Posts Tagged ‘UEFA Champions League’

This entry will be sprinkled with bias in favour of Manchester United. Therefore at the outset, if you have any problem with this, stop reading now.

It’s a classic Champions League final and arguably the two most deserving teams are contesting. Barcelona versus Manchester United. Luckily, this time it is not Messi v Ronaldo (although the English press is trying really hard to make it look like Rooney v Messi).

Lets be frank, it isn’t going to be an individual player who stops Barcelona. As Inter Milan under Mourinho demonstrated last season, it takes a collective effort to stop the Catalan juggernaut. Say what you want about Barcelona, about them being diving cheats; yes, its true. But sadly, its also true that they are the best team in the world, and if someone claims otherwise, they certainly are the most difficult team in the world to stop.

Its going to take a focused performance from United to win the game. Nobody can afford to go into a risky tackle because of the nature of Barca players to fall down when someone so much as calls their name. Incidentally, a friend of mine told me a joke –

“Dani Alves goes down like a ton of bricks after a Scholes tackle. The ref comes to Scholes and sends him off but also books Alves for simulation. Alves gets pissed off and asks the ref, ‘How can you send him off AND book me for simulation?’

The ref replies, ‘Well, because the tackle was on Iniesta..’”

*this is the point where you laugh*

Lets be realistic, Scholes is not going to start the game. I hate to say it, but he’s past the stage where he can play in a Champions League final and expect to positively impact the game. Giggs, however is set to start the game and will no doubt be the creative element in the team. I would make a strong case for Park to start the game as well after his impressive performances when its mattered this season. He had a really good game against Chelsea and his energy levels will certainly be required to close down the Barcelona midfield.

So here’s the line up I want to see – VDS, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Fabio, Park, Anderson, Fletcher, Rooney, Hernandez and Valencia.

Yes, our season’s top scorer is going to be on the bench for obvious reasons. Berbatov doesn’t have the pace to trouble the Barcelona back four and will most likely be left on the bench (and I have a feeling he won’t even come on). So the reasoning behind my formation is that United will have to hit Barca on the counter. Their full backs pushing up leaves space out wide for the Red Devils to exploit. Particularly, Valencia and Fabio on the right can cause some trouble for Eric Abidal. Iniesta plays along Abidal’s side and he doesn’t track back at all. I pick Fabio over Rafael because I worry for Rafael’s temperament. His twin brother is a capable defender and has the pace to push up as well and hence he gets the nod from me.

I know most of you would have noticed that I left Giggs out of the line up, and this wasn’t a mistake. I think we’d be much better with three runners in Park, Fletcher and Anderson. Most of you are horrified by the thought of Giggs being left out, no doubt, but the fact of the matter is (as Nishanth pointed out) is that there’s no point in having a creative midfielder when you’re not going to see so much of the ball. It isn’t like Giggs will be spraying passes across the pitch (although I would love it if that happens, but lets be realistic).

I read in today’s paper that Chris Smalling might be in the midfield (in the role Pepe played against Barca). I don’t think this’ll be a good idea, Smalling’s a good reader of the game, but I’m not sure if he has the experience to match players of this quality (prove me wrong, Chris!)

The front three are quick and players who have the pace and the skill to trouble the Barcelona back four. Rooney down the left to exploit the space left by the marauding (diving) Dani Alves. Valencia’s pace and no nonsense crossing will trouble any full back and to be fair Barca don’t have great headers of the ball. The key player for United will be Javier Hernandez. Who would have thought that this guy who was a virtual unknown would be playing the Champions League final? (I assume he will start of course).

Hernandez is the key because it is very important to put away the ball with any half chance. Any miniscule sight at goal and it should be in the back of the net. Hernandez is also a good header of the ball. His movement will give problems to Pique and Puyol. Rooney dropping deep occasionally might also give Busquets a problem since he isn’t as mobile a defence midfielder as required. I would make a case for Mascherano to start for Barca but that’s not my headache.

