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.

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