Normally I don’t spend too much time thinking about the non-Arsenal games. This time though, the fixtures are intriguing enough to merit a post. Let me start with our English rivals.
Inter Milan V Chelsea
In the recent past English teams have been dominating the ties with their Italian counterparts. This fixture might just change that.
Mourinho claims the Chelsea team still plays the way he taught them to.
The last time I was there [Stamford Bridge] I was watching all the details with attention. Even the warm-up is the warm-up they did in our time. The way they defend set pieces is exactly the same. The position they have on set pieces is exactly the same.
Sometimes they play a 4-4-2 diamond, sometimes they play 4-3-3, which are exactly the systems we worked when there.
When I look at that team only Ivanovic and Anelka are not players from my time. All the other boys: Petr Cech, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Essien, Mikel, Drogba, Malouda, Joe Cole, Kalou; all of them are boys from my time.
He is right and it makes sense. When somebody is given hundreds of millions to buy players it is likely that the squad will not change much over the next few years. Not even the richest owners can afford to revamp the whole squad based on each manager’s whim. Similarly, Mourinho is without a doubt the best defensive manager in the world so there is no reason for the team to change the systems that he has perfected and that have worked so well for them.
Just like Wenger said, “ nothing + nothing = nothing” about the Cesc story, I see this game as a, “boring + boring = boring” fixture. I guess this will be the most closely fought second round tie and one goal over 180 minutes might settle the contest. I wouldn’t mind the extra dose of boredom as long as Chelsea are dumped out.
AC Milan V Manchester United
A couple of weeks ago I thought Milan might put up a fight as they were on a nice run and United have been shaky this year. However, since the San Siro derby the Rossoneri have lost some momentum. Historically the Italians have a great record against United and their experience is their only hope. I can’t see them out scoring United or Leonardo outwitting Fergie in a tactical battle.
A lot will depend on whether Milan can keep a clean sheet in the home game. In the first round their away record was much better than their home record but they failed to keep the opposition out in all the six games.
An aging squad will struggle to keep up with the likes of Rooney over two legs and this game is likely show us why signing Huntelaar was not the solution in January!
The Spanish teams have a mixed draw. I think Barca will cruise through and there isn’t much to analyze in that fixture. Real on the other hand might be dumped out by the French side.
Lyon V Real Madrid
In many eyes Real are automatic favorites for winning the trophy after their summer spending spree. To me it’s down to one player, Ronaldo. If Lyon can keep him quiet they are in with a chance. Kaka, Benzema and Higuain are very good attacking players but a well organized team can keep them quiet. Lyon conceded only three goals in the first phase and if they can keep a clean sheet at home they will fancy their chances of going through.
Los Merengues have a weak midfield and their defense is nothing special. Lyon have enough firepower to trouble Casillas but they will have to be extremely clinical to cause an upset.
This one could be the exact opposite of the Chelsea/Inter game and we might see a goal glut.
Bayern V Fiorentina
Based on reputation alone the Germans are firm favorites. I saw their demolition of Juventus and they looked really impressive. Fiorentina, though, have managed some surprise results in the first phase. I have no idea how this one will pan out but if we were to meet the winner of this tie in the next round I will certainly prefer the Italians.
Olympiakos V Bordeaux
We have seen enough of the Greek side to think that the French champions should have an easy route to the quarter-finals. I guess most of us will follow this one with interest mainly because of Chamakh. In case he is coming to Arsenal next season, it will be good to see him perform at the big stage.
CSKA Moscow V Sevilla
The winner of this game can easily be considered the weakest team in the final eight. If we can get through Porto (and there is no reason we shouldn’t) I would love to face either of them in the quarter-finals. I know our record in Russia isn’t great but neither of these teams is a tactical, defensive unit and that makes me feel we would have a good chance.
I’ll preview our game in detail tomorrow. For now, let’s root for the Italians!