(Real quick... if you didn't see it earlier, check out that Terri Leigh interview below. It's a good 'un.)
UPDATE: One more thing... the US put their clocks forward ages before everyone else (I assume this was GWB's idea in order to fight terrorism with an extra hour of daylight or something), so we're in a holding pattern until 3.45. Even so... come insult me and your peers in the comments!
There's a reason we don't get paid to put out predictions, as evidenced by our performance two weeks ago when all these teams met the first time. We were bang on about there being a few close encounters, but alas, in the case of Sporting Lisbon, several UF pundits smelled an upset that simply wasn't there.
I mean, they could score 5 goals in Germany, right?
Thank the gods that the other three fixtures still have a
frisson soupcon of intrigue to them.
LIVERPOOL v. REAL MADRID
Alright, so it may not have been pretty, but that's European football for you. Put all the continent's best teams together, and they're gonna give you a lesson in defense-first.
Rafa Benitez is no different, but shit, his system works. Despite being woeful in the league, he's managed Liverpool to a CL trophy in 2005, a runner-up medal in 2007, and a semi-final in 2008. What for 2009 is anyone's guess, but at home, with a lead and an away goal to protect, can there be any outcome that doesn't involve Liverpool's name in the hat for the next round?
Real may have attacking threats in Higuain, Guti and Robben, but they were collectively dire in the first leg (except for the meandering, aimless left-to-right dribbling power of the Dutch winger) and don't seem to enjoy facing actual defending, something La Liga isn't exactly known for.
Mark it down. LFC snooze into the quarter-finals with another cagey 1-0 win.
JUVENTUS v. CHELSHEA FSHEE
This is Juve's last chance at Champions League glory for a while, namely because their talisman Pavel Nedved is hanging up the boots at season's end, and there's really no-one to fill the void. Add to that an injury list including their best player this season, ex-Liverpool scapegoat-come-good Momo Sissoko, and it looks grim.
Under Hiddink, the Blues have magically unearthed some nice form, which is a euphemism for "the manager they didn't like has gone, so they're finally playing like they always could have, if they'd wanted to."
Playing away from home isn't always kind to Chelsea (see: 3-1 drubbing at AS Roma in the group stage), but there's honestly little in that Juventus lineup to trouble them. Honestly, who's going to do the scoring? The 77-year-old Del Piero? David "I fucked the coach's wife and now I can't get a game for France" Trezeguet? Vicenzo Iaquinta? Despite the fact that John Terry appears to be aging rapidly and defending like a pregnant teen, mark it down for a 1-1 draw.
BAYERN MUNICH v. SPORTING
Without embarrassing the lads further (u75 and Precious Roy), I think we can add the creaky, unfashionable Bundesliga side to the quarter-finals, right? Maybe they'll rest a few guys and give up a goal or two, but nothing that should trouble the aggregate score.
2-1 win for the Portuguese.
PANATHANAIKOS v. VILLAREAL
Not wishing to toot my own horn (except for that spot-on score prediction from the first leg), I still think the Greeks will bang this one out at home. It's an unforgiving place, football-wise, and you can bet their tails are up from the good result away from home. Plus, they're in good form at the moment (draw at Olympiakos, 3-0 win this past weekend), and with former Gooner Gilberto Silva patrolling the midfield, I fancy them to win, albeit with little flair.
I'm sticking with a 2-1 home win.
So there you have it. Stick around and berate me like you're from a Spurs message board. Your worst insults, please!
2.58pm: Instead of just harassing people, I figured I'd add the lineups as they trickle in. It'll only help cement my prediction skills.
LIVERPOOL v. REAL MADRID:
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio, Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt, Gerrard, Babel, Torres.
Subs: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Lucas, Ngog, Spearing, Kelly.
Real Madrid: Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Cannavaro, Pepe, Heinze, Robben, Lassana Diarra, Gago, Sneijder, Raul, Higuain.
Subs: Dudek, Saviola, Marcelo, Guti, Metzelder, Miguel Torres, Van der Vaart.
Notes - Gerrard and Torres both pass fitness tests to get in the starting XI, and the only intrigue in that subs bench is whether oft-named Jay Spearing or Martin Kelly will ever get a minute of playing time.
Standard stuff from Real, and look to Juande Ramos to bring on every striker midway through the second half to prove once and for all that he's not got many good ideas.
JUVENTUS v. CHELSEA:
Juventus: Buffon, Chiellini, Mellberg, Iaquinta, Del Piero, Nedved, Trezeguet, Marchisio, Grygera, Molinaro, Tiago.
Subs: Manninger, Zebina, Salihamidzic, Amauri, Poulsen, Giovinco, Ariaudo.
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, A Cole, Mikel, Essien, Ballack, Lampard, Anelka, Drogba.
Subs: Hilario, Carvalho, Malouda, Deco, Kalou, Belletti, Mancienne.
BAYERN v. SPORTING:
Bayern Munich: Butt, Lell, Lucio, Van Buyten, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Van Bommel, Ottl, Ze Roberto, Klose, Podolski.
Subs: Rensing, Oddo, Breno, Demichelis, Sosa, Muller, Yilmaz.
Sporting: Rui Patricio, Silva, Tonel, Anderson Polga, Veloso, Adrien Silva, Vukcevic, Bruno Pereirinha, Joao Moutinho, Derlei, Djalo.
Subs: Tiago, Caneira, Ronny, Abel, Daniel Carrico, Izmailov, Tiui.
Notes - nothing sporting about that Bayern lineup. Thanks folks, please tip your waitstaff.
PANATHANAIKOS v. VILLAREAL:
Panathinaikos: Galinovic, Nilsson, Vyntra, Sarriegi, Wawrzyniak, Silva, Simao, Karagounis, Gabriel, Salpingidis, Mantzios.
Subs: Tzorvas, David, Spiropoulos, Mattos, Christodoulopoulos, Ivanschitz, Rukavina.
Villarreal: Diego Lopez, Angel, Fuentes, Godin, Capdevila, Santi Cazorla, Senna, Eguren, Ibagaza, Rossi, Nihat.
Subs: Viera, Javi Venta, Cygan, Pires, Fernandez, Bruno, Llorente.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Good times in Spain