Monday, April 06, 2009

Champions League Picks

I think I speak for most people when I say I need to not think about 17 year-olds being beaten by the Taliban or funerals for bomb victims that become bomb targets themselves. Fortunately, this week the Champions League gets underway again with the quarter finals, and provides us with a diversion. Here are my thoughts on each tie; I will be back on Wednesday evening with a report of the Barca game as well as thoughts on the other games.

Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich

As I told the W the other day: it's ON. Of course, the W rolled her eyes and then pretended she didn't know who I was (mainly because I yelled the words "it's ON!" in a crowded supermarket), but I imagine some readers share my anticipation. This tie is without a doubt the most exciting one left. Let's count the ways why:

1. Bayern are barely in the top ten in terms of goals allowed in Germany, and Barca -- when they are not controlling possession -- are quite shaky at the back (especially if Yaya Toure, the defensive midfielder to end all defensive midfielders, is still injured on Wednesday). Plus, Bayern let in 5 goals at the weekend which doesn't bode too well for them.

2. The offensive talent on display will be sick. And no, I'm not buying this playing-possum tactic which claims that Ribery is hurt. Please. We're not that fucking stupid.

3. The first leg is at Barca, and they will look to make up enough of a margin such that they can afford a so-so result in Germany next week. If the tie was reversed (i.e. if the first leg was in Munich), then my best guess is that Bayern would have looked to keep control of the midfield and play with 9 guys behind the ball, try to sneak a 1-0 (or 2-0 if they were lucky), and then take their chances at the Camp Nou. This way, the tie is guaranteed to be wide open.

Anyway, so the tie will be exciting and compelling. I know Barca have a speed bump ahead of them this season. I just don't think Bayern is it.

Prediction: Barcelona to go through 5-3 on aggregate.

Liverpool vs. Chelsea

Ugh. Nothing to say about this, except that I have learned the hard way to not pick against Rafa in Europe, unless there is a SERIOUS talent gap. The only saving grace for Chelsea might be that they have the second-leg-at-home advantage, but I don't think it will be enough.

Prediction: Liverpool to go through on away goals after tie is drawn 2-2.

Arsenal vs. Villareal

The toughest match up to call. I've gone back and forth on this a number of times. Here are the factors I've been thinking about:

In Arsenal's favor: Fabregas is back. That deserves its own bullet point.

In Villareal's favor: They have the better midfield, which is where most games are won, especially in Europe.

In Arsenal's favor: They have the second-leg-at-home advantage.

In Villareal's favor: There's something eminently self-destructive about Arsenal, or at least I perceive it to be so.

In Arsenal's favor: They're in better form: 17 games unbeaten in the league, while Villareal's latest results (latest first) are: a 3-0 loss, a 2-0 win, a 3-2 loss, a 1-0 win, a 2-2 draw, a 2-1 win, a 1-1 draw, a 2-1 win, a 3-0 loss. Does that inspire confidence in you? Me neither.

In Villareal's favor: If God is a football fan, He can't possibly want another all-English semi-final, which is what we're going to get if Arsenal go through.

Prediction: Arsenal go through 3-2 on aggregate.

Man Utd vs. Porto

Sigh. I don't want to talk about this tie, ok? Let's just get it over with.

Prediction: Man Utd go through 2-0 on aggregate.


Augustus Fink-Nottle said...

Oh come on the Man Utd - Porto tie will be at least a 3-1.

I agree with you on Liverpool - Chelsea. Even if we disregard Benitez in Europe, Liverpool have their mojo back in the league and that surely inspires them.

Villareal - Arsenal could be like their semi-final in 2006 and may be decided the same way.

Barca - Bayern 5-3? I know both teams defend worse than United these days but still that is pretty optimistic. I know you'll point to their respective 2nd round games but that is still 8 goals in 2 games. 4-2 seems more likely to me.

AKS said...

"In Villareal's favor: They have the better midfield..."

Really? If you take away Fabregas then that may be true, in fact they may be better man for man. But with Fabregas, the only world class midfielder on the pitch, Arsenal must be regarded as having a better midfield.

I think Arsenal go through 3-1 on aggregate (winning 1-0 away, 2-1 at home).

I don't think the Porto game will be an easy win for United. In fact I think, and perhaps I'm being overly optimistic here, we could see an upset here.

Agree with the rest.

Can't fucking wait!

Ahsan said...