We all know Barca’s strongest line up but just to refresh your memories – Valdez, Dani Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Villa, Messi. Although it would make a lot of sense for Guardiola to play Mascherano instead of Pedro and push Iniesta into Pedro’s position. My gut feeling says that that’s what’s going to happen although my gut feeling has been wrong in the past.

My line up won’t be the one Ferguson plays either, because obviously Giggs will start and I have a bad feeling that Carrick will as well. Carrick’s had a few good games (especially the games against Chelsea in the Champions League and more recently in the league at OT), but I’m not so sure about him.

Bottomline is United can’t score one and hope to defend. They have to score atleast 3, in my opinion because Barcelona will definitely score. And they’ll score more than 1. A new octopus has come out and said that United will win. I hope he’s a descendant of Paul.

Glory Glory Man United. For Number 4. For Edwin Van Der Sar. For Fergie’s third. For the fans! To ensure cheating cunts don’t win it. Come on United! Come on United!

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Here are the line ups folks –

Line ups

Arsenal – Szczesny, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Eboue, Walcott, Wilshere, Song, Fabregas, Nasri, Van Persie. Subs – Rosicky, Almunia, Denilson, Squillaci, Arshavin, Bendtner, Gibbs

Barcelona – Valdes, Dani Alves, Abidal, Pique, Maxwell, Busquets, Xavi, Pedro, Iniesta, Villa, Messi. Subs – Keita, Correia, Pinto, Mascherano, Affelay, Bojan, Milito

 

Both managers playing their most attacking first XI’s possible. Its definitely going to be a cracker. Both teams follow an attacking philosophy. There are going to be some cracking battles, and there’s going to be one man who has got to be stopped – Lionel Messi.

The Independent apparently said that Messi hasn’t ever scored on English soil. Maybe, but that doesn’t prove a thing. He’s still a class act, if he doesn’t score, he’ll create, he’ll make space for others, and he’ll just frighten the shit out of the defence for good measure.

Djourou and Koscielny are a decent center back pairing. Whether they’ll be able to cope with the threat of Villa, Messi, Pedro, Iniesta and Xavi is what we’ll find out soon. I’m sure they’re going to have their hands full, but they need help from their central midfield trio of Song, Fabregas and Wilshere who need to keep hold of the ball. They need to get the ball wide to Walcott and Nasri who can attack the full backs.Van Persie needs to have a good game, hold up the ball and link well with his midfield. Considering the form he’s in, he’ll have a good game. The plan seems pretty simple of course, but the execution will be fucking difficult, I assure you.

So earlier on, I was in conversation with our newest contributor and fanatical Arsenal fan (he’s shaved the Arsenal logo off his great big bushy beard).  And here’s what he had to say

“The trump cards are Nasri and Theo if they fire today we can hurt the cunts. Especially that muppet maxwell…

Abidal in central defence isnt particularly impressive either….”

Enjoy a killer game, folks!

The draws are out and Arsene Wenger will probably be wishing he kept his mouth shut.

Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk

AC Milan v Tottenham

Valencia v Schalke

Inter Milan v Bayern Munich

Lyon v Real Madrid

Arsenal v Barcelona

Marseille v Manchester United

Copenhagen v Chelsea
We’ve watched most of these ties last season. Last seasons two finalists get it on and Munich have a shot at revenge which they’ll most likely get. Tottenham get to face the other team from Milan and they’ll find themselves at familiar ground when they go back to the San Siro.

Arsenal draw Barcelona. Nuff said.

 

 

All the group stage matches are over. Now we don’t have Champions League football for a long long time. Quite depressing really. So let’s have a look at the teams that have made it through to the Round of 16.

Group A – 1) Tottenham 2) Inter Milan

Group B – 1) Schalke 2) Lyon

Group C – 1) Man United 2) Valencia

Group D – 1) Barcelona 2) Kobenhavn

Group E – 1) Bayern Munich 2) AS Roma

Group F – 1) Chelsea 2) Marseille

Group G – 1) Real Madrid 2) AC Milan

Group H – 1) Shakhtar Donetsk 2) Arsenal

So now what?

