After a week of looking like the figurehead from Arkanoid: Doh It Again, it would behoove the people to have something to read about the last round of matches before the quarterfinals are made full and complete. With half the roster already accounted for, the accompanying four from this weekend have some serious work to do to match last week.
First, we must start in Florence, where the fireworks were on full display in a match that provided the most compelling story of the first week of second leg ties. La viola were in absolute ecstasy after 55 minutes. Vargas had gotten them the home goal they needed midway through the first half but it was secured as Stevan Jovetic swept home to ensure that even a Bayern goal would merit only extra time. They were not made to wait long as a some snappy passing left Mark Van Bommel to punch home, allowing the score line to take the game into extra time if need be. Jovetic wasn’t done harrowing the Bayern defense, however, and gave the Florentine audience another chance for rapturous ovation.
Of course, a little over a minute later, Arjen Robben hit the goal of the tournament so far, a heat seeker and a half that stole the tie back to the Munich outfit, to which it was not threatened again. The hit capped the remarkable eleven minute stretch that covered the last four goals and provided the second highest drama of the week, only outdone by the only team that could possibly steal the spotlight from everyone short of the Pope.
Naturally, the axes were sharpened in the Spanish capital, but for whom was still subject for some debate. Lyon had frustrated Real Madrid using a hard line counter attack, which they naturally decided to abandon in the first half. Had someone wearing the whites had a better finishing touch, Madrid could have run Lyon out of the Bernabéu. Instead, a refocused (see: go back to what worked in the first place) Lyon ensured that they would not be the executioner’s target when a quarter hour from time, Miralem Pjanic powered past Iker Casillas and got the newspapers and editors on the war path. It should be mentioned that we also got the miss of the tournament twice in the same game, as Gonzalo Higuain’s poster was outdone by a Lisandro Lopez slice that even a golfer would be ashamed of.
The other two contests featured a whole lot of English goals. Arsenal put the boots to Porto as Nick Bendtner decided to do something about his Burnley showing and naturally slammed a hat trick past the hapless Portuguese outfit. The next day, Roonchester United (face it, the man is hotter than a supernova at the moment) blasted an equally hapless A.C. Milan side that showed up to Old Roonford only to get poleaxed by the great English hope now that David Beckham is no longer going to be available for the World Cup. As a purveyor of random injuries, my sympathies go out to the man.
This leads us to today and tomorrow, which will determine whether or not it will be a three country race for the Champions League title, whether or not the Italians will have anyone left after a disastrous first week and wonder if CSKA Moscow will have any energy after playing exactly twice since the first leg.
Chelsea v. Internazionale Milan
3:45 PM EST (Damn daylight savings time) @ Stamford Bridge
First leg: Inter 2 – 1 Chelsea
The First Leg: Inter and Chelsea played a fairly cautious opening match, at least by the standards of the other matches. Diego Milito found John Terry and scored within three minutes. (Insert gratuitous “HA!” sound effect) Chelsea proceeded to take multiple stabs at the Inter goal, finally breeching the earthworks on the foot of Salomon Kalou five minutes after the restart, only for Cambiasso to take the lead back five minutes later. Then, five minutes after that, Petr Cech went crashing down by his lonesome and will leave the Blues a healthy hole in the back for Tuesday’s clash.
What to watch for: Ross Turnbull. A long time ago, Chelsea acquired the net minder, confident in his abilities. That faith will be tested as Inter will probably need to get a goal in the contest to secure passage. Seeing as John Terry is not handing everyone shooting chances in the last couple of contests, he will need to be the man for the Blues.
Oh, yeah, and Jose Mourinho is back in England. Back at the Bridge. No big deal, though….
Prediction: Chelsea 3 – 1 Inter. The English home field domination continues in a big way.
Sevilla FC vs. CSKA Moscow
3:45 PM EST @ Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan
First Leg: CSKA Moscow 1 – 1 Sevilla
The First Leg: CSKA put in a good showing for having been building snowmen for two months. Sevilla got the opener through Negredo after Jesus Navas hit a pass that would have split the Red Sea. Neither side could get on top of things until Mark Gonzalez hit a bullet that gave the Moscow outfit a fighting chance today.
What to watch for: The weather. Yeah, kinda cheap here but the first leg was played in the freezer, whilst the return leg will be held in, ahem, slightly warmer confines. Someone will need to step up for CSKA if they want to take home the tie, a job that might be answered by Keisuke Honda.
Prediction: Sevilla 2 – 0 CSKA Moscow. The rojiblancos should handle their Russian opposition, kicking yet another country out of the running.
F.C. Barcelona vs. VfB Stuttgart
3:45 PM EST @ Estadio Nou Camp
First Leg: Stuttgart 1 – 1 Barcelona
The First Leg: The classical Tale Of Two Halves. The German outfit dominated the holders, getting their goal through Cacau. Barcelona stepped up the pace and, no matter how many times I can’t believe it, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in a big spot.
What to watch for: Alexander Hleb must use what little Barcelona experience he has to lead Die Roten to goal. Of course, I could pick anyone from Barcelona, so it might be fair to look at Gerard Pique, who must show more defensive work than he did for much of the first contest.
Prediction: Barcelona 4 – 0 Stuttgart. Barcelona run the riot through their German opposition and promptly thumb their noses in Madrid’s general direction.
Girondins de Bordeaux vs. Olympiakos
3:45 PM EST @ Stade Jacques Chaban-Delmas
First Leg: Olympiakos 0 – 1 Bordeaux
The First Leg: Michael Ciani provided the contest’s only goal, one for which Bordeaux were probably not worth their money for. Meanwhile, the Greek unit was denied at the death of a goal, with Matt Derbyshire was called for an infraction to deny Maresca’s hit, only moments after Fernando had barely kept Stoltidis’ shot out of the net.
What to watch for: The kitchen sink. This has the potential to grab the headlines from everyone else in terms of attacking play. Antonis Nikopolidis, the old gray man making his home in-between the Greek pipes, will surely be tested time after time against the creative Bordeaux outfit.
Prediction: Bordeaux 3 – 2 Olympiakos. Shootout goes the way of the French outfit in what becomes the most entertaining contest of the week.
Tags: Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Champions League, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Lyon, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Soccer