On the Manu-Porto scoreline, that may have been true if the first leg was in Portugal. But it's at OT, where I see Man U winning a clinical sort of game 2-0. 0-0 in the second leg is my call.

On Barca-Bayern, 5-3, 4-2, what's the difference?


You don't think Marcos Senna is world class? Let's put it this way: he has a spot in the Spanish first XI, and Fabregas does not.

On the Porto question, there's a bit of wishful thinking going on here. Even I was talking myself into the chance of an upset, before I asked myself: who the hell are you kidding? Do you REALLY think Man U are losing this? And sadly, the answer is no.

Nabeel said...

@ AKS:

Fabregas,the only world class midfielder on the pitch? He's the most overrated midfielder on the pitch. If Arsenal could,they'd play Arshavin, Walcott, Nasri, and Fabregas-except that would leave them without defensive cover,and no one in the Gunners' defensive line is a world beater. Maybe Bendtner, he has this knack for goal-line clearances. But they CAN'T play Arshavin, so I'm guessing they have Abou Diaby/Denilson/Alexandre Song in his place. So you're looking at Abou Diaby,Nasri,Walcott,and Fabregas vs Senna, Santi Cazorla, Cani/Eguren/Ibagaza, and Pires. I'd call that pretty even. Yes, I reiterate, most Premier League midfields are overrated. Liverpool never got sustained European success with a great midfield-just great discipline,resilience,and tactics.

Augustus Fink-Nottle said...

Lol yeah 4-2 and 5-3 aren't that different but doesn't 5 seem like that magical number of a serious ass-whipping? Even over two legs.

I think it'll be 2-0 at OT like you say and 1-1 in Porto. It might even be 1-0 to Porto actually.


United are struggling for form but I feel Vidic adds a lot of confidence to the backline. If he is able to play both games I think we'll improve defensively. I know he was shit against Liverpool but that was a serious blip. I'm not so sure of the defensive abilities of Porto or their midfield.

On Arsenal's midfield, Diaby is rarely ever fit. When fit he's other pulling Cruyff turns or playing like Jordi Cruyff. Nasri too has been extremely inconsistent. Fabregas played well on his return and may continue his form for the remainder of the season. Denilson and Walcott I think are solid performers. So three consistent guys against the likes of Cazorla, Senna, Cani, Pires, etc. I think Villareal have the edge there but the game is played elsewhere on the field as well and that may make the difference.

AKS said...

@ Ahsan

I actually forgot to write that in my comment but was thinking it: no I don't think Marcos Senna is world class. Fabregas isn't in the side because he's competing with Xavi, who's more experienced and more valuable for Spain. Senna is a different kind of player. Plus I don't think he's a player who can change / dictate a game.

Gratuitous, crazy supporter speak: I think Song is better than Senna.

Lastly, Villareal have Pascal Cygan on their books, and that alone is worth 2 goals for the arsenal. (walcott will run rings around him.)

AKS said...


"playing like Jordi Cruyff." hahahaha, he's one of the biggest frauds in the game. I agree with what you're saying, my only point was that Fabregas is the only player on the pitch who can truly change the game, which is why arsenal have an edge - man for man, villareal's midfield maybe better.

As for United, I don't know man. They should win but I don't think that at this stage there are any easy games.

AKS said...

@ Ahsan

also, is there any way for us to stop comments on the rent boys post?

Ahsan said...


I don't know on the rent boys question.

Back to the football:

Cazorla is out injured for the rest of the season, for the record.

And I think Arsenal will win, but I don't think it will be easy as you imagine it to be.

JJY said...

Senna is clearly world class, but he plays for Spain not because he's a better midfielder than Cesc, but because the role required is that of a holding/defensive midfielder - which he obviously fills better than Cesc. Your point was stupid and petty.

We'll prob play a formation similar to the one on Sat, i.e, 4-5-1, with Denilson and Song behind Cesc, Walcott and Nasri (instead of the ineligible Arshavin).

While that midfield may not be miles better than Villareal's, it's definitely not worse (especially with Cazorla out).

Also, did you catch the United game yesterday? Because of a certain bet, as well as the fact that they were playing Villa, I found myself openly cheering for United - an odd experience, to say the least. But I have to say, there's something about that damn team. Just after they'd equalised, the commentator said, if history's anything to go by, United are going to win this game - and I absolutely and completely believed that they would. I haven't felt like that about Arsenal in four years. I miss that feeling.

It was also great cheering for Giggs - what a class act. C*ntaldo on the other hand, is still...well, C*ntaldo.

