Category Archives: Champions League

Champions League last 16 draw

Uefa Champions League last 16 draw:

Galatasaray v Schalke – I have a couple of Galatasaray jerseys at home, gifted by one of my distributors when I used to work with a pharma company in Hyderabad, so for senti sake, lets hope the Turkish club makes it to the next round

Celtic v Juventus – Celtic has had a dream run so far…but Juventus is in top form in the last 18 odd months, so it could be the Italians going through here

Arsenal v Bayern Munich – Heart says Arsenal, but brain says Bayern Munich! Bayern’s strong record at the Allianz Arena would be a big plus for them

Shakhtar Donetsk v Borussia Dortmund – I haven’t seen these two teams play so far in the CL, but I have been reading a lot about how these two teams were the most exciting teams in this year’s CL so far…so anyone would do

AC Milan v Barcelona – Barcelona is having an incredible season in La Liga and they did have a couple of blips in the group stage of CL, but you never know. I won’t be surprised if Milan makes it in this tie

Real Madrid v Manchester United – Standout match of the draw, no doubt about that. This is one of the matches I will not miss for sure. I would like Madrid to make it. If real win this match, they would be favourites to win the CL this time.

Valencia v Paris St Germain – Ibrahimovic might inspire PSG to sail through this tie. If Valencia win this one it would be an upset I guess

Porto v Malaga – Malaga should win this one and be in the 16 for the first time. Porto played good so far but this is as far as they can go

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Progress in Champions League and Chelsea thoughts

Arsenal progressed to the knockout stages of the Champions League thanks to a victory over Montpellier combined with Schalke’s victory over Olympiakos last night. Arsenal are now placed second in the pool and will look to beat Olympiakos in the last group match and hope that Schalke draw so that they can finish on top of the group. Looking at the teams that are topping the group, it would be ideal to play a second placed team except maybe Real Madrid 🙂

The first half of the match was rather lacklustre with innumerable number of wrong passes from either side especially Arsenal. Wilshere was one frustrated soul who could not connect with Podolski especially in two incidents one with Podolski and the other with Giroud. Podolski made a good run on the left side to the final third of the Montpellier pitch, but Wilshere’s pass was slighlty behind and Podolski made gestures saying that the ball should have been passed forward and not backward. The second incident was in the second half where Giroud made a good tackle and won the ball, but instead of giving the ball to Wilshere who was right behind him, turned around and crossed to the right flank to Wilshere or Ox, I don’t remember who it was. Wilshere almost lost it and was left a frustrated soul.

I can see that Wilshere is just settling into the first XI and it will take some more time before he seamlessly connects to the various moving parts of the team like Podolski and Giroud. And I can’t wait for that day. But he was rewarded for his predating instincts as a Giroud header found him right in the box for tapping in a well taken goal to score after two years.

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Wilshere on the score-sheet after two years

That settled some of the nerves in the stadium and of the players. But we were looking vulnerable defending. Steve Bould has some work to do, that’s for sure. We did create more chances than the first half. And then in the end Giroud, our hard working centre forward chipped the ball towards an advancing Podolski and Podolski did a Van-Persieque shot.

Podolski did a Van Persie

Glorious! Podolski was looking a lonely soul for sometime but when he scores like this who can complain. Now we need him to maintain his form for the rest of the season. Among the other players, I thought Mertesacker was looking solid at the back. Arteta had one of those games where he had a 70-30 game. One more thing to note was that Ox cannot give us what we expect from Walcott this year. AOC had reservation running at the full-backs and there were not that many chances from that side. Lets just hope now that we qualify on top fo the group and then take it from there.

One last word on Chelsea and their mad owner Abrahmovic. Not that I liked Roberto Di Matteo in the first place, I would not have given him the role in the first place. But once he was made in charge it is really stupid to throw him out six months after winning the Champions League. It was only a month back when Chelsea was on top of the league. Abrahmovic is setting the wrong standard in football.

