Friday, March 26, 2010

Champions League Draw - Arsenal v Barcelona

Here it is, the one everybody has been waiting for (The match, not my blog post). The two best passing teams in the world. The two most attacking sides in Europe. Two sides oozing with talent and quality who seem to bring world class youngsters through their academies just for fun. Just about guarantees it will finish 0-0 and come down to penalty kicks in a shootout.

Seriously, given all of the attacking talent on display, it is safe to say this tie will be decided by defense. The problem for Arsenal here is that a major part of their defense (William Gallas) has a calf injury and is out for the first leg, and probably the whole tie. This leaves Thomas Vermaelen, who has been a rock at the back, along with Sol Campbell, who will struggle to keep up with the likes of Pedro, Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi. Alexandre Song will play the holding midfield role, and he will attempt to shield the back four. THis is especially important because a lot of what Barcelona does in possession starts deep, with Xavi and Iniesta working their way through the midfield to create chances for Messi, Pedro, and Ibrahimovic.

As for the Catalan giants, they have their own defensive frailties. Puyol is well past his prime, and Dani Alves is not exactly known for his defending. A lot will fall on Busquets, who has been patrolling central midfield recently, as the manager does not appear to be seeing eye-to-eye with Yaya Toure. The movement of Arshavin and Nasri, coupled with the passing of Fabregas, will give Barca's back-line a lot to deal with. I would like to think we are in for a couple of rollicking 4-3 games, resulting in a wild 30 minutes of extra time at the Camp Nou, but that is unlikely.

I am going against the grain a little bit here, as I think Arsenal will nick it. They will take a lead to Spain, and score an away goal that allows them to progress. In fact I am going to go ahead and make a bold prediction. Arsenal will not only win this tie, they will get to the final, and lift the trophy in Madrid in May.

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