Arsenal – Barcelona
Update: Cesc STARTS for the home side
• Will Cesc Fabregas play? Far and away the biggest inflection point in this one. We’ve mentioned it a few times on this publication, that is that Barcelona does two things well on defense: maintain possession and, recently, close down the other teams deep ball handlers further up the pitch. The midfield will be where this game is won.
• If Cesc is out, and recent reports have him starting, I’m curious to see what line-up Arsene Wenger goes with and how he attacks.
I think he’s got to have Bendtner in there for the long ball over the top if they’re having a problem moving it. Who’s Cesc’s replacement if he can’t go, Diaby?
TSG thinks Fabregas will play as he is that critical to Arsenal having success on the day.
• Further, personnel-wise for the Wengers, they’ll have Thomas Vermaelen back thankfully. He and Gallas, recently recovered as well, in the middle are a better pairing than Milito and Puyol for the Camp Nou visitors.
However, the Barca central defense does’t have to face a Lionel Messi. That’s why Alex Song as one of the defense middies in front of Gallas and Vermaelen is probably the most pivotal central defender in this one.
• For Barca, Iniesta is out. They too need to defend the midfield so as to not expose an average back line to the threat of what will likely be Arshavin, Bendtner and Nasri(?) on the right.
CSKA Moscow – Inter
• A lot less about about personnel in this one in my opinion.
CSKA is fresh as the Russian league is just kicking off. On the other side of the ball you have Inter, who seem to be emotionally drained after their big series with Chelsea. You have their draw with Roma this past weekend where Inter struggled to create offense and you now have the Special One commenting that Italy hates him and it’s not the place for him. Poor timing, pal.
• If your a USMNT fan (as I presume you are), you are going to want to check out this man below. His name is Tomas Necid and he’s shortly coming to a pitch near you….and that pitch would be Rentschler Field in Connecticut, as Necid starts and stars for the Czech Republic. You can consider Necid a scorer in the manner of a cross between a Clint Dempsey and Pippo Inzaghi. He always seems to be making the right run and always seems to pop up where the ball is in a great place to be smacked into the goal.
Bayern Munich – Manchester United
• If no Robben and no Ribery, then likely no relief for Bayern Munich. If I’m Sir Alex, I’m just stacking the middle on defense against Bayern, that simple. Note, Ribery, despite an ankle knock is expected to play.
• Will Nani dazzle on the main Europe stage with his new contracted freshly signed? He goes up against one of the best in Philip Lahm.
• Was Saturday against Bolton a coming-out party finally for the mercurial Dimitar Berbatov? This would be a great game to build on that last one.
• Munich manager Louis Van Gaal trying to get in Edwin Van Der Saar’s head by calling him a “manufactured” and not natural, goalkeeper. Are there many better?
Lyon – Bordeaux
• No Alou Diarra due to cards for Bordeaux.
• Great perspective, from who else but the “other” Guardian on the magnitude of the all French clash.
• More insights and links over at our friends at Ligue1Talk.com
• Benny Feilhaber recovered and on the bench for AFG Aarhus’s match with Esjberg tomorrow.
• “Cesc It Ain’t So”: Fabregas struggling against the clock to participate in tomorrow’s showdown with Barca.
• James Milner has already made the England squad as he well should. TSG thinks he should start over Gareth Barry (except on June 12th when we want the States to expose Barry).