Champions League Quarter Finals – First legs – Pt. 2

30 03 2010

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How’s the saying go?  If you let a bird free and it comes back you get to eat it?   This is sort of like that…

Arsenal  v  Barcelona

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Thierry Henry has already come out and said tomorrow night’s game will be mentally difficult for him.

“I’m very emotional, but also staying calm. It will be a strange game for me. Before the draw I said that I did not want to face Arsenal. That was my wish. But now that’s the game we’ve got and we’ll have to give everything.”

This game isn’t all about the goal-scoring Frenchmen returning to his beloved London, its so much more.  Cesc injury problems may doom Arsenal.  Barca’s mighty mouse clone Andres Iniesta is already ruled out of the game due to injury and Arsenal’s goalie issues will be in full view of the world as the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, comes to town.  Of all the Quarterfinal match-ups, none has the hype of this duel.  Its the world’s best team vs the genius French Manager and his rag tag group of warriors.  All of these will unfold in the massive Emirates Stadium.

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The Gunners will need all of there bullets to hit there targets or they are in for a long night.

Players to Watch:

Arsenal – Samir Nasri – French midfielder may be asked to be the key spark.

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Wow the 22 year old looks 12.  Anyways with a Cesc possibly being out Arsene Wenger has to find his key attacking midfielder!!!  Enter the young frenchie with a lethal foot.  He’s already netted 3 goals in the CL so far and if Arsenal are indeed without there Captain then Samir has to be incredible.  There facing the giants of possession, Barca has garnered 67% of possession during there CL run.  In other words, chances come far and few when playing the Spanish.  To test Barca you need an skillful playmaker that can release a nice lead pass to Arshavin, Walcott, Vela and/or Eduardo (whom ever Wenger picks for his strikers).   Lets not forget that Robin Van Persie has been hurt for a while now, and so not having the dutchmen up top makes Wenger’s striker choices very slim pickings.

Barcelona – Yaya Toure – The tall Ivory Coast Midfielder needs to take up slack.

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He’s the guy that doesn’t get all the pub, but when you watch the game you notice his hard work is hugely key to the success of Barca.  He’s more of a bruiser in the styling of a Patrick Viera (like that Arsenal nod!!).  He’s tall, lanky and if you leave him be he’ll rocket a shot just for the hell of it.  Don’t underestimate him just because he’s not Messi, Ibra, Xavi, Puyol, or Henry.  There is a reason why Pep the manager loves Yaya, he reminds him so much of himself!!  Controlling midfield will be key with out the play maker Iniesta.  Xavi will have to take up that aspect more, but Yaya will have to control the pace and that is important if Barca wants to steal the momentum from the Brits.

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Um so yeah!  Go Barca!!  The Spanish manhandled a Cesc-less Arsenal side – 4-2.  Henry scores one goal, but respectfully doesn’t celebrate.  The London fans show there love to Henry with a standing ovation after the match.

Internazionale  v  CSKA Moscow

Its the special one’s team vs the Cinderella squad.

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Weird look Jose.  A harsh loss to Roma this past weekend has mighty Inter’s lock on the Italian Serie A on loose terms.  Tomorrow night should be a great chance to remind people that Milan are no joke.  The Russians have a simple plan go in and steal a goal.  They have no worries, no one thinks they’re that good.  But watch out this game will be a bit of a shocker.  (and not in a good way!!)

The Italians are highly touted and respected, but Moscow have a few gems to watch out for tomorrow night.   Bosnian midfielder Elvir Rahimic really sums up what i’m trying to push on you.

“Inter are clear favourites,” he said. “However, Sevilla were also favourites [in the first knockout round] but we beat them. We’ve already done something big, and we will try to achieve even more. We want to please our fans, and all of Russia. We really want to play in the UEFA Champions League final, but it will be very difficult to make it.”

Gotta respect the boldness and also applaud his understanding of how amazingly hard a task it’ll be.  I just have a feeling that the Roma loss was that destructive to the mental make-up of the current Italian leaders.  There minds might wander to the upcoming importance of the weekend Serie A games.  Lets be honest the Russians don’t need to win to actually leave Milan with a smile on there faces.  Away goals are VERY key especially when the Italians will have to go into a hostile Moscow next week.  This game should be the most intriguing since CSKA are just so unknown out of eastern Europe.

Players to Watch:

CSKA – Aleksei and Vasily Berezutski – The Russian Twins anchor the back line!

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The big twins are a force to reckon with.  Both are just so big and athletic it’ll be hard to see E’too being able to sneak in between the brothers.  Also watch out on corners, Vasily already has a goal in the CL and both are capable of heading one into the back of the net.  Most of the possession should lean towards the Italians so a big defensive presence has to be there for CSKA to be successful.  Vasily has the right idea (imagine this is said in Ivan Drago voice!!)

“I think they were already dreaming of a place in the semi-finals. That should suit us just fine. Sevilla also looked very confident prior to our matches but where are they now?”

If they live they live…if they die they die!! Good Stuff!

Remember its not necessarily about winning its about surviving and stealing an away goal…or two.  Remember my pick last game for these guys Honda PROVED me right, the Japanese midfielder could be just the man to net that away goal.

Inter Milan – Júlio César – The Brazilian Goalie has finally looked human.

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Last season the Brazilian # 1 keeper cemented his name as one of the games best!  He replaced Gigi Buffon as the most respected and feared goalie in the Serie A.  With Inter on the verge of Serie A success, CL potential success and the World Cup in a few months – Julio Cesar could wind up closing 2010 as the Worlds best GK!  It’ll be a tall order but imagine if Inter make it to Spain for the May CL final, Brazil does decent in Africa, and pundits around the world will have to give him his due credit.  Roma showcased that he is not a robot that swallows up shots on goal, but in fact is human.  In the end its really difficult to not appreciate his talent and expect only the best.  A shut out and Inter can easily start prepping for the Arsenal-Barcelona winner.  He is LEGIT in goal.

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Its just so damn hard to not think Jose’s bunch will pull it off.  A hard fought match @ the San Siro will see the Italians comfortable but not completely victorious.  A 3-1 end will allow Moscow a chance next week, but should give the Italians some breathing room at least.

Enjoy today’s great games and we’ll see how right I am about this tomorrow night.

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