Basically first placed teams can get drawn with any of the second place teams in the Round of 16. Do not forget, there is country protection which means, for example that Man United cannot face Arsenal. Nor can teams from the same groups face each other (obviously)

Toppers – Tottenham Hotspur, Schalke, Man United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk

can face any of the following teams

2nd placed – Inter Milan, Lyon, Valencia, Kobenhavn, AC Roma, Marseille, AC Milan, Arsenal

 

North East London Derby

You have to credit Harry Redknapp for the victory at the Emirates. After watching his Spurs team go down 2-0 against Arsenal in the first half, he had the courage to change things around and go with a more attacking formation. The goals for Arsenal came from Samir Nasri who is fire for Arsenal and from Maroune Chamakh, a striker’s finish – the second goal.

The introduction of Jermaine Defoe at the start of the second switched Tottenham’s formation from (the generally used in tough games) 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2, a formation which Redknapp loves (given that he used it at the Inter Milan game at the San Siro). However, over there he was criticized for using the formation and maybe he realized himself that he made a mistake cause he switched it at half time.

Got it Right

I didn’t see Spurs coming back into the game. I didn’t think they had the will to do it. I thought they would in a sense “do a Spurs” and end up on the losing side, but they showed great heart and great urgency to come out on top. Rafael van der Vaart, Spurs’ signing of the season, played well for about 5 minutes during his entire time on the pitch, but what a difference he made in that time.

His first contribution was controlling the ball brilliantly and toe poking it to Gareth Bale who finished past Fabianski. His second was converting the penalty Fabregas gifted to Spurs. And his third was delivering the free kick which Kaboul headed past the Arsenal goalkeeper. Then he was taken off.

I do not understand what happened to the Arsenal players in the second half that they performed so abysmally. They were cruising in the first half having scored two and all they had to do was was keep possession of the ball, contain the Spurs offense and counter quickly, things they’re good at. Except perhaps containing the Spurs offense was a little bit too difficult and you have to credit the Lilywhites for that.

I read an interesting article on the Republik of Mancunia about the power shift in North East London, comparing it to the power shift in Manchester and perhaps the article has a point. Spurs have finished closer to Arsenal than City have when compared to Man United, yet nobody talks of a power shift in North London.

Spurs have another interesting fixture coming up, at home against Liverpool and it’ll be interesting to see if they can come up with the goods there as well – and I really think victory is possible for Spurs next week given they’re playing at White Hart Lane.

Rooturn

Excuse me for the really bad title for this one. It sounds like something right out of the Daily Mail. Nonetheless, the point is, Rooney returned and the fans didn’t boo him, nor did they ecstatically cheer him on as they would have if he hadn’t gone around whoring himself.

Oh yes, sorry. All this happened during a football game. Manchester United were playing Wigan at Old Trafford and Wigan were giving United some very nervous moments. N’Zogbia got the better of Rafael time and again and it was quite scary to see him charging down our right wing. After Nani started on the right, he was switched to the left, and Obertan played on the right.

Hernandez and Berbatov both had a poor game last time out at Villa Park and therefore Macheda got the nod. I do not understand why he has been played up front and alone. He really hasn’t thrived in that position. Macheda does well when he’s got a strike partner with him – which in this case was apparently Obertan, but nobody can really say for sure.

United did go ahead in the first half after Evra headed the ball into the goal post – a rare sight, that one. In the second half, Alcaraz chose to leave his common sense in the dressing room and unnecessarily tackled Darren Fletcher to pick up his second yellow card and he was off. Rodallega decided that Alcaraz shouldn’t feel lonely and decided to follow him after a two footed tackle on Rafael just a couple of minutes later. Wigan were down by one goal and down to nine men.

But they held on. Two seasons back if the same thing had happened you would have expected goals galore! But it didn’t happen. While United did boss possession (as you would have expected them to), and created chances, they really didn’t hammer Wigan for 5 (which they did twice last season when Wigan had 11 men!). Evra got a fantastic chance. Rooney did as well. Once the threat from the left had reduced, Rafael got up quite well and delivered some really good crosses in.

In the end, United won 2-0, not an outstanding display, but the result was fantastic considering the other results across the Premier League.

