Thursday, February 5, 2009
Champions League Preview (200th Post!)
This is my 200th post on the site, and I would like to say thank you to anyone who has gone on the site and read anything. It has been a lot of fun posting the latest news and my own thoughts and I hope to continue doing it for another 200 posts. For the rest of 2009 I hope to get an interview with a professional player and host some contests with prizes for readers so be on the lookout for that. Once again thanks to anyone that comes onto the site.
With that being said lets move on to a preview of the 2009 Champions League round of 16.
All of the expected teams advanced out of the group stage, which has given us some truly awesome matchups in the first knockout round. Looking at the matchups it seems like its Serie A vs. the Premier League, and La Liga vs everyone else.
The 2 legs of these games will take place on February 24th and 25th, and March 10th and 11th.
Chelsea vs. Juventus
Juventus had a great group stage, going undefeated including 2 wins over Real Madrid. Alessandro Del Piero is tied for 5th in scoring with 4 goals so far in the tournament. Juventus are playing well right now in Serie A and are carrying momentum into this matchup. Chelsea came in 2nd in their group but are somewhat struggling in the Premier League right now, coming off a 2-0 loss to Liverpool. Perhaps the new addition of Quaresma can propel Chelsea to a victory. This is a very even matchup with superstars on both sides, however I predict Juventus will advance.
Villarreal vs. Panathinaikos
Panathinaikos were the surprise winners of group B beating out Inter Milan. Panathinaikos lost their first 2 games and drew on their 3rd game, but then pulled out 3 straight wins to win the group. However, I don't think that momentum will carry over when they face Villarreal. Villarreal finished second in their group and exploded for 6 goals in 1 game. I predict Villarreal will advance.
Sporting CP vs. Bayern Munich
Sporting had a very good group stage winning 4 games and only losing to Barcelona. Despite this I feel that Sporting will be no match for the German champions Bayern Munich. Bayern went undefeated in the group stage which included victories over very good teams like Lyon and Fiorentina. Miroslav Klose led the way for Bayern with 5 goals tying him for the tournament lead. In addition, whether it be by coincidence or not, Bayern has seemed unstoppable in the Bundesliga since the addition of Landon Donovan. With Klose, Donovan, Luca Toni, and Franck Ribery leading the way, I see Bayern Munich advancing.
Atletico Madrid vs. Porto
Porto was almost not allowed to play in this tournament but eventually were allowed to play, and responded by winning their group. Lisandro Lopez played very well for Porto scoring 4 goals to lead the team. Porto will have to play a very dangerous Atletico team led by superstar Sergio Augero. I feel that there are too many weapons on Atletico and Augero is too good to bet against.
Lyon vs. Barcelona
This is a matchup I'm really looking forward to. The French champions Lyon were the 2nd highest scoring team in the tournament, led by superstar Karim Benzema. However, they are playing the team that scored the most goals in Barcelona, led by an even bigger cast of superstars including leading scorer Lionel Messi and the leading scorer in La Liga Samuel Eto'o. While I think Lyon are great I think that Barcelona is just too good right now.
Real Madrid vs. Liverpool
This is a matchup of two underperforming teams. Madrid has been plagued by bad performances this season in La Liga but managed to finish second in their group. They play a Liverpool side that just got Fernando Torres back from injury, but just lost their leading scorer in the Champions League in Steven Gerrard and also just sold Robbie Keane. Both sides really need to win these games to get their seasons back on track, but I feel that with Gerrard back for the second leg of the series, and barring any other injuries, I think Liverpool will prevail.
Arsenal vs. Roma
I might have spoken to soon when I said that Madrid vs Liverpool was the matchup of underperforming teams. Roma had a great start to their Champions League tournament winning their group over Chelsea, but have really been playing poorly in Serie A. Hopefully now that captain Francesco Totti is back from injury, Roma will regain the scoring that they have been missing. The real mystery however is on the Arsenal side where the addition of Andrei Arshavin will be watched with immense detail. Arshavin just completed a long transfer saga and these games against Roma will be the perfect opportunity to prove that he is worth the money spent on him. Arshavin will join Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie(who has been having a great couple of weeks lately) and Emmanuel Adebayor who will hopefully overshadow the poor Arsenal defense. Arsenal advances in a close one.
Inter vs. Manchester United
Last but not least, the matchup in which I am most interested in. The Italian champions vs. the English champions. Inter surprisingly came in 2nd in their group and have actually been struggling as of late in Serie A but are still on top of the standings. Inter have one of the top 5 strikers in the world in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Zlatan has really been having a great season so far. Inter must defeat the defending champions however in Manchester United who also went undefeated in the group stage, winning their group. Dimitar Berbatov is actually leading United in scoring so far this tournament, but that was when Cristiano Ronaldo was both injured and out of form. Ronaldo is currently scoring goals in bunches and will prove hard to handle for the Inter defense. Speaking of defense, Edwin van der Sar is currently destroying the competition in goal setting the Premier League record for longest time without giving up a goal. The defense for Manchester United will only get better with the return of Rio Ferdinand. Even worse for Inter, Carlos Tevez has reportedly been offered a new deal with United which will put his mind at ease and allow him to play better. With all that being said I feel this game can go either way but I feel the defending champions will move on. Manchester United advances.
To recap, I'm predicting Juventus, Villarreal, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester United to all advance to the next round in the tournament.
What do you think? Who will advance? Which players will stand out? Leave a comment and let me know....