Friday, 25 February 2011

Champions League Round of 16 - Brief Analysis Part 2

The second set of Champions League Round of 16 first legs took place this week. This week's entertainment level may have dropped, with only 5 goals being scored as opposed to 11 last week.

Below, I take a look at some points of interest with the aid of the excellent Total Football - Champions League iPhone app.

Impact Substitution
Jose Mourinho has shown this season that he doesn't necessarily trust Karim Benzema at the top end of his team. Emmanuel Adebayor has been brought in on loan from Manchester City, and on Tuesday night he started the match away at Lyon. To say that the ex-Arsenal striker was rather ineffective would be an understatement. Within 40 seconds of coming on as Adebayor's replacement, Karim Benzema grabbed the opening goal against his old side. A great goal after a mazy dribble across the opposition penalty area gave Madrid a crucial away goal to take back to the Bernabeu.

Firing Blanks
Marseille v Manchester United was not the most exciting game. Both sides seemed to be overly cautious, and although Marseille will consider a 0-0 draw a good result, they still have a difficult task of getting a score draw or better at Old Trafford. Manchester United were especially poor going forward, having only 2 shots on target in the match. Their 8 shots at goal was the lowest total of all the 16 teams that played over the last two weeks.

Torres bedding in
Chelsea got a comfortable 2-0 win at Copenhagen on Tuesday night, and look set to make the Quarter Finals with relative ease. They started the game with new signing Fernando Torres partnering Nicolas Anelka up front. The duo managed 13 shots between them and were far too much for Copenhagen to contain. Although Torres did not get a goal, his movement was excellent throughout the game and he got into numerous goalscoring positions. It shouldn't be long before the Spanish striker nets his first goal for his new club.

Bayern show their class
Louis van Gaal's Bayern Munich recorded a fantastic 1-0 away win in their first leg with Internazionale on Wednesday. Inter did have chances of their own, with Samuel Eto'o coming close on a few occasions, but Bayern were bright and bold throughout, and got the winner in the 90th minute through Mario Gomez. Arjen Robben created the goal when he cut in from the right wing and had a shot which was parried by Julio Cesar. Robben tried this all evening, often picking the ball up in a very wide position. The Inter defenders doubled up on him well for most of the match in order to stop him cutting inside, but they ultimately failed.

Bastian Schweinsteiger also had an excellent game, controlling the midfield and dictating Bayern's play throughout. Schweinsteiger attempted and completed the most passes of any player on the pitch. As can be seen on the chalkboard below, the German midfielder concentrated the majority of his balls out wide, looking for the consistently dangerous Robben and Ribery.

Week Ahead: Big games at the top

After a midweek of European action, there are a host of top of the table clashes across Europe's top leagues this weekend.

Saturday 26 February 2011
Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund
Bundesliga: Kick-off - 17:30 GMT

Bayern come into this game in good form. Louis van Gaal's side have won 4 of their last 5 in the Bundesliga, and their win on Wednesday night at the San Siro will also be a confidence boost ahead of this game. Dortmund are still 13 points ahead of the German Champions in the league, and while the result of this game is unlikely to alter the destination of the title, it could go a long way to proving whether Bayern Munich are back to their best.

Odds - Bayern Munich (4/5) Draw (5/2) Dortmund (3/1)

Sunday 27 February 2011
Lille v Lyon
Ligue 1: Kick-off - 20:00 GMT

After a good 1-1 draw at home with Real Madrid on Tuesday, Lyon will see this game as their chance to grab hold of Ligue 1. Lille are currently top of the table, but with only 1 win in 3 in the league they desperately need three points on Sunday night. Rudi Garcia's side were also knocked out of the Europa League this week, losing 5-3 on aggregate to PSV. Lyon's experience may prove key in this top of the table clash.

