The Champions League Primer 4/27/10 – Semifinals (Leg 2)

Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

No, you could have probably predicted that the German champions would be able to score even after they went down to ten men at the Allianz Arena, especially after the rather cheap second yellow that was shown to Jeremy Toulalan, one that will not be as costly as the direct red shown to Franck Ribery.

No, I’m thinking a bit further south. Like, say, in Milan.

I mean, who honestly would have guessed that Inter would press Barcelona so hard that, one completely mind-numbed moment aside, the nerazzurri would rout the holders? Okay, there was that little detail about Dani Alves not getting a pretty clear penalty, but, then again, there is some small amount of doubt that every referee has when it comes to players who might have a, shall we say, “propensity” to dive. And, let me not be the first to say, there are a few people that come to mind when diving is thought of.

So, as it stands now, the Germans and Italians would be heading to Madrid to fight for the big trophy of Europe. Of course, minor details, such as the fact that both are traveling (by air, mind you) in the second leg mean that no lead is safe, especially given the home form of both hosts.

Tuesday

Olympique Lyonnais v. FC Bayern München

2:45 PM EST @ Stade de Gerland

First Leg: Bayern 1 – 0 Lyon

Review: It was as predicted: cautious and defensive. Lyon were not able to exploit the counterattack to any great effect while Bayern were able to probe forward, but weren’t able to really get at the Lyon rearguard. Things began to turn when late in the first half Ribery was sent off for a rather nasty stomp (intent was probably there, malicious it was not though) on Lisandro Lopez. The man advantage would not hold out forever as Toulalan would be double booked with in the opening third of the second half, allowing for more space for Arjen Robben to bamboozle the Lyon defense, though it might be a few singed hairs from the head of Thomas Muller that deserve the plaudits.

Both sides return injured players….maybe. Jean-Alain Boumsong should be back on the bench for Lyon, though he might be called into duty if Cris is crocked from the weekend. Michel Bastos is also in question, with Toulalan suspended. Bayern will not have Ribery or Danijel Pranjic through suspension, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk did not travel to France and Martin Demichelis and Daniel van Buyten picked up niggling knocks at the weekend. They are resupplied with Mark van Bommel, a big boost for the midfield.

What to watch for: Is the bus in the station or on the open road? That is what many will be wondering tactically when Bayern start the contest. Lyon will amp up the attack for certain, but whether or not they will have to cover themselves at any point is yet to be seen.

Prediction: Lyon 2 – 1 Bayern. Gary Lineker said it best: “Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and in the end — the Germans win.” Expect nothing less as the Munich men march to Madrid.

Wednesday

FC Barcelona v. Internazionale Milan

2:45 PM EST @ Nou Camp

First Leg: Inter 3 – 1 Barca

Review: It started out like any other Barca match: pressure and passing combined with quality runs. A late break and some “who, me?” defending saw a poor cross end up in the back of the net via Pedro. Diego Milito missed a couple of good opportunities to get Inter back into the contest. Wesley Sneijder would eventually equalize for Inter, but it seemed like Barca were ready to cruise through the contest and maybe poach a second goal.

Then, of course, the second half began.

Within 15 minutes, Inter had smashed the Barca defense open for two more, albeit the third being a tad fortunate in terms of Sneijder’s awful hit that actually turned into an assist to Milito (apparently the karmatic effect of awful to awesome) even if he was a tad offside. Hey, if they weren’t going to call it against Bayern against Fiorentina, why would you think they’d do it on a closer call?

While Barca have all their toys up front available to them for the return, Inter have two major issues at hand. The health of Sneijder and Maicon are two unknowns at this point, though it is likely neither will feature. A monstrous blow as both were at the best of Inter’s movements.

What to watch for: Again, tactics make a big difference. The health of the aforementioned due for Inter will determine just how deep the nerazzurri sit and for how long. Lucio becomes a big player if Maicon is unavailable.

Also, Messi is still playing for Barca. Just in case you forgot. Although, to be fair, Ibrahimovic must show up for the occasion and justify all the things he thinks of himself, assuming he isn’t relegated to the bench.

Prediction: Time to go out on a limb.

Barca 1 – 0 Inter. The holders attack in wave after wave, but breaking down Inter becomes too much of a chore and only squeeze in one late goal to set up a dramatic race to the finish, one that Inter desperately hangs on to sneak in to the final at Madrid.

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