So, say your a member of la viola (since I nearly got my head removed for not adding the ‘la’, it shall be rectified) Thursday morning of last week. What can you say or do to get over what you just watched the night before? The officiating crew has practically put you drastically in a worse spot than you were before. You had the ability to take a 1-1 tie to Italy and defend to your heart’s content, but now, thanks to a disastrous red card, a not reciprocated yellow card and a horrifically allowed 3 yard offside goal, you have to go on the offensive against the German giants Bayern Munich and hope not to get caught out and give up the away goal.
Thus is the plight of the people of Florence, who have watched their beloved la viola have far more work ahead of them than they previously thought. Of course, Munich faithful with argue that they nearly had the opening goal ripped from them as he-who-will-not-be-named blew early for a penalty, even as Mario Gomez was rippling the back of the net. Thankfully Arjen Robben was cool enough to slot the penalty home to give the advantage to the home side.
In the other contests, the signing of Sol Campbell seemed to be paying dividends, right up until the point of possible one of the most insane moments in Champions League history as Campbell, whether he meant to or not, decided to flip a pass back to net mind Lukasz Fabianski, who, in a second moment of insanity, picked it up. Porto’s quick free kick gave the home side a 2-1 advantage that they’d do extremely well to hold, considering that Arsenal probably have something resembling a rear guard at the next meeting.
Elsewhere, Lyon decided on the 10 men behind the ball philosophy, but, in a almost perverse way, made the counter attack look extremely effective. They threatened more than Madrid, who, understandably, had issues trying to break down a 4-5-1 that played everyone in their own half defensively, as do most squads. That said, the Makoun winner was a deserved one, as the Cameroonian hit a bullet that left Iker Casillas nary a prayer of denying.
The match of the first week, however, was at the San Siro, where Roonchester United were put on the defensive early after Carrick deflected Ronaldinho’s heat seeker into on it’s way to goal. The contest then began to dodge back and forth until Scholes hit a whale of a shot (or had a whale of a swing at it, anyway) that trickled past a wrong footed Dida on it’s way in. Rooney then did his thing, heading a double past the Brazilian. Amazingly, he was overshadowed by a nifty bit of play between Ron-Ron and Clarence Seedorf, who slipped a nifty side/back heel underneath the unsuspecting Van Der Sar, making the follow-up at Old Trafford even a hotter contest than before and prompting much agitation on ESPN’s Top Ten plays of the day. That said, it will take two from Milan before they can claim the aggregate lead, and might need three to make the tie one to go the distance.
Now, of course, we move to the second half of the elongated first matchday of knockout play (capitalism at it’s finest) where the home sides will look to get what advantage they can before they travel to significant opposition on the road on Tuesday and the best toss up matches take place on Wednesday.
Olympiakos v. Girondins de Bordeaux
2:45 PM Est @ Karaiskaki Stadium
The Greek juggernauts square off with probably the most underrated side still left in the field in Bordeaux. Even if the French outfit have played less-than-their-best football of late, might it be noted that Fiorentina came out swinging against Bayern Munich even though they had struggled mightily against the Serie A field of late. In other words, a ripped Bordeaux side might be ready to get their hands dirty against the Greeks.
What to watch for: Olympiakos is capable of winning home contests, as shown by their victory against Arsenal. That said, the Greek side need someone like Zairi to step up and get some goals, while Bordeaux will need Wendel to be a major playmaker, seeing as captain Alou Diarra will miss the contest.
Match Prediction: It’s a stretch to think that Bordeaux will come in and get a win, but a 1-1 draw would be respectable. That said, the Greeks should win this one 2-1.
Vfb Stuttgart v. Barcelona
2:45 PM Est @ Mercedes-Benz Arena
Nothing major for the German outfit to do today. Just beat the holders and make sure they don’t score. Sounds simple, right? It’s not as if Barcelona are invincible. After all, they did lose to Atletico Madrid recently…only to smash Racing Santander 4-0. Luck be with the Germans, as they will surely need it.
What to watch for: Stuttgart will play with nothing to lose, considering the odds are stacked mightily against them. Cacau will look to add the four he scored at the weekend, though beating Barca’s defense will be slightly more difficult than Cologne. We could tell you someone from Barcelona to watch, but that would disservice the rest of the squad, so it really boils down to which healthy bodies they will, in fact, put on the pitch.
Match Prediction: 1-2 Barca seems likely, though the Germans will look to make a spirited showing. The Catalan side will simply be too much for Stuttgart to handle at times.
CSKA Moscova v. Sevilla FC
12:30 PM Est @ Luzhniki Stadium
Sevilla must deal with the bitterly cold Moscow landscape. If they get over that, they’ll quickly realize what Liverpool should have last week: Moscow hasn’t played a competitive match in two and a half months. Considering that Sevilla have not necessarily been the most imposing side at times this term, the win over Mallorca on the island has to give them confidence.
What to watch for: Pitch conditions will be first and foremost. Then, the weather going on during the contest. After that, CSKA will need to shake off the rust and see if they can keep Sevilla off the score sheet. The Spanish side will not have Luis Fabiano and will need Freddie Kanoute to step up and get a goal.
Match Prediction: 0-0. Moscow will spend most of it’s time defending, while Sevilla will wonder why they hell they had to go to Moscow first and live for a few days in a winter wonderland.
Internazionale Milan v. Chelsea F.C.
2:45 @ San Siro
Has anyone mentioned yet that Jose Mourinho is facing his old English side? If you haven’t heard that by now, give yourself a pat on the back and prepare for the onslaught of mentions by the announcers and pregame show commentators, halftime commentators, and post match commentators. Meanwhile, there is actually a match being played, and it is possibly the biggest toss up of them all. Chelsea are still aiming for that first Champions League title while Inter would like to stifle at least one of the English sides before the semi finals.
What to watch for: Jose Mourinho.
…Alright, Eto’o too. His contest against John Terry might be the key to what the sides do. Terry has been dreadful lately and he’d better get his head screwed on tight, lest Chelsea should find themselves in a bad way come the return at Stamford Bridge.
Match Prediction: 2-2. Outside of Eto’o, this Didier Drogba guy has been laying a scorched earth policy on anyone who has faced the Blues lately. A goal from him would seem likely, as well as one from Eto’o and another case of dodgy Terry defending.
Tags: Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Champions League, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Lyon, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Soccer