Champs League: Arselona, CSKA-Inter


Arsenal – Barcelona

Update: Cesc STARTS for the home side word...use it.

• 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

No go if they don't go....

• 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

Meanwhile at the Hall of Justice:

• 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).

38 responses to this post.

  1. RE: Milner article. Capello sounds like he’s offering a warning to Gerrard in there as well… wouldn’t be talking about Lampard after the points haul he’s put together for the fantasy side the last couple weeks. Funny, considering something I was just writing… Might Capello change the system and start Milner on the left over Gerrard?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/30 at 11:34 AM

      That would be great and I think the right play Tuesday, but does Capello have those balls yet…not sure.

      On the Champ’s League line-up today, here’s something impressive on Manchester United, how many configurations can they be successful in?

      Today he goes with Rooney up top, Scholes behind him flanked by Nani and Park (Park to counter Ribery) and then the non-dynamic duo of Carrick and Fletcher.

      Right line-up in my opinion too…


      • Yeah, Capello does. The key to international management is so often sacrificing that star player that doesn’t quite fit for the good of the team.

        United line up in a 4-2-3-1… Hopefully Ferguson has been sharing some tips with Bradley, like he claimed and it’s not just name-dropping.


      • Posted by Ben on 2010/03/30 at 12:38 PM

        I was just going to post something about this line-up.

        Couldn’t the US trot something out like this come June? Rico and Bradley as Fletcher and Carrick, Holden and Donovan are Park and Nani, Duece playing as Scholes, and Altidore up there trying to hold his own?

        Bayern is dominating possession right now, but Man Utd has got the lead, and a few more chances on counters…


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/30 at 12:49 PM

          As long as Altidore is supported it certainly makes sense…more so when you consider that the US has subs in Bedoya and Beasley who would thrive in the formation as well.


  2. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/30 at 11:58 AM

    It will be interesting to see Neville trying to shackle Ribery, especially if Ribery cuts inside on his right foot. I also wonder if Ferguson brings on Valencia around the 60-65 minute mark like he did against Milan?


  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/30 at 12:13 PM

    Now 1-0 Manchester

    Watching game here:

    I don’t think Valencia’s type of game, staying very wide with the cross as the weapon is the right call here…especially with a 1-0 lead.


  4. Posted by Ben on 2010/03/30 at 1:37 PM

    Anybody see Rooney just limp off the field? uh oh…


  5. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/30 at 1:42 PM

    Yup – just commented on that — not good at all.

    What a gritty comeback by Munich. Absorbed everything from Manchester United, put up with shaky defense in the back and grinds out the 2-1 win. Fan of BM’s effort this evening.


  6. Fan of Bayern everyday. What an outstanding effort from the boys tonight!
    Olic has more hustle than most players and it finally paid off huge!!
    Off to England for another huge game with more started back on the field.


  7. Posted by Joe on 2010/03/31 at 8:03 AM

    Only 4 week for Rooney?!? Damn, I was waiting for them to say MONTHS.😦


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/31 at 8:06 AM

      No, no, no….we want England at their best….or if the States do admirably then there are excuses.

      I hate this actually….another point here: Sir Alex gets to prove his mettle here with Rooney missing both big EPL battles and Champ’s League.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/31 at 9:46 AM

        Even without Rooney, England still have enough to beat the US and top the group with 9 points. But it’s a non-argument, he should be back between 2 and 4 weeks according to The Guardian et al.


  8. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/31 at 9:43 AM

    I would have liked it more if United didn’t sit back as much and not have left Rooney so isolated up front. I think Feguson made changes a little late – I would have introduced Valencia earlier as Nani didn’t trouble their left back that much. There was a massive slice of fortune about Ribery’s deflected goal, (and a stupid free kick for Neville** to concede) but to be honest, Bayern Munich didn’t derserve to be behind. And their 2nd goal – while Olic deserves some praise, what was Evra thinking about? Will Vidic rue that miss? He should have scored…

    **Can somebody please tell the kit man at United that his brother Phil is no longer there? Having “G. Neville” on his back is unnecessary when “Neville” will do…


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/31 at 9:59 AM

      Too funny on Neville.

      You know what I saw on that last play beyond Patrice Evra being once again careless with the ball this year. A very flat-footed Rio Ferdinand lacking agility. He probably doesn’t make the play, but he looked absolutely slow when Olic came flying in.

      I think you saw yesterday the risks of Manchester United in the 4-5-1 because they really say way back.

      Rooney was allowed a lot of the central offensive pitch to operate.

