The Second Leg

 

Not sure what I can write about this match that hasn’t already been written from a tactical point of view. Lineup predictions, formational preferences, and the impact of the two legendary managers have all been published, copied, pasted, reworded, recycled, occasionally refreshed and all together lost all meaning as the match looms nearer and nearer. I was trying to explain the significance of the occasion to my manager at work; trying and struggling mind you. She’s a lovely woman but she hasn’t the faintest idea of why I was so devastated to have been scheduled to work today. How do you explain love? How does one define excitement? How to articulate the sheer monumentality? To say this match will be more explosive that Team Yusuke v Team Toguro in the Dark Tournament is something of an understatement. More convoluted than House Stark v House Lannister? You bet it is.. but that is not quite explicative enough to do the match justice. Is it akin to two gladiators going at it in a bout to the death? Yeaa but nahh. Its Manchester United at home to Real Madrid circa 2013. I don’t think any sort of metaphor, simile, comparison, or explanation would suffice to accurately delineate the wash of emotions we’re all feeling today. It the Champions League. That says enough. Today I’m just going to sit back, watch, and enjoy this one. And stay sober because I still have work tonight -____-

Shout out to Ryan Giggs though! 1,000 matches and counting! Just hope he’s not starting…

 

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The Return of the Champions (League)

Oh yes! Seems like it was years ago when I was pounding my fist into my thigh in futile frustration as Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League. Fast forward a week to the draw for the Round of 16. Barcelona v Bayer Leverkusen, AC Milan v Arsenal, Chelsea v Napoli, Marseille v Inter, Basel v Bayern Munich, Zenit v Benfica, CSKA Moscow v Real Madrid, and Apoel v Lyon are the ties that we have to look forward to in the next two weeks. The two games today are Bayer Leverkusen vs Barcelona and Lyon vs Apoel Nicosia. The match that the vast majority of the footballing world  will have our eye on is undoubtedly the Barca game. 
   The reigning champions of Europe have been in rather woeful La Liga form, falling to an all time (in my memory) high of 10 points behind leaders Real Madrid. This past weekend they lost 2-3 away at 8th placed Osasuna despite having their customary 68% possession and taking more shots on target than Osasuna had shots at all. Xavi, Iniesta, and Cesc all started on the bench presumably to rest them for today’s match.
   Leverkusen haven’t been faring too well in das Bundesliga either. They started the most recent round in 6th place and were felled 1-0 by a Dortmund team in fine fetter. Despite a rather even possession game, Leverkusen somehow only mustered up 3 shots, 1 on target. Talisman Michael Ballack has been in atrocious form this season, earning public criticism from both club owner and manager. He won’t be playing today though so all eyes will be on the newly capped German internationals Andre Schurrle and Stefan Kiesling to work some magic. The two of them, along with Eren Derdiyok have been bearing the brunt of Leverkusen’s goal scoring burden in a season where goals have been harder to come by than the Easter Bunny. 
   Realistically while Leverkusen are potent in attack with their direct style, high intensity, and fast pace football, their midfield lack the quality (like the rest of the world) to compete with Barcelona. Expect them to hassle and harry and hope to hit on the break. expect goalkeeper Bernd Leno to earn his pay today when Messi and his merry men come looking to smash and grab an away victory. Barcelona aren’t winning La Liga but you can be sure they’ll be gunning to be the first team to win the UEFA Champions League in back to back seasons.