Sunday, April 3, 2011

INFTH Champions League Predictions

Real Madrid vs Tottenham- Two teams shorn of key players due to injury, and two teams that prepared for this tie in the worst possible way, with Tottenham minus Gareth Bale drawing with struggling Wigan and Real Madrid minus Cristiano Ronaldo losing at home to Sporting Gijon. Real Madrid's loss in particular is a costly one, with the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League now the only realistic chances of silverware left for the Merengues.

Tottenham meanwhile, are still challenging for fourth in the Premier League despite that draw, but with City and Chelsea both looking good, a win at Wembley in the Champions League final could be the only avenue back into the European Cup for Spurs.

Key to this tie will be the away goal, and Spurs will probably feel that if they get one at the Bernabeau, then they will have set themselves up with the perfect platform for success at White Hart Lane in the second leg. On the other hand though, Harry Redknapp will know the importance of avoiding a thrashing, as the last thing Spurs need is a huge deficit to make-up going into the second leg.

Prediction: 3-1

Inter vs Schalke- Inter come into this game off a morale sapping loss in the derby, a defeat which leaves Leonardo's men five points behind Serie A table toppers AC Milan. Meanwhile, a glass of beer prevented Schalke from taking the points from Friday's Bundesliga match-up with St. Pauli, but the extra day of rest will only count in the Germans favor.

Since going through to the last eight, Schalke have parted ways with manager Felix Magath, and now former Hoffenheim boss Ralf Rangnick is at the helm, hoping to lead Schalke into a shock semi-final berth. Key to Schalke's chances will be the front trio of Huntelaar, Raul and Farfan, who will be relied upon to score the goals needed to make up for the deficiencies of a porous defense.

For Inter, Samuel Eto'o will once again be looked to for inspiration, but as proved in the match at the Allianz Arena, Macedonian Goran Pandev is also capable of producing the odd moment of magic. Returning from injury, Diego Milito will hope that he can put the miseries of his injury plagued season behind him, and deliver for Inter in the competition his goals won for them last year.

Prediction: 2-0

Chelsea vs Manchester United- After drawing at Stoke on Saturday, Chelsea need a miracle to even come close to winning the Premier League title, and Carlo Ancelotti I'm sure will now be beginning to shift the greater portion of his attention towards Europe's premier competition.

However, standing in between the Blues and a semi-final place his tournament savvy Manchester United, who looked imperious at the weekend, coming from 2-0 down to beat West Ham 4-2, and in doing so virtually guaranteeing themselves the Premier League title success.

Rested at the weekend, Fernando Torres will be once again looking for his first Chelsea goal, and he'll be facing an old nemesis of years gone by, Nemanja Vidic. United fans still cringe at the memory of Vidic's horror show against Torres in Liverpool's 4-1 victory over the Red Devils at Old Trafford, and if United are to progress to the next stage, then they will have to hope that Vidic fares better against the Spaniard this time around.

Prediction: 0-0

Barcelona vs Shakhtar- Easy on paper, I expect Ukranian champions Shakhtar Donetsk to provide Barcelona with a much tougher test than what is generally expected. In Jadson, Costa and Adriano, Shakhtar possess a dangerous attacking trio, one more than capable of penetrating even the miserly Barcelona defense.

The main concern for Shakhtar fans heading into this one, will be that the team will be blown out at the Nou Camp, rendering the return leg in Donetsk academic. However, if Shakhtar can keep the margin of defeat down, or even take a result from Spain, then Pep Guardiola's men will face an extremely uncomfortable second leg.

Obviously, Lionel Messi will be the go-to man for Barcelona, but there is so much more to Barca than just Messi, even if he is their leading goal scorer. Pedro, Villa, Xavi and Iniesta are all capable of producing moments of inspiration, so even if two or three of the Barcelona line-up are off color, plenty of match winners will still be available.

Prediction: 3-1

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