Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Champions League Wednesday: Nightmare At Old Trafford And Camp Nou?Real Madrid dropping points isn’t helping Barcelona one bit; it puts them under dur

Football enthusiasts happily stayed awake last night for two heart stopping see-saw encounters which sailed Chelsea and Liverpool into semis. With that backdrop, there is a fear that tonight, an early Barcelona goal and Manchester United not conceding for 30 minutes will make the rest of night predictable, academic and just for keeps.

Sir Alex’s team doesn’t really play the defensive game, and should not too – since it would stress out their injury prone defenders. Last year this time, it was an injury hit backline which cost them a Champions League finals berth, and they would be twice shy. The weekend draw means, there is no comfort atop English Premiership League with another big game coming up against Arsenal.

United will play a game of possession and knowing the tough days ahead (and that Chelsea have easier of the domestic games), will prioritize not increasing visits to the hospital ward. Trailing by two goals, Roma will get the returning Totti to lead and attack from the start.

The United midfield would need to work overtime to ensure the Italian midfielders don’t get enough time on the ball to create any rhythm. If Roma don’t score by halftime, the rest of the match will be yet another academic exercise

Real Madrid dropping points isn’t helping Barcelona one bit; it puts them under duress to win their next La Liga game in hope of catching up with leaders. Mentally, Barcelona seems to have abandoned the league and hence the scenario doesn’t suit them. Versus Getafe on Sunday, looking at it positively, they hit the post thrice, rested Samuel Eto’o mid game, didn’t concede a goal and in fact apart from one open chance towards the end, Getafe hardly troubled Victor Valdes.

I reckon they would have beaten Getafe otherwise, but once it became clear they are in a must win scenario, we saw a more cautious Barcelona - lacking ideas in unlocking a defense, players unable to run into good positions and instead thinking too hard on what next to do.

Coach Frank Rijkaard’s pre-match briefing backs this view when he openly asked supporters to rally behind the club and not go over the top after every result.

Having no reprieve from the media barrage, Rijkaard’s men will again play with the same approach – ensure they don’t concede, look out for a 1-0 scoreline and get to the semifinals (that itself will be enough to proclaim Barcelona did better this year than last).

Strange is the burden of legacy and expectations you carry - Roma is being hailed as having a successful season, Barcelona and Chelsea coaches, despite achieving similar success are called for a sack.


- Barcelona to stuff out Schalke and play a 1-0 win. Their defenders to be stretched, young guns Bojan and Iniesta to rock.

- Manchester United to win 1-0 on a night where not much drama is expected.

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