      While Rooney loves picking his runs and spots, if it’s not working then you have to start linking more and Scholes really didn’t do that exceedingly well yesterday.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/31 at 10:35 AM

        You are correct about Ferdinand, but I guess you cannot account for Evra not getting rid of the ball. Ferdinand was stationary whereas Olic was running across him – it would have been an absolutely brilliant tackle for him to take the ball and not the man – resulting in a penalty and red card…

        I don’t like Rooney as the lone striker, he works so much with a hurly-burly partner (such as Heskey!). I know they were playing an ‘away’ game but still. At least they have an away goal.


  9. Posted by Jon C on 2010/03/31 at 10:35 AM

    Everything Mourinho says in the press is calculated, he is a master at manipulating the press. He routinely plants info like how he “hates Italy” to draw attention and pressure away from his players and onto him. Inter is coming off the emotionally draining series with Chelsea and had a bit of a letdown against Roma after that. I think this is just his way of diverting the press’ attention from that fact and onto himself.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/31 at 10:38 AM

      I agree he’s calculated and usually very good with these things.

      But, and just my opinion, I think it’s a little too much right now.

      If I’m a player, I might be like that’s enough already…..but could go both ways…you’re right.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/31 at 10:42 AM

        I like the principle of JM ‘protecting’ his players, he thinks he’s stealth but clearly isn’t… In reality though, he more like a member of the KKK at a Puff Daddy concert.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/31 at 6:46 PM

      If you like Jose Mourinho, you should watch That Damned United. Brian Clough is STILL the man.


  10. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/31 at 10:39 AM

    I am glad Vermalen is back. I was sweating buckets at the thought of Messi skipping around Campbell as if he wasn’t there…

    I can see Arsenal getting gunned down, or more likely, shooting themselves in the foot from goalkeeping errors.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/31 at 10:44 AM

      If Arsenal’s CDMs Diaby/Song can have good games (solid tackling, and linking up to Cesc, Arshavin and perhaps most importantly shutting down Barca as they break from the back) I think they’ve got a good shot at home.

      Big If’s, but achievable If’s


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/31 at 10:48 AM

        No you’re right – they just have to be intelligent about it. Standing toe-to-toe, so to speak, isn’t clever. And if Bendtner is playing, he needs to take his chances as I am sure Barca will.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/31 at 10:53 AM

          It’s a time like today that a Jozy Altidore for Arsenal would be very valuable. Yes, I just said that…


  11. Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/03/31 at 12:02 PM

    Wow Almunia. . .


    • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/03/31 at 12:05 PM

      Which brings to mind.. . .who’s the last goalie, in any major competition, to get a 10.0 match rating?


      • If you ask a Manchester United fan it would have to be Schmiechal. The way they talk about him, the man did no wrong and is better while wheel-chair bound (I know he’s not) than Ben Foster on top form.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/31 at 2:25 PM

          Peter Schmeichel IMO is the best keeper there has ever been in the modern game (I include Kahn. Buffon, Barthez, Van Der Sar, Cech, Freidel, Given, whoever)- he had everything and he hardly made any mistakes. If you could measure it by how many points a keeper earned a team then he would be at the top by a mile. Not sure if you watched the Prem in the mid-90s, but when there was a one-on-one, Schmeichel was so good, the striker was not the favourite to score!


  12. Best comment of the day at Arselona halftime “Arsenal are surviving a nil-nil shelacking (or something to that effect).”


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/31 at 12:48 PM



    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/31 at 12:51 PM

      Wow. What a call by guardiola coming out of the half. Nearly 80 percent possession in the first half and Barca go long ball surprise for the score.

      Manager’s goal.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/31 at 1:26 PM

      Wow. What a turn of events. Terrible call.
      Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/31 at 2:20 PM

      I stand corrected — replays showed a good call.

      On Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 1:26 PM, wrote:

      > Wow. What a turn of events. Terrible call. > Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry > > —–Original Message—– > From:


  13. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/31 at 2:30 PM

    I have no clue how Barcelona didn’t put this tie to bed in the first 20 minutes. They had so many chances. From an Arsenal point of view, what a soft goals to give away, especially the first. What was Almunia thinking of?

    I have to be happy with Walcott’s contribution. He looked really good every time he used his pace to get behind the full back. Good goal, but to be honest, the keeper has to get down quicker.


    • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/03/31 at 5:17 PM

      George you know exactly why Barcelona weren’t up 5 nil in the first 20% of the match: Almunia happened.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/31 at 6:41 PM

        So, Ibrahimovic skying it over the bar was down to Almunia? Listen, with the chances Barcelona had, they should’ve burried them, giving the keeper no chance.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/31 at 6:50 PM

          Completely agree…


        • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/03/31 at 9:11 PM

          Yea I agree as well, but misses like that happen all the time. Messi does it, Connor Casey does it, Arshavin does it, Landon does it, Drogba & Anelka do it. Of course there’s no excuse for players at the highest level of football not putting those away but . .I don’t know I guess I’m just overwhelmed by Almunia’s display in the 1st


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