Champions League Round of 16 part 3 of 4

23 02 2010

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Can they do it again…It starts back up today.

 VfB Stuttgart  v  Barcelona  

The defending champions are in Stuttgart, Germany in the newly named Mercedes-Benz Arena (99′).   Barcelona has yet to blemish there CL record so far and i’m not going to say the German fan base will do much to change that.  Barcelona is still loaded with the most explosive offensive unit in all of soccer and this season Pep has found some gems with his younger talents.  I don’t see a blow out, but Barcelona’s controlling style should easily handle the 5 time German Bundesliga champs.    Don’t worry the Spainish are saying all the right things and making sure people know they go game to game.  Fearless captain Carles Puyol had these comments, “”If we don’t go there focused, we could really have a bad time,”.  Now realize Puyol can say such a line like that because he knows all to well about beating Stuttgart.  Puyol netted a goal in the 07’/08′ away match against the Germans (during Group Stages).  In the end, Stuttgart will have to make the game a bit more gritty and dirty to have a chance.  Or they can sit back like the rest of us and enjoy the show.

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Just three guys to worry about on a team loaded with the world’s finest.

Players to Watch:

VfB Stuttgart – Pavel Pogrebnyak – The young Russian Czar.

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Pavel is second on the team in goals and the 26 year old’s 6 ft 2 inch frame may cause fits for the smallish Barcelona back line, expect CB Gerard Pique (6’3″) to cover Pavel most the game.  In the end Pavel gives players like Alexander Hleb (playing against his old team) a viable target and if Stuttgart is to have success Hleb has to find Pavel.  Also Cacau’s speedy runs have worked well with Pavel and the Brazilian leads the team in goals.

FC Barcelona – Andrés Iniesta – Injuries will make Iniesta’s play that more important

Andres Iniesta
The #8 that took over last year’s CL final is going to possibly with out his Midfield mate Xavi.  Iniesta will have to run the offense as usual and rely heavily on Messi freeing up space.  Expect to see the outside defenders to fly up as well (that means Dani Alves.)  In the end putting all your hopes on Andres’ small shoulders usually works out just fine.
Its really simple for this one, Barcelona is just that good.  I think it’ll take a minute for the line-up to click if Xavi  and Ibra have to sit due to injury.   Once they’ve figured out there pace expect Barca to net a few goals.  3 to 1 should give the defending champions the easy home match next month.

 Olympiakos  v  Bordeaux 

The French Ligue’s top team enter a very loud and awe inspiring Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens.  The Greeks are known to amp things up in these type of huge matches.  The top striker for the Greeks, Jaouad Zairi,  also has applied his trade in France and knows Laurent Blanc’s Big Bordeaux club will still be a tough test.  But in the end it’s hard to get past his rationale about playing in Greece is tough, “The crowd is like our 12th man. They can turn the game around for us. The atmosphere is very impressive.”  Ditto Jaouad.  On top of the home field advantage the Greeks can feel good that Bordeaux has not looked like there mighty selves with key losses in the French League.  In the end I’ll lean on the French stealing a point and leaving the Athens with the advantage, but not a victory.

Players to Watch:

Bordeaux – Yoann Gourcuff – He’s been called the new Zidane…he’s not there…yet.

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The midfield magician will be not only a HUGE name for France in the upcoming World Cup, but his choosing to remain in the French League instead of going back to AC Milan shows he wants to improve.  He is the leader and life force for  the Les Girondins.  In the end his playmaking ability should create a few chances and if they can net one of those then they’ll have there key away goal.  The defense and strong goalkeeping of Ulrich Rame should keep things tight.

Olympiakos – Luciano Galletti – the 29 year old Argentine is the playmaker for the Greeks.

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Shhhhh indeed Mr. Galletti.  He’s been outshined by his countrymen on a national level, but he’s still had a heck of a career.  The classic #7 jersey = playmaking midfielder is perfectly worn by the quiet goalscorer.  Just a few tidbits about Luciano that may shock you: top goalscorer at the 1999 South American Youth Championship, ahead of players like Ronaldinho and Roque Santa Cruz, in his second season with Olympiakos F.C., he finishes as the top scorer of the Greek Super League, scoring 14 goals, and in his UEFA Champions League debut, Galletti found the back of the net after only 55 minutes.  He’ll be needed if the Greeks finally want to advance further in the CL.

I by into the impact of the fans and they’ll hype up the red and white club, but I really think the French will leave Athens with all they need to move on.  3-2 is a fitting score.  Expect some mishaps, some goals because of those and expect the French leaving with multiple away goals.

Don’t forget to check back in tomorrow with these games:

CSKA Moscow vs  Sevilla

and

INTER VS CHELSEA!!!! (Jose singing the blues?)

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