Champions League Draw Reality
Posted by hiphopmama on March 21, 2009
If you’ll recall, these were the quarterfinal match-ups I was pulling for, out of some misplaced sense of fairness to the better teams:
- Manchester United-Villarreal
- Bayern Munich-Arsenal
As it turns out, I only got one of the four match-ups right – Liverpool-Chelsea – but that doesn’t count for much given how many times those two have played in the Champions League recently (read: every year). So here are the actual match-ups as of Friday’s draw:
- Manchester United-Porto
- Barcelona-Bayern Munich
Aside from the Premier League quarter, the best of the bunch seems likely to be Barça vs. Bayern, which pits two teams in excellent European form against each other. Both have high-powered offenses, Bayern’s led by Luca Toni and Franck Ribery, Barça’s by Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, and Samuel Eto’o, among others – and some solid midfield players. I see two key advantages for Barça that are likely to tip the scales. For one, Barcelona’s defense is the stronger of the two, especially if Puyol is healthy, as they can line up some combination of El Capitan, Rafa Marquez, Pique, Dani Alves, and The Ageless One Sylvinho. Abidal, the first-choice starting left back, is injured at the moment, but Sylvinho has filled in adequately for him and Bayern doesn’t have much to threaten that side with since Ribery tends to play from the middle. Which leads to the second point, namely that Bayern don’t have the tools to exploit Barça’s few weak spots. Their midfield isn’t strong enough to contend with the hefty possession command that Barça get from the likes of Yaya, Busquets, and Xavi. In the end, I believe Barcelona simply have too much for Bayern to handle at virtually every position. Not that it won’t still be a good couple of games, but I don’t see any surprises coming out of that one.
Manchester Utd drew one of the two teams they must have been eyeing and can’t be too sad to be facing Porto. Obviously, “all the teams at this stage are very good,” as everyone is required to say, but among equals, some are more equal than others. There isn’t much to discuss here – Man Utd should skate to the semis.
I’m pleasantly surprised to see Arsenal have the good fortune to draw Villarreal. No disrespect to Pellegrini and the Yellow Submarine, but when you had a chance to face Barcelona or Manchester United, Villarreal doesn’t look quite so daunting. It will still be a tough match, but even more than that, it should be fun to watch. Pellegrini’s trademark style of play will definitely look good paired up with Wenger’s, so it will be an eye-pleasing match-up at the very least.
And then there’s Liverpool-Chelsea. Was there any way this could be avoided? You just knew it was coming, whether in this round or the next. They also seem to be spoiling each other’s tea party, and this year will be no different. I’m not sure who to give the edge to here. Normally you’d have to say Liverpool, with their history in Europe and comparatively better season overall, but things are changing at Chelsea. Or at least they were until today’s lost to Tottenham, but that’s a topic for another post. Hiddink has the Blues playing tougher and with a sense of purpose, and with the Premier League essentially out of reach, the UCL takes on that much more importance for them. Same goes for Liverpool too, though, and I really don’t see them slipping up at this point. Much as I’d like to, I can’t put my money on Chelsea, although I’ll certainly be rooting for them.
And I still don’t see anything preventing a Barcelona-Manchester United final.