It really is Roman Abramograd FC

Carlo Ancelotti was looked on the bright side after losing their game to Birmingham. Then he was later quoted as saying that he doesn’t have as much control in Chelsea as Ferguson does at Man United. Contrast this to Ferguson’s statement “I am the most important man at this club and that’s the way it has to be”.

Not the most important man at Chelsea

At Chelsea, Abramovic is the most important man at the club and any manager working there should realize that they will never get full decision making powers. One third of the way into the season, your assistant manager may be sacked. Then you will have no say in the replacement either. After sometime you may get sacked, but then you just have to accept this as the hazards of being Chelsea manager.

Goal Fest in Spain

United couldn’t hit more than two past a 9 man Wigan, whereas Barcelona put 8 goals past Almeria. Madrid scored 5 against Athletic Bilbao. You have to compare the teams in Spain and England because I think eventually there may be a clash in the Champions League.

Look at the teams that are playing in the Champions League from England – Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal and Spurs.

Spurs – First timers in the Champions League and doing really well. Is their squad big enough though? They really don’t have enough center back cover when Michael Dawson is out. King is pretty much out all the time and Gallas can be very injury prone. Take out Van der Vaart from the equation and their creativity in midfield suffers. Pavlyuchenko, Keane and Crouch are all good strikers but none of them are World Class.

Man United – United have a decent number of strikers – Rooney, Berbatov, Hernandez, Macheda, Owen – all good players. Its the width that matters at United. With Valencia out till February, no real wingers are available for Sir Alex. Giggs is an option, but he’s getting old and can’t play every game. Obertan has shown good skills at times, but isn’t really good enough for the Champions League in the knock out rounds. Nor is Bebe for sure (at the moment anyway). Park isn’t a winger, only he knows what he is.

Arsenal – They have a decent squad – Fabregas, Wilshere, Ramsey, Diaby, Denilson and Song in the center. Nasri, Arshavin, Rosicky, Walcott wide. Chamakh, Van Persie, Vela, JET up front, but then they are Arsenal and they might just screw it up nonetheless. I still feel that Arsenal has the best squad from England to compete in the Champions League, it’ll be interesting to see how they do compared to the other English teams.

Chelsea – Not a big enough squad. Full stop.

And now Spain –

Real Madrid – Attacking options – Ronaldo, Ozil, Higuain, Di Maria, Canales, Granero, Benzema. Midfield – Diarra, Diarra, Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Gago. Defense – Carvalho, Pepe, Albiol, Marcelo, Ramos, Garay.

FC Barcelona – Attacking options – David Villa, Messi, Iniesta, Pedro, Krkic. Midfield – Xavi, Keita, Mascherano, Busquets. Defense – Puyol, Pique, Alves, Milito, Maxwell, Abidal.

I’m just highlighting the difference in quality in depth of the squads of the English teams and two Spanish teams playing in the Champions League. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare in the knock out rounds (assuming they all qualify, that is). Will a Man United team filled with Bebe, Obertan and Park be capable of knocking out a Real Madrid team with Ronaldo, Higuain, Ozil, Alonso? Even as a United fan I have to say that it is highly unlikely. Can Chelsea’s Josh McEachren and Gael Kakuta plot Barcelona’s downfall? I doubt.

Of course, the players I mentioned aren’t the first choice for their teams when it comes to European fixtures, but the fact of the matter is that in certain areas, both Madrid and Barcelona have better second choice players than English teams have first choice players.

Ps — All is not well in Inter Milan. They lost to Chievo 2-1 this weekend.


The week has been pretty good for the top 4. Wait, I think its best to say top 3, don’t know who the fourth is – Tottenham, City or Liverpool? I think we’ll give it to Spurs considering they DID finish fourth last season. But if Spurs are included, then they had their ups and they had their downs as well.

