Friday, December 15, 2006

UEFA Champions League: Round of 16 Match Ups

So UEFA made their Champions League draw this morning, setting up some very interesting match ups. Here were my predictions from last week:

Chelsea vs. Inter Milan
Arsenal vs. Lille
Manchester United vs. PSV Eindhoven
Lyon vs. Celtic
AC Milan vs. Real Madrid
Bayern Munich vs. Roma
Liverpool vs. Barcelona
Valencia vs. FC Porto

Here are the actual match ups:

Chelsea vs. FC Porto
Arsenal vs. PSV Eindhoven
Manchester United vs. Lille
Lyon vs. AS Roma
AC Milan vs. Celtic
Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
Liverpool vs. Barcelona
Valencia vs. Inter Milan

I find it very funny that the only one I got right was Liverpool vs. Barcelona. The two most recent champions duking it out in the 2nd round. It is a very good draw, but I don’t see Liverpool being anything more than a speed bump for Barcelona on their way to the Semi-Finals.

I got the Arsenal and Manchester United match ups reversed, as Lille plays Manchester United and PSV play Arsenal. Arsenal we given one of the better match ups of the second round, but I question whether or not Arsene Wenger’s men will get past PSV. I know that they were really expected to do much last season and they made it to within about 20 minutes of winning their first crown, but I think that the luck has run dry.

Manchester United was given the easiest draw of the round and that is what scares me. Jonah Freedman put Man U at #5 in his weekly Power Rankings on CNN/SI.com, citing their lazy attitude in form this season. When they get an early lead, they tend to sit back and try and coast out for the win. It isn’t until they get behind that they really apply the gas and take it to an opponent, just as they did against Benfica. Going up against a club that is universally accepted as the weakest of the 16 clubs left in the Champions League, I hope that they do not sleep walk into their two matches and blow this chance to finally advance to the Quarter Finals for the first time in 4 years. All in all, Manchester United should go through to the Quarter Finals.

Chelsea has been handed a relatively easy 2nd round match up, considering that the last two seasons they have been thrown into the lions den with Barcelona. FC Porto is by any means, not a push over, but then again, they aren’t Chelsea. Jose Mourinho leads his current club against his former club, so that should be an intriguing match up, one that Chelsea wins.

Lyon gets to take on AS Roma. If you remove Tottie, all you are left with is a club without a leader and without their leader, they really don’t stand a chance. Lyon are probably the best club in Europe right now and their place in the Quarter Finals is pretty much assured. After Roma, the march to Athens gets harder for the French League 1 leaders.

AC Milan was given Scottish Champions, Celtic. Regardless of their current domestic woes in Serie A, Milan should be able to handle the Bhoys and use their European run as a way of deflecting their problems in the league.

Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid. That is an intriguing match up and one that should provide us with two really good matches. The only catch with this match up is that both of these clubs have shown major problems in their form this season. Bayern won their group, winning their first three matches, then drawing the last three, and showed a major lack of focus in the last match as they allowed Inter to snatch the draw in the 90th minute. If they play as they did in the first three group phase matches, then they should give Madrid headaches, especially the back line which hasn’t been the strongest of defenses. If Madrid plays as they did against Barcelona in the first Classico this season, then they should be up for the challenge. If they play as they did against Lyon in the first match of the group phase, then Real will have plenty of time to focus on the La Liga title race.

Valencia takes on Inter Milan in was might be the dark horse of the 2nd round. Inter are steam rolling their way to their first legitimate Serie A title since the birth of Christ (just joking, but it seems like they haven’t won since then). Their form in the group phase wasn’t anything to write home to Mom about, but they advanced out of the group phase and this is where they usually get down to business. Valencia on the other hand, are sitting 9th in La Liga, yet they won their group with four wins a draw and a loss. Granted that their group was not a “Group of Death,” but they still took control of the group, which should allow them some very good momentum going into their match up with Inter. I believe that Inter gets to the Quarter Finals, but Valencia are more than capable of knocking off the Serie A leaders.

So here are my predictions for the 2nd Round: (Clubs in italics advance)

Chelsea vs. FC Porto
Arsenal vs. PSV Eindhoven
Manchester United vs. Lille
Lyon vs. AS Roma
AC Milan vs. Celtic
Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
Liverpool vs. Barcelona
Valencia vs. Inter Milan

1 Comments:

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