Thursday, March 10, 2011

Five Things We Learned From This Week's Champions League Action

1. Whatever Rio says, Busacca isn't the best ref around- Pep Guardiola must be growing quite fond of his handy Swiss assistant, Massimo Busacca. In 2009, Busacca refereed Barca's win over Manchester United in the Champions League final, and yesterday he provided FCB with yet another boost. With the clock ticking on the Catalans Champions League hopes, Busacca comically presented Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie with a second yellow card of the match, following the Dutchman's supposed time wasting.The red card ensured that Arsenal would have to spend twenty minutes defending against the best team in the world, with only ten men on the pitch. Ridiculous.

2. Sandro is the real deal- Since his move from Internacional last summer, Sandro had struggled to meet expectations at White Hart Lane. As a holding midfield player, he lacked the attacking flair of many other Brazilian players, and he left Spurs fans aghast with his inability to retain possession. However, since his shaky start, a new faster, slimmer, more in control Sandro, has dominated midfields in both the Premier League, and in Europe. His displays have pushed him firmly ahead of the out of sorts Wilson Palacios, and against Milan in particular, the Copa Libertadores winner showed his true class, grafting for every ball and displaying the kind of midfield tenacity lacked by current league leaders, Manchester United.

3. Zlatan+Europe=Flop- Lets face it, Swedish attacker Zlatan Ibrahimovich is a flop in Europe. For years, Zlatan lovers (myself included) have striven to defend the mercurial number 11, but now he has simply run out of time. His three goals for Barcelona in the Round of Sixteen and Quarter Finals last year, represented his only strikes in the latter stages of Europe's premier competition, and for a player who has played for European giants of the likes of Inter, Milan, Juve and Barcelona that is shameful. There is no question that Zlatan is the king of the domestic league, but when the competition gets tougher, and the calendar turns to Wednesday, Ibrahimovich has proven himself incapable of performing.

4. There is no depth in Spanish football- In a round headlined by a Spanish football team taking on North London opposition, this week's action has showcased the difference between the depths of the English and Spanish leagues. While Valencia, arguably the third of fourth best of team, came undone against a side currently place tenth in the Bundesliga, Tottenham, having ousted Inter Milan to take first in the group stage, knocked out Italian giants AC Milan. This season, Tottenham have been the FIFTH best team in the Premier League, yet they have showed that they are capable of mixing it with some of Europe's best. Meanwhile, an equivalently placed team in Spain, were toppled by one of the Bundesliga's most inconsistent sides. Barcelona and Spain may have won the battle at the Nou Camp, but England and Tottenham are winning the war.

5. Ukranian football is on the rise- Inspired by attacking trio Costa, Jadson and Adriano, Shakhtar Donetsk look like they are going to take Europe by storm for the second time in three years. Following their 2-1, Uefa Cup success over Werder Bremen in 2009, Shakhtar nearly toppled Barcelona in the Uefa Super Cup, but eventually succumbed to the Catalan side's class. Once again, this year, Shakhtar look dangerous and, depending on the draw for the Champions League Quarter Finals, we could see the Ukranian side advance as far as the semis, and, who knows, maybe the final itself.

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