Tuesday, April 7, 2009

CL Quarterfinals Preview: Villareal v. Arsenal


There’s not much sense in hiding my bias on this one. The Arsenal come into today’s match unbeaten in 2009 (except for that loss in Roma) and, while there’s no chance of winning the Premiership, the season will be considered a success with a decent showing in the Champiiiiiions League and the FA Cup. The good news for Arsenal is that they are starting to get their squad to full strength. Although Eduardo, Abou “Always Injured” Diaby and Robin Van Persie are out today (and Arshavin is cup-tied), I would expect Nasri, Fabregas, Adebayor and Walcott to all start.

As for Villareal, they have lost Santi Cazorla for the season due to a fractured ankle. It’s a big blow for Villareal, who will miss Cazorla’s playmaking on the wings. On the plus side, Marcos Senna and Cani are fit. Up front, you can expect Villareal to rely heavily on defintely-not-American (turncoat!) Giuseppe Rossi.

The interesting storylines in this match are the return of Robert Pires to face his old club, and a rematch of that 2006 Champions League semi-final that famously saw Riquelme buckle under the pressure and flub his penalty kick. Riquelme has made buckling under pressure a bit of a hallmark and has since disappeared back home to Argentina. Meanwhile, Pires still pines for the Arsenal. I always liked Pires, and even though he was way too sensitive about that substitution in the 2006 Champions League final, it’s only because he truly loved the club. Can’t fault him for that, and I’m sure he will get a warm response from the Arsenal supporters (especially during the return leg in England).

Even though Arsenal come into this match as slight favorites and with the momentum, I don’t think it’ll be a proverbial walk in the park. Villareal are talented and determined, and have the ability to notch goals against Arsenal’s sometimes-flaky defense. So, I’m hoping for a 1-0 or 1-1 result for Arsenal today, which would set them up nicely for the return leg at the Emirates.

Just realized I spelled Villarreal wrong throughout this post.... But at least no one noticed!!

7 comments:

Andrew said...

I always forget about the mid-week CL matches. My Tuesday just got immensely better.

Whizalen said...

We'll also get all four games (at some point) between the deuce and espnclassic

I remember watching Bobby get subbed in that 06 final and feeling horrible for him, especially knowing it was the end for him at Arsenal. I also remember watching Hleb do fuck-all in that game (shocker!) and thinking for 70 minutes, "why did Arsene sub Pires and not Hleb?" I was also stuck in NYC and drinking $10 beers and thinking, "why the hell am I paying $10 for a beer?"

Spectator said...

Heh. So many questions, and no good answers!

I don't understand why ESPN can't show the two games simultaneously. Also sucks that I only get ESPN2 and no ESPN Classic where I am now -- as if I could manage to hold out and not check the score.

hockalees said...

Does ESPN hold exclusive rights to all Champions League games? I don't think they do. They may have first choice but I know that Setanta USA has the VIL-ARS game live today (at least my PVR says so) and Setanta plug the heck out of the Champions League in their interstitials.

Spectator said...

This would assume that I have Setanta, but yeah the Arse-Villareal match is live so there's that!

hockalees said...

It is also going to be on ESPN360

Ibracadabra said...

Surprisingly, Arsenal have only scored 2 goals in their last 5 CL Matches. Will be interesting to see how Senna handles his buddy Fabregas...