Ahsan said...

Oh God, I KNOW, Senna is DMF and Fabregas is not. For fuck's sake, you can't say anything remotely critical (and I wasn't even being critical) about Fabregas around Arsenal fans. All I was disagreeing with was AKS' contention that there are no world class midfielders in the Villareal team. There clearly are (is?). The who-has-a-spot-in-the-Spanish-midfield point was meant to be suggestive, not conclusive.


And yes, I realize Fabregas is more valuable for Arsenal than Senna is for Villareal, so please relax.

lala pathan said...

You are rite on the money AHSAN except for the goal predictions :)but you forget to mention the fact that MANUTD got lucky ...again. But thats ok we'll get them next round ( akhir bakray ki maan kab tak kher manaiay gii).:)

Ahsan said...

One last point about Barca-Bayern: The Messi+Alves vs. Lahm+Ribery battle on the right (or left, if you're a Bayern fan) is going to be captivating viewing, and will decide the tie.

Augustus Fink-Nottle said...

Ahsan - That's a good point you make about the combos on the wings. I think Lahm is decent defensively while Alves does play as more of a wingback than a right back.

Haha this Senna-Fabre debate is quite cool. Clearly quite the apples and oranges. And on Cazorla, yeah I just read that so bummer for Villareal.

No expanded views on the annual Chelsea-Liverpool UCL combat? Chelsea look quite revived under Hiddink playing as a unit again. Could be quite the fun don't you guys think?

Ahsan said...


*cough* Marcos *cough* Senna *cough. Damn, something stuck in my throat there. *Cough*


Chelsea-Liverpool fun? You're joking, right?

Ahsan said...

Well then. That ManU-Porto prediction is really working out for me, isn't it?

JJY said...

Aks, you bast*rd, please acknowledge Senna's class post-haste so as to remove your terrible jinx. You almost single-handedly cost us the game.

AKS said...

I'm just going to keep my mouth shut from now.

1-1 is good for us, especially when you consider that Villareal could easily won this game.

P.S. Of course I know Senna is world class, I was JUST trying to psyche him out (I's sure he reads fiverupees prior to each game)!

zeyd said...

@ Ahsan

Chelsea-Liverpool fun?

You do remember how ridiculously over-hyped the Barca-Man U semi was last year, right? And you do remember how mind-numbingly dull the 180 minutes of football were, right? Frickin 1-0 on aggregate!

Whilst Chelsea-Liverpool ended 4-3 on aggregate and was massively entertaining, especially the second leg.

I wouldn't be surprised if it's a thriller this time around as well.

Augustus Fink-Nottle said...

Lol, I meant fun for the stunts that always result from that tie. Tons to talk about always. God-awful football I'll grant you that.

adeel said...

lucio and van buyten out and reserve team players coming in to replace them....against camp nou. bayern had better pick up some away goals because they are sure as hell going to leak many.

hopefully i wont feel the pain aks felt when senna put in a motm performance :-)

Ahsan said...


Yes, fair point on last year's Chelsea-Liverpool game. On the ManU-Barca borefest last year, I would say three things:

1. It wasn't actually that boring, just goal dry.

2. It was goal dry because SAF parked the bus, taxi, horse, motorbike and fucking scooter.

3. And related to number 2, Barca were playing too crappily (remember, they finished 18 points behind RM and basically collapsed) to do anything about it.


Please don't try these reverse-jinxing tactics. I know exactly what you're doing, and you're not fooling anyone.

adeel said...

dude, ask nb, i'm a supreme jerk about bayern and how good they are all the time so i would like some credit for appreciating the reality of the situation. i would love for them to hammer barca and i WILL gloat about it loads but the buildup to the match strongly suggests otherwise and i'm choosing to confront that (ie, not reverse jinxing). here's hoping ribery coaxes messi into conceding a penalty and goes on to slot it home :)

Asfandyar said...

adeel: Barca 2-0 up within 15 minutes suggests a Bayern thrashing of Barca isn't too likely. They've been stunning so far - Barca i.e

Ahsan: Honestly you're now beginning to veer into Liverpool-fan bitterness territory. I've started worrying about you now :(

adeel said...

1) ouch, ouch and....ouch. dont think bayern were too bad, barca were just wow, relentless

2) told you so ahsan, see above comment re def leaking goals and needing an away or two

@Asfand...yes i know it was wishful thinking. but i'm a dreamer

Ahsan said...

All comments on the CL should be on the new post above, thanks.