAL ...in the 2 legs atleast...any ways who cares, barca is going to win it this time around...go MESSI.

TAha.. said...

yea i see barca going to win this one and the league too.. messi has been pulsating to say the least..

Asfandyar said...

I'm going to agree with all that except Inter over Man U and Arsenal over Roma.

Inter are flat track bullies to be fair. They have the squad/talent, but how many times over the past couple of years have they failed? I don't think it'll be down to Maureen either, the players are just of that inconsistent nature. They worry me regardless though, but I think we'll get past them.

Arsenal over Roma I'm not certain about either. Arsenal just seem way too deflated right now, and we aren't going to see Fabregas anytime soon either to help them through.

adeel said...

If there's one thing i've learnt in the last few years, in form or not, somehow the english PL teams seem to get through the first knockout. Tougher group this year but I know I'm not going to go around saying they're screwed in public this time around.

Augustus Fink-Nottle said...

I am going to assume these are your picks just for the 1st legs and I agree with most. Porto over Atletico could be iffy given the sheer attacking talent on hand at Atletico though they do leak too many goals. Arsenal over Roma too seems one that could end as a draw what with Juan holding up the Roma back four, if we ignore the Atalanta game last week. Arsenal are desperately short of inspiration and Arshavin is clearly short of match practice. Losing Eduardo for another week or so has not helped matters.

Finally, I was going to disagree with Inter over United. Sadly, United has just lost Evans to an ankle injury and now I cannot see the team holding back both Ibrahimovic and Adriano. Yet there is hope because a midfield of Carrick and Fletcher can control Cambiasso and Muntari, if those are the chosen central partnerships. With Park on one wing providing stability it could be a close one. 2-1 is my prediction as Mourinho sticks to calcio for this round but if United does get the away goal, the tie is theirs to lose.

JJY said...

I'm going to assume your picks are for both legs, in which case, I agree with all of them except Juve over Chelsea.

And, as much as it pains me to say this, the Arsenal win is in some doubt as well. Scoreless in their last three league games, the Gunners were truly abysmal yesterday, Arshavin's encouraging debut notwithstanding. He's ineligible for the Champs Lge anyway, and given that we're also going to be missing Ade, Eduardo (1st leg at least), and the usual suspects - Rosicky, Walcott, Diaby, and of course, Captain Courageous, I really don't know where the goals are going to come from.

Finally, He Who Must Play Every Minute is a choot; I hope he trips over his pink boots and dies.

Ahsan said...

Lala Pathan and Taha:

Barca have sort of lost their way in the last few weeks. They certainly aren't the machine they were in the first half of the season. So I wouldn't call them favorites any longer, but I do think they'll get by Lyon.

Asfand:

The only reason I picked Inter over Man U is because Man U seem to have gotten on this 1-0 fetish lately. And I KNOW Mourinho is looking at them right now and saying: "1-0? I INVENTED 1-0". I think tactically he will outmaneuver Man U, but it's just a hunch to be sure.

Adeel:

Haha I know what you mean. But I do think Man U are in for a shock. Chelsea are all over the place. And Real are simply playing fantastic football at the moment. Hey, I picked Arsenal over Roma didn't I?

AFN:

No, the picks were for both legs. Athletico haven't been playing great lately which is why I picked Porto. And the Arsenal pick was just a gut pick--you're right, if I was being rational about it, I'd definitely take Roma.

See my comment to Asfand about Inter-Man U.

Ahsan said...

Actually, my biggest doubts about any of our picks it's the Villareal over Panathinakos, especially because the latter have the second leg at home, and it's crazy hard to get a result there for any visiting team. So I am officially retracting my prediction there and switching sides.

Asfandyar said...

Man Utd have been getting their groove back to be fair.

Dismantled a VERY good Fulham side 3-0 at OT, and the score could've/should've been bigger.

Didn't get to watch the Blackburn game, but came out of that with a win too.

I don't know. Inter are the very definition of inexplicable. AFN, Evans is a worry, but I think Brown will slot in alongside Ferdinand. If we can keep clean for around 20 odd mins, I don't think Inter will score. Ibrahimovic is too moody and Adriano is well, Adriano. I do think they'll score, but I really fancy our chances with an away goal seeing as how Rooney and Berbatov are really clicking.

