Road to Rome : Second leg preview

13 04 2009

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So with the lightning quickness that you have to love this half of the season for, we’re back to the second legs of the Champions League Quarter Finals this week. As it stands, one half of the draw is completely in the balance, and the other half appears to be done. Rarely is it that easy at this level though.

For Arsenal, Villarreal, Porto and Manchester United there is still everything to play for, and any combination of those teams could be playing in the Semi Finals. For Liverpool and Bayern Munich, it seems a mere formality before they go tumbling out of the competition.

But will it be all that easy?

Chelsea Vs Liverpool (Chelsea currently lead 3-1 on agg)

Its quite simple, Liverpool have to score three times at Stamford Bridge if they’re going to have any hope of keeping the European dream alive. It seems a big ask, but it certainly is not as big an ask as it would have been 12 months ago, when Stamford Bridge was an absolute fortress. Who was it that broke that run again? Oh yes, it was Liverpool.

Games between these sides are rarely simple, and indeed its certainly going to be open. Liverpool have to attack from the first minute if they want to get a result, which should mean gaps at the back give Chelsea a chance to get some chances away. I’ll be surprised (for once) if we don’t see a flurry of goals in this game.

Alot perhaps is going to come down to Steven Gerrard. The midfielder sat out the weekend’s game injured, but he is winning his battle to get back for this one. He’s going to have to play – and a hell of alot better than he did in the first leg, where he was utterly shackled by Essien, if Liverpool are going to have a hope.

Bayern Munich V Barcelona (Barca lead 4-0 on agg)

Will Barcelona regret going easy on Bayern in the second half of thier first leg encounter? It seems unlikely, but its never out of the question. Never in the history of the Champions League has a team overturned a 4-0 loss, and its all going to be about how the two teams react as they come out of the tunnel.

If Bayern come out thinking they’ve lost already, then its game over. The only way that Bayern can get back into this tie is if Barca think the match is won, and Bayern are determined its not. Certainly both managers have a bit of a job on their hands.

Its an easier job for Pep Guardiola admittedly. But he still has to convince his boys to go out there and start exactly as they did in the first leg. If he does, he know he can dispirit the Bayern team and the game is won. If his players go out thinking the job is done, perhaps then we’ll have a shock. But Bayern will have to play out of their skins to get it. And while they probably have the talent, they don’t seem to have the mental strength.

That and if Barca do score an away goal, which seems inevitable, it really is over.

Arsenal Vs Villarreal (Currently 1-1 on agg)

The first leg was a genuine game of two halves, Arsenal had a nightmareish first that saw Marcos Senna get a beautiful goal, William Gallas and Almunia taken off injured and three yellow cards. They very much rallied in the second 45 though, and a valuable away goal from an incredible Adebayour strike meant that they come back to North London with a slight advantage.

The big news is that Marcos Senna got himself injured at the weekend. A massive player in the first leg, that might just be the boost that Arsenal need. Arsenal’s weekend was better, they went 1-0 down, but rallied to score four goals, and saw thier Champions League place kept pretty safe due to the draw between Villa and Everton.

FC Porto V Manchester United (2-2 on agg)

Porto shocked pretty much everybody with their performance in the first leg at Old Trafford, and deserved their late goal which put them in the driving seat at home. No English side has ever won an away tie against Porto, so Man United are not going to find this easy.

The key really for United is that they have to win, outright. A 0-0 or 1-1 draw would send United out on away goals, bringing back memories of that loss against Jose Mourinho’s Porto. Extra time will want to be avoided if possible as Man United have an FA Cup Semi Final against Everton at the weekend.

If Porto believe that it can be done, United are going to have one hell of a fight on their hands, and we might just see the biggest upset of the tournament so far

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