Champions League Quarter Final Draw
Total Pro Sports – Friday morning’s UEFA Champions League quarter final draw wasn’t in the business of surprises, as for the fifth consecutive season Liverpool and Chelsea will matchup in Europe’s premier club challenge. We also won’t be seeing the much anticipated battle of Europe’s top two until the final, as the semi final draw pits Arsenal/Villarreal vs. Manchester United/Porto, with Chelsea/Liverpool vs. Barcelona/Bayern Munich on the other side of the bracket; United and Barca will have to wait until the May 27th final for their anticipated showdown.
Arsenal – Villarreal CF
A lot of people pegged Villarreal as the quarter finals whipping boys, but history is on their side: their last four meetings with Manchester United have ended in a 0-0 draw, and they hold latter stage victories over Rangers and Internazionale. Villarreal aren’t outstanding but can hold their ground and frustrate opponents, exactly what the over-meticulous Arsenal didn’t want to face. Arsenal’s lack of squad depth has really been exposed this season but with their title challenge over and Aston Villa hitting their annual end of season slump, the Champions League is their only focus. Both sides will be satisfied with this draw, but I have Villarreal winning in a minor upset.
Manchester United – FC Porto
The rich get richer as United are given a cakewalk path to the final; I have Porto as my weakest team remaining and even the out of form Man Utd European side should win comfortably over the two legs. Manchester United only has 3 wins so far stumbling their way to the quarters, and we wait to see how they react to their 4 goal demolition at the hands of Liverpool, but they tend to finish the year strong and their last defeat at the hands of Arsenal sparked a dazzling run of unbeaten form. United can be susceptible to set pieces and are prone to lapses in communication, but with a pretty short side boasting no forward over 5ft10 United won’t feel threatened. Through injury and performance United have been forced into a merry-go-round at right back, but without now Chelsea (via Inter) winger Ricardo Quaresma, Porto lack width to exploit an inexperienced player like Rafael or an uncomfortable player like John O’Shea. United advance with ease.
Liverpool – Chelsea
Eight games in the last four years have produced 2 Liverpool wins, 2 Chelsea wins and 4 ties, making this the undesired rubber match. Not known as an entertaining matchup, a resurgent Chelsea face a buoyant Liverpool in the midst of their best season in recent memory, and will look to setup a fiery grudge match with Barcelona in the semi final. European and Premier League Liverpool are two very different beasts, but the crux of the side remains the same: lacking an elite defence means Liverpool often rely on Fernando Torres or Champions League top scorer Steven Gerrard to bail them out. When healthy Torres plays like the number one striker in the world, but he and Gerrard have struggled to stay fit and have only lined up together 9 times all season. The aggressive power running of Gerrard causes enough confusion to give Torres room to use his exceptional athleticism, and Liverpool need both available for their competitive run-in. Chelsea have rallied under Guus Hiddink and are getting back to the balanced side of the Mourinho era which defended first and scored goals later, so I have Chelsea beating Liverpool and ending a season based on rich form as supposed to actual substance.
Barcelona – FC Bayern Munich
The glamour tie of the second round sees the pride of Catalonia face a Bayern side that have reversed their Bundesliga fortunes after pitiful early form. Barcelona manager Pepe Guardiola isn’t a conventional coach, but instead a phenomenal man manager who has inspired Barca to go 6 points clear atop of La Liga. Centre-halve partnership Puyol and Marquez perhaps lack the physicality to deal with an imposing striker like Luca Toni, but Guardiola will be confident that Yaya Toure and Xavi will bully any midfield they face and pick them apart from there. It’s worth noting that this tie features the two highest scoring sides of the competition so far; Munich hit 5 and 7 in the last round, whilst Barca have netted 5 on three occasions. Munich aren’t what they were, and I think Barcelona debacle them.