 

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Worst European night ever

It doesn’t need too many words to explain how bad an European night Arsenal had when we look at the score line. The wrong side of a 4-0 score speaks how bad the performance was. Milan completely demolished an Arsenal team that probably had most of their players back from injury, especially in defence. So with this result I think Arsenal is out of the tournament and the return leg should be just a formality.

Frustrating for the manager!

Having said that I think this team is not as bad as this match scoreline would suggest. We had Gibbs back from injury so there was no more make-shift left backs in the playing XI. Mertesacker was missing but I do not think a centreback combination of Vermaelen and Koscielny is any weak without the German in the mix. And it completed the backline with Sagna at right back. The team was good enough to defend an away European night, but I thought right from the start of the match the team was very negative in approach.

There were too many back passes which put pressure on the players receiving it or playing it. You can blame Szczesny also for giving away a goal with a bad distribution. Anyway this team is really not as bad this match showed. Rosicky had probably his worst match this season. And the way Ramsey played I guess he deserves a match in the sidelines for his negativism. Djourou has been a suspect and the way he plays. He looks like he can give away a penalty any time.

It was sad to see the team play like this and I hope we can only go up from here.

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Can we realise the dream???

Of beating Barcelona and advancing in the Champions League?

Samir Nasri says

That’s why we like the Champions League – two teams from different countries can play and show who’s the best and that’s why it’s really important for me to win the Champions League. I have been dreaming about this competition since I was a kid, for those kind of games. And I’m really happy I was part of the first leg.

And it is not just Nasri who feels like that. And it is not just the players, but the entire support staff, the fans who feel that its games like this that keeps fans awake in different parts of the world to savour each and every minute in those 90 minutes. Nasri feels that we can do it this time in the Nou Camp.

Messi was silent in the second half of the first leg and we managed to keep them quiet. It might not be the same in front of their roaring fans. The 4 goals that he hit in the second leg last time is fresh in the memory of everyone. But having said that, it is quite apparent that this Arsenal team has improved from last year and look stronger form the team that went to Nou camp last year. Atleast this time we have Cesc. And that makes a world of difference.

Yes we do miss our best striker this season. It was Van Persie who equalised at the near post spotting Valdes off his line. And he had got his scoring touch back when we lost him. But lets not discuss on somebody who will not be playing any part in tomorrow’s match. Lets look at who we have got. In Bendtner we have a striker who has  a point to prove. And guess what he has already scored in the Nou Camp against Barca, so all he has to do is repeat that:) We cannot afford to sit back and defend. Infact it will be to our benefit to attack and score one. Which means Barcelona will have to score twice and that might be a bit too much of an asking.

This is the match where players like Arshavin, Nasri and Fabregas should take over. This is their grandstand and somehow I have this feeling that we will progress. May the best team win and let that team be Arsenal

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A Standard entry into the knockout stage for Arsenal

Arsenal got into the knockout stages of the Champions League for the tenth straight year with a 2-0 win against Standard Liege. There were injury problems though after the match with Gibbs being sidelined for close to 3 months with a fractured metatarsal and this after he came back from a minor injury to feature in this match. Gallas had a clash of head with Arshavin and was subed midway. Wenger though in his post match interview has said

Gallas has a slight ankle problem and a swollen eye. I think he will recover from the eye and the ankle soon.

Though he didn’t mention by when, I assume he meant before the weekend match. Gibbs he said was more serious.

Nasri capitalised on a defensive slip up and slotted in the first goal. He along with Fabregas controlled the midfield throughout the match. The second came from a Denilson long ranger. Playing in his 100th match, Denilson took his chance and drilled a wonderf ul shot from outside the penalty box high into the box.

Fabregas earned a unnecessary yellow card in the fag end of the match which resulted in the Standard player being sent off for a “headbutt”.

So now all set for the season-defining sunday thriller against Chelsea.

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Arsenal complete Champions League check-in

The first full match I saw this season of Arsenal and it was a wonderful 3-1 victory at home against the hapless-Celtics at Emirates.  Coming into this match, Celtics needed atleast 2 goals to attain parity on the first leg score. Their gameplan was to score an early goal and put Arsenal under pressure at home. Fabregas was injured and Arshavin and Van Persie were rested ahead of this clash.