Odds - Lille (11/10) Draw (9/4) Olympique Lyonnais (13/5)

Monday 28 February 2011
Milan v Napoli
Serie A: Kick-off - 19:45

This is a huge game in the race for the Serie A title. Napoli visit the San Siro just 3 points behind leaders AC Milan, and victory for Walter Mazzarri's side would throw everything up in the air. An away win could also bring Internazionale right back into the mix, who are currently only 5 points behind in third position. Milan won the reverse fixture in October, but Serie A top goalscorer Edinson Cavani will be hoping to help his team achieve an historic victory on Monday night.

Odds - Milan (4/5) Draw (5/2) Napoli (7/2)

Tuesday 1 March 2011
Chelsea v Manchester United
Premier League: Kick-off - 19:45

Due to postponements earlier in the season, Chelsea and Manchester United have yet to face each other at all in the Premier League this season. Manchester United play Wigan, Chelsea and Liverpool all in a week, all away from home. United played out a disappointing and rather boring 0-0 draw away at Marseille on Tuesday night, and there is a chance that they will travel to Stamford Bridge with containment in mind. Away from home this season Man Utd have drawn 0-0 with both Manchester City and Spurs. Chelsea will be hoping that Fernando Torres can quickly rediscover his form, while Ferguson's side will be hoping to benefit from Chelsea's seemingly fragile confidence.

Odds - Chelsea (5/4) Draw (11/5) Manchester United (12/5)

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Champions League Round of 16 - Brief Analysis

The Champions League Round of 16 began this week with four 1st leg matches. Three of the games ended with rather surprising results as Shakhtar and Tottenham both won away in Italy, and Arsenal beat Barcelona 2-1 at the Emirates.

Below, I take a look at some points of interest with the aid of the excellent Total Football - Champions League iPhone app.

England’s rising star
Jack Wilshere has been getting a lot of positive press recently, and in last night’s game he showed off his qualities superbly. Against Barcelona, keeping the ball while under pressure is vitally important, and Wilshere was magnificent in possession. He completed 90% of his passes in the match and showed a level of composure with the ball that is a rare sight among English midfielders. Of course, the master of passing Xavi Hernandez was pulling the most strings again last night, but Wilshere managed to show his class despite Arsenal only having 39% possession.

Mixed Gunners fire power
Before the game Barcelona may have concentrated their attention on Theo Walcott. The lightning fast winger who caused the Catalans a lot of trouble last season may have been picked out as the danger man, but it was in form striker Robin Van Persie who caused most upset.

The Dutchman was a constant thorn in the side of the Barca defence, having 7 shots and scoring the equalising goal.

Walcott on the other hand struggled to make any impact on the game, only completing 9 passes during the 76 minutes that he was on the pitch.

Spurs’ hard work pays off
Every Tottenham player put in a great performance on Tuesday night as Spurs beat AC Milan 1-0 in the San Siro. The win was fully deserved and came on the back of an excellent team performance. Spurs worked extremely hard to restrict Milan and stopped their midfield from creating. Wilson Palacios and Sandro were an instrumental part of Tottenham’s defensive solidity.

This hard work not only restricted Milan, but allowed Tottenham to begin attacks of their own. Away from home, Spurs managed to have twice the amount of shots on target that Milan did.

Harry Redknapp got his tactics spot on all night, and bringing on Luka Modric after 61 minutes was another clever thing to do. Milan were starting to attack with more purpose and the game was getting tougher for Spurs. The introduction of Luka Modric meant that Tottenham were better able to retain possession. Modric only gave the ball away once and was responsible for the pass which set Aaron Lennon away in the build up to the only goal of the game.

Roma wasteful
A demoralising 3-2 home defeat was not how Roma would have wanted to start the Champions League knockout stage. Shakhtar Donetsk look in complete control of the tie after a great result against a rather wasteful Roma side. Only 4 of the home side’s 22 shots hit the target.

Record Breaker Raul
A 1-1 draw at the Mestalla leaves this tie in the balance, but it was ex Real Madrid striker Raul who took the headlines. His equalising goal for Schalke in the 64th minute means that he breaks the record for the most goals in European competition history. Congratulations to Raul and his amazing 71 goal haul.