Plus, I really hope Real Madrid knock out Liverpool. Seeing as how Liverpool have just blown their chances for the PL (just drew 1-1 with City - 7 points behind United now).

Super said...

Wrong! It's Lyon all the way!

I'm awestruck at Juve's progress after they were relegated to Serie B some seasons ago, wish they had that kind of fire up their asses back in the Zidane days, he was one-man side.

Ahsan said...

JJY:

Why do you hate Bendtner so much? According to him, he's your number one striker.

As far as Juve over Chelsea goes, I'm simply going by the fact that Chelsea are in complete disarray this year and don't seem interested.

Asfand:

Inter have been the epitome of solid this year in Italy, and have beaten all the other biggies (Milan, Juve, Roma). I also just have the suspicion that Mourinho has SAF's number.

The way Real are playing right now, they should knock Liverpool out. But ask yourself this: as a Man U fan, do you really want your own only rival to be playing fresh every weekend? For instance, I could argue that it is was being knocked out of the Copa del Rey that allowed Madrid to launch its comeback in the La Liga (Barca have played something like 11 games in 34 days or something).

Super: Lyon beating Barca would perhaps be the biggest upset of this round. Not saying it can't happen, but I consider it highly unlikely.

Asfandyar said...

Ahsan: The Mourinho having SAFs number is what worries me the most. Plus Fergie's been talking about sticking either Fletcher or Carrick alongside Rio (unless O'Shea can make it). But I just don't fancy Inter. They won't score more than 2 at the San Siro and they sure as hell aren't going to score more than 1 (if even that) at Old Trafford. And United are always capable of nicking a goal or two.

As for Liverpool, like I said, 7 points behind. They'd need to beat us at OT and hope Arsenal do the same, and even then expect us to drop more points (while they win every game of theirs). It's highly, highly unlikely they'll catch up in the league.

That said, you raise a good point and a 'run' in the CL (till the semis anyway, thank you very much) would help keep Benitez in for another year or two - something that is inherently good for all of Liverpool's rivals. :D

Augustus Fink-Nottle said...

Haha Ahsan I know Mourinho will think he was the King of 1-0s but I think knockouts are a different ball game. His defensive home games led him to lose to Liverpool twice at the semi-final stage. I understand your point about him having SAFs number but the old fox is still pretty wily. I think that was best demonstrated by his tactics against Barcelona last year (reprehensible from a beauty POV, something which both United and Barca fans are used to but turned out to be extremely effective).

I honestly believe the United midfield can dominate Inters. Asfandyar last I knew Brown is injured too for this leg so that was where my concern came from. The second leg I am hoping Vidic will be back and that makes me feel very happy and secure, haha. You're right about the volatility of the Inter forward line but that is what makes this so difficult to call. They could click and tear any defense apart, although the odds are that they'll lose the ball too easily. The same goes for United's attack. Though less volatile, they could prove equally ineffective. So the battle for me lies in midfield. All ye who doubt the might of Fletcher, be prepared to swallow your own words.

Asfandyar, I saw the game against Blackburn and it was very, very even. Ryan Nelsen should have scored but hit the post and 45 seconds later, Evra was tripped and Ronaldo was lining up the free-kick. The ball was given away far too easily, Rafael didn't get far enough up the right flank and we missed Vidic. Ferdinand is losing pace hand over fist and it worries me. Pique would have been an ideal long term replacement for him, but what can one do.

As for Liverpool being fresh for the run-in of games if they lost these 2 legs well they'd be fresh for 10 games, that is it. The United-Liverpool game follows the 2nd leg of games so both teams should be equally fresh or tired. I think the result of that game will decide whether Liverpool still has a chance.

On the CL again, Real are playing some exquisite football but Pool can surprise one and all in the CL and continue to do so. Juve-Chelsea is an intriguing pair of games for me because I honestly do not know what will happen. Chelsea have a superior squad but Juve are playing the better football. And now comes the Hiddink factor.