Weekend was United versus Spurs and within 3 minutes of the game Park Ji Sung hit the upright. I was expecting a flowing game and it came. Lets be quite honest, I was on the edge up until Nani scored United’s second. Perhaps one of the most controversial goals ever scored in the Premier League era, but in my opinion it was a legitimate goal. Clattenburg made an absolute meal of it. He has it in for United versus Spurs game – Pedro Mendes’ goal being disallowed, giving United a penalty in the 2006/7 season incorrectly and then failing to give Spurs one even though Gary Neville was holding on to Chimbonda in the penalty box.

Clattenburg made a complete mess of things

The goal was good though. However what I really noticed was that Nani had to be told by Scholes to shoot. Some of you may say it wasn’t sportsman like behaviour for Scholes to ask Nani to shoot. I don’t know about that, but what I’d really like to draw your attention to is the fact that Scholes brain works really really quickly.

While perhaps all the other players on the pitch were pretty sure that it was a free kick, it was Scholes who realised that the ref hadn’t blown the whistle therefore the game was still in play due to the advantage given to Spurs (either that or he understood what Clattenburg meant with his shrug). Its fantastic how he figured it out in the heat of the game, but then we all know he has a cool head on his shoulders except when he needs to make a tackle.

Chelsea won away at Blackburn which was definitely a tough fixture and Arsenal managed to win in the dying moments of the game against West Ham. The Hammers would have been quite disappointed especially after Robert Green making some fantastic saves during the game. Nonetheless, Song managed to win it in the end for Arsenal and therefore they remain second in the Premier League standings 5 points behind Chelsea and on level with United but with better goal difference (+2).

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Gareth Bale rips apart Inter Milan again

Bale ripped apart Inter Milan in the first leg at the San Siro but since the final result was Inter 4 – 3 Spurs, it wasn’t talked about too much. Bale then repeated his performance at White Hart Lane in front of the Tottenham faithful and I’ll bet they’d love to make a DVD out of this!

Humbler of Maicon

Beating the reigning European Champions can have a very satisfying feeling. But absolutely hammering the reigning European Champions gives you a sense of euphoria. Spurs are pretty sure to go through barring some unforgivable mistakes.

Credit to Harry Redknapp for always playing attacking football and you see the results. Bale absolutely ripped apart Maicon twice and has trampled all over his reputation of being the best right back in the world. Rafael Da Silva (Manchester United’s young full back, also Brazilian) did a much better job of containing Bale at Old Trafford.

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Other Champions League shizz bizz..

Real Madrid managed to draw 2-2 against AC Milan at the San Siro. Two goals by Pippo Inzaghi (the second one was perhaps offside.. then again he was born offside, wasn’t he?) for Milan and a goal each from Higuain and Pedro Leon (in the end) to put Madrid through to the group stages. Still unbeaten in Europe, Real Madrid.

Group G

Teams Pld Pts
1 Real Madrid CF Real Madrid 4 10
2 AC Milan Milan 4 5
3 AFC Ajax Ajax 4 4
4 AJ Auxerre Auxerre 4 3

Arsenal missed a brilliant chance to cement their place in the last 16 of the Competition after losing 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk. The Gunners went in front through Walcott and then were 1-1 due to an Eastmond own goal. Following this Eduardo came back to haunt his old club (as I mentioned he might). 2-1 to Shakhtar on the night, although Arsenal are still favourites to go through.

Group H

Teams Pld Pts
1 Arsenal FC Arsenal 4 9
2 FC Shakhtar Donetsk Shakhtar Donetsk 4 9
3 SC Braga Braga 4 6
4 FK Partizan Partizan 4 0

Chelsea has booked its place in the last sixteen and don’t really have much to worry about having conceded only 1 goal in the European encounters. The battle for second between Spartak Moskva and Marseille will be interesting after Marseille hit Zilina for 7.

Bayern Munich also are assured of a last 16 place after getting maximum points from their four games in Group E. Roma are second with six points.

Barcelona drew 1-1 at Kobenhavn with Jesper Gronkjaer pretty much running through Barcelona and “holding his own in the battle of number tens”, as the commentator said. They’re on 8, Copenhagen are on 7 points. On our blog we had expected Rubin Kazan to go through but Copenhagen seems to be favourites to take the second place in Group D.

In Group C Manchester United are on 10 points and Valencia on 7. This seems pretty much like what we expected it to be.

