Sunday, March 6, 2011

INFTH Champions League Predictions

Barcelona vs Arsenal- In a battle between perhaps the two most aesthetically pleasing teams on the continent, a wavering Arsenal side take on a Barcelona team hungry for their second Champions League title in three years.

Since Arsenal's first leg, 2-1 win over Catalan giants Barcelona, everything has gone a little pear shaped for the Gunners. First, they conceded a late equalizer at Leyton Orient in the Cup, a result which was quickly followed by a double injury blow, with both Fabregas and Walcott sustaining knocks against Stoke City. Next up was a trip to Wembley for a chance to secure a first trophy in six years, but once again Arsenal hit the wall, with Scezeny's late error gifting Birmingham victory. Finally, following a routine 5-0 replay win over the O's, Arsenal dropped two vital points in the title race, at home to Sunderland. With the squad low on confidence and ravaged by injuries, Wenger will know the importance of an away result in Spain, in the context of Arsenal's faltering season.

For Barcelona, this match presents an ideal opportunity to exact revenge on a side who inflicted the most painful of defeats onto them, just three weeks ago. However, with Puyol still sidelined by injury, and Xavi only just returning, Guardiola will realize that a failure to progress to the Quarter Finals is a distinct possibility.

Prediction: 3-0

Shakhtar vs Roma- Roma have been riding a wave of confidence following the appointment of Vincenzo Montella as head coach. With two wins from their last three Serie A games, Roma are racing up the Serie A table, and a turn around in this tie would confirm that Roma's fortunes are on an upward trajectory. However, if Roma are to progress to the next round, they will have to score twice away from home, a feat rarely accomplished by any side visiting Ukraine.

In the last match, Shakhtar's dynamic attack ripped Roma to shreds, and Montella will have to devise some system of dealing with Brazilians Jadson, Adriano and Costa. The trio were simply unstoppable at the Stadio Olimpico, and if they can find anything near to the form which led their team to a 3-2 win on that night, then surely it will be curtains for The Giallorossi.

Even more worryingly for the sixth placed Serie A side, star attacker Jeremy Menez will be suspended for this game having accumulated two yellow cards. Menez was Roma's only bright spark in the first leg defeat, and one wonders where their goals will come from, without him in the side.

Prediction: 1-1

Tottenham vs AC Milan- In the first leg at the San Siro, Tottenham showed why they have been one of the Champions League's most exciting teams this season. Deadly on the counter, they possess pace on both wings, as well as a formidable strike force through the middle.

Key to Tottenham's chances in this game will be the return of Gareth Bale. Brilliant during his twenty minute cameo at the weekend, Bale will be more then capable of troubling AC Milan full backs Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonini.

On Saturday, it was Gennaro Gatusso's goal which gave Milan a 1-0 win away at Juventus, however, they will be missing his services on Wednesday as he sees out the first game of a hefty ban incurred by a spat with Joe Jordan in the first leg. Hopefully for Milan though, star striker Alex Pato will overcome a virus in time to play some part in this game, as he was brilliant in his last match, a three-nil win over Napoli.

Prediction: 2-1

Schalke vs Valencia- Felix Magath and his Schalke team were left raging at refereeing errors at the weekend, and the German hosts will pray that similar mistakes don't curse their chances of progression in the Champions League.

Valencia showed resilience at the on Saturday, coming from one goal down to beat a strong Mallorca side 2-1 away from home. Unai Emery will know that his charges must stir up similar amounts of spirit and vigor if they are to score the away goal necessary to help them through to the last eight.

Assuming that spirit comes, Emery will look to star striker Roberto Soldado as the man most capable of putting the ball in the back of the net. Soldado already has several Champions League goals to his name this season, including a strike in the first leg in Spain.

Prediction: 1-2 aet

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