The team that started had a solid defence in the form of Clichy and Sagna in the wings, with the quick-gelling duo of Gallas and Vermaelen at the centre. The midfield comprised of Diaby, Denilson, Song and Eboue with Eduardo and Bendtner leading the line. Eboue had a good game and I think some of the feints and moves he has in his armour are really world-class, when he pulls them off. his performance was rewarded with a goal which was sweetly taken. Denilson, Diaby and Song played a very disciplined game showing the maturity that they are gaining. If they play like this then my opinion about them will only get better and better.

Bendtner had a decent game where he played a crucial part in the second goal with a elegant back-heel. But he missed a sitter of a header at the stroke of half-time. Eduardo had a great game except for the dive to win the penalty. This will be a mlack mark in his otherwise wonderful performance which involved a curler of a shot which was saved by the Celtics goalie. He is gaining in confidence and will be our 20 goal striker for sure this year.

Ramsey came in and got injured which led to Arsenal playing the last 5 minutes with 10 men. I hope he is back to training and fitness. Wilshere came along with Arshavin with 20 minutes remaining in the match. Arshavin is such a skillful clever player that there is excitement on the field when he is playing. He can make those telling runs, wonderful dribbles and feints and make those killer passes and score some goals. He scored his first european goal for Arsenal and I thought when he was on the field we could have scored a couple more. I love that guy and hope he stays fit and scores many more memorable ones, including a couple on Saturday;)

Credit to Celtics for providing wonderful entertainment in the tie. They played well and hard luck to them for the penalty decision. Not that not having that penalty would have saved them the tie because definitely Arsenal were the better team on the night  and also over two legs. Good luch to them in SPL now.

Without Cesc if we could show so much creativity on the field it is quite impressive. The passing and movement of the team on the whole was of high standard. Looks like this team is moving in the right direction in the league as well as in Europe. Now lets hope that we get an easy group in tomorrow’s Champions League draw. There is a wonderful article on the current Arsenal formation here. A good read I would say.

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Wenger remarks, Celtic tie and what to expect

The smooth operator that Arsene is in the transfer market, we cannot be sure about whom he is going to buy or not buy unless he does one of them come the end of the transfer window. But he sure has been talking about the money spinning clubs, especially Machester City and Real Madrid.

Manchester City at the moment look like they have a great squad quality-wise, but sometimes when you buy more than three players you take a technical gamble. Yes, sometimes it clicks straightaway but  sometimes it takes a few months and Real Madrid are in the same situation. They have bought fantastic players but you have to ask if they will click or not in a few months. Nobody knows. That’s not predictable. If you do not find your balance straight away it can be difficult.

Rightly said, given that Wenger himself thinks that no player should be bought beyond a particular value (in his case I think 15 million pounds will be the maximum). To him that player is not really wanted to make a team that he thinks will play football on the field for 90 minutes and win. He goes on to say

Real Madrid were not 10th last year, they were second. They had good players and a good team. City have more to create than Real Madrid.

A very valid point, certainly Real didn’t need such an overhaul to move just one place on the table. Even with this overhaul I doubt if they will really beat Barca to the La Liga title. And it must be such a suffocating period for the other players who are in the team seeing so many new expensive signings coming in. It is not a good environment to be in.

So it is Celtic FC whom we will meet in the UEFA Champions League play-off round in the Non-champions route on 18/19th of August and the return leg at Emirates on August 25/26th. This is crucial for the team as the group stage of the Champions league means a lot of money for the club, which is needed badly. The tie is not going to be an easy one and keeping the team fit and without injury is going to be key this season. Let’s hope we start the season well enough and carry on the momentum to Europe.

So can we expect more signings and exits from the club in the next couple of weeks??? The answer seems to be “yes”, given the fact that Senderos looks ready for a move to Everton. And given that we would definetely need to buy a defender. And also a defensive midfielder would be an ideal signing to close the season. I seriously think with respect to the forward line we have enough back up in the team, but we will need a midfielder if Wenger intends to play the 4-3-3.

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