Group A is pretty much wide open. There’s no room for error in that group.

Group A

Teams Pld Pts
1 Tottenham Hotspur FC Tottenham 4 7
2 FC Internazionale Milano Internazionale 4 7
3 FC Twente Twente 4 5
4 SV Werder Bremen Bremen 4 2

 

Spurs are on 7, Inter on 7. Twente on 5. I think its pretty safe to say that Bremen are not going to go through although it isn’t impossible either. You never know what happens in the Champions League though.

 

‘I MET with David Gill last week and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad.

I then told him that I would not be signing a new contract.

I was interested to hear what Sir Alex had to say yesterday and surprised by some of it.

It is absolutely true, as he said, that my agent and I have had a number of meetings with the club about a new  contract. During those meetings in August I asked for assurances about the continued ability of the club to attract the top players in the world.

I have never had anything but complete respect for MUFC. How could I not have done, given its fantastic history  and especially the last six years in which I have been lucky to play a part?

For me its all about winning trophies – as the club has always done under Sir Alex. Because of that I think the  questions I was asking were justified.

Despite recent difficulties, I know I will always owe Sir Alex Ferguson a huge debt. He is a great manager and  mentor who has helped and supported me from the day he signed me from Everton when I was only 18.

For Manchester United’s sake I wish he could go on forever because he’s a one-off and a genius.’ – An Ungrateful Bastard.

Yea Wayne. I’m sure Sir Alex doesn’t know how to win trophies. The Gaffer himself said it best, “I’ve only won 27 trophies”. According to Daily Mail however, he’s won 35! How many have you won Wayne?

Roy Keane came out vocally against the quality of the squad at the time he was playing. He criticized the same set of players that inspired United to a European double victory in 2008 and another Premiership title the following year.

I’ve read in a lot of United forums where people have hit out against the current transfer policy of United. While its true that United aren’t spending the same kind of money that they used, its also true that most of the money that is currently being spent is on some good players.

Have a look at the players that have joined Manchester United since the Glazers took over.

Vidic – Definitely a good buy. People thought he wasn’t cut out for the Premier League, but boy has he proved his doubters wrong. Currently wearing the arm band.

Evra – Phenomenal full-back and a world class player. Not having the best season thus far, but I’m sure its only a matter of time before he picks it up

Carrick – Currently playing like a school boy, but no one can deny that it was Michael Carrick’s signing that injected some creativity in midfield when United first won the title after a gap of four years. Hopefully he’ll find his old form back.

Nani – Scoring almost every game currently.

Anderson – I’m not sure what to say.

Hargreaves – Perpetually injured, but again a good signing

Berbatov – 30 million. That’s a LOT of money.

Tevez – Loan.

Obertan – Not seen enough of him, but he came on last night and made the game a whole lot more interesting

Owen – A smart move, I think considering he came on a free.

Valencia – Fantastic signing. A different kind of player from Ronaldo, but still essential to the team. Should give Nani crossing lessons in my opinion.

Hernandez – Scores almost every time he plays.

Bebe – What really disgusts me is statements like “If I were Wayne Rooney, and I saw that the summer signings include a homeless guy, I would leave too”. I don’t know why Bebe was signed either, however statements like that are horrible and attacks the person and not his footballing talent (or lack of it)

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions from the above list. However I think most the signings Sir Alex has made since then are pretty smart. All of them may not be in the bracket of “World Class” as Shrek believes himself to be, but a majority of them are good players who contribute to the team.

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The most exciting part of last night’s United versus Bursaspor Champions League clash (besides Nani’s goal) was the unveiling of the banner that said “Who’s the whore now, Wayne?”

Exciting, quite.

And a Chicharito strike in the 86th minute or something.

In contrast, the Inter Milan versus Spurs game was nothing but pure entertainment. Within 16 minutes, Inter had scored 3 and Spurs were down to ten men after Gomes was sent off. Bale ended up scoring a hat trick with his last two goals coming in 90+1 and 90+2 minutes respectively. It ended 4-3. I recommend everyone watch this game!