Ahsan what do you think Barca's odds are of doing the La Liga - CL double? You say they're slowing down but I think they still boast the most awesome firepower in Europe and have a great spine. If Milito was fit, one can only wonder what records would be set.

lala pathan said...

ahsan...i agree wth u on MAN U being shock part but watch barca get their groove back and win it...and watch messi and eto shine...even henry ...if there is 1 thing henry wants really bad its the champions league...he missed out wth arsenal and he knows he is getting old...this is his last chance...
barca will win it !i just can't wait 2 c ronaldo cry!
hehehe

Ahsan said...

AFN:

On the Barca double question, it's a lot dicier than it was, say, a month or two ago. A few things seem to have slowed them down:

1. The schedule--being front runners in three competitions can take its toll.

2. A few important injuries: Puyol was out for a bit, Iniesta has been in and out, and as you mention, last year's best defender (Gabi Milito) hasn't yet played a game. Though I should probably count my blessings because the three most important Barca players (Messi, Dani Alves, Xavi) have been fit the whole year. Touch wood. Touch wood. And touch wood again.

3. Law of averages: no one can keep up the form they did in the first half. They had a 35 game stretch in all competitions where they won 29, drew four, and lost one meaningless game (last round robin CL against Shahkhtar). In that span, they outscored opponents 100-29. You cannot keep that pace going forever.

I'm a lot more comfortable about La Liga than the CL to be honest. I think they've built up enough of a buffer to keep Real off (7 points at present, but still to play at the Bernabeu). But an in-your-face team that's quick on the counter--like Man U for instance--will give them trouble in the CL because their defense is still shaky, and their smooth passing game goes to pieces when the other team makes it a bar-fight of a game.

Augustus Fink-Nottle said...

Fair enough. I thought Barca's squad strength was tremendous what with Bojan and Hleb sitting on the bench most games. Keita, Toure and Busquets also add great depth to your midfield.

The CL is up for grabs for all teams this season (except the poor small ones). It always comes down to some brilliant tactical maneuvering and a slice of luck at the right time. Good matchups at this stage mean that 4 top teams could be out come mid-March. Looking forward to some analysis here post-Wednesday night.

Ananth Krishnan said...

I agree with four picks, except I see all the ties with English sides going the other way. I can't see Arsenal beating Roma, esp because the second leg's away. Arsenal will need a two goal cushion i think to travel to Rome, and I cant see them scoring right now. Also think Liverpool will shade Real, only because second leg's at Anfield (and that usually makes a pretty big difference). My head says Inter will go through because our back-four is in ruins right now, but then again I cant accept that can I :) Atletico-Porto's also a great tie, tough to call. Why do you see Porto going through?

lala pathan said...

Last year MAN U beat barca only by sitting back. although by watching all of the games i think MAN U had the lady luck on their side as well as usual. they played the most boring and childish football i have ever seen.but if you look at the recent history, there is only 1 man who really knows how to beat MAN U and thats jose morhino. and i think this is his favourite tie out of all the whole year. jose knows how to put SIR alex's buttons. he will find a way to beat MAN U..get ready for a shock. i know i m .

Augustus Fink-Nottle said...

I don't think an Italian team that has won 3 straight scudettos and should win a 4th led by one of the best managers beating United counts as a shock.

On the point of beating Barcelona by sitting back, well that was the tactic employed and it worked. Over 2 legs. I love elegant, flowing football but I like my team to win more so I really held no grudges against them for that. Mourinho, by the way, will employ those same tactics and aim to hit a tottering United defence on the counterattack.

adeel said...

Couple of thoughts post matches

1) for his misses Bendtner is an utter and complete fool that should not play a single minute for arsenal till he learns to shoot on target.
2) Man U really gave it to Inter, I think fergie might finally get a second win in 13 matches against mourinho. San Siro is one DAMN scary stadium to play in, to dominate the first half like that was plain impressive.
3) Why in the world do no clubs go after Jouninho? I don't think i've ever seen him take a free kick and not score, or give it his all.
4) How do Lyon never make it anywhere in Europe? With Benzema, Jouninho, Grosso and Keita they've got some decent talent.

adeel said...

oh and
5) i've always thought highly of him but Giggs is undoubtedly a legend. The way he's performed in both CL and EPL at his age, with his tally of achievements is just inspirational.

Ahsan said...

Yaar Adeel, wrong thread. All other football-commenters, please use the Barca-Lyon post as a thread, not this one. Thanks.