> The UEFA Champions League returned this week, with four Last 16 first-leg matches taking place ahead of the return-legs in three weeks times. So who is in the box seat to go through?
Bayern will enjoy the benefit of an aggregate advantage after their 2-1 first-leg win in Munich, but Fiorentina showed enough, whilst grabbing an away goal, to suggest they could be favourites to take out this tie.
The Bavarian club’s victory was controversial with Miroslav Klose’s winner clearly coming from an offside position. The straight red given to Fiorentina’s Massimo Gobbi appeared harsh too after an innocuous challenge especially considering Klose’s produced a much worse tackle later in the match.
Looking at the play of the match, Fiorentina surprised Bayern with an enterprising performance despite their lowly Serie A position this season. Bayern had won 12 straight before the game so they were expected to dominate, but they didn’t. Alberto Gilardino was dangerous in attack for Viola and certainly will pose a major threat in the second-leg.
But perhaps Fiorentina will rue the fact they couldn’t make more of a decent away performance, but then again, the referees didn’t help.
The return-leg is on March 9 with Sports Pundit predicting Bayern to go through.
The Londoners will leave Portugal rattled after gifting Porto an invaluable advantage ahead of their return-leg in the English capital. Two goalkeeping errors from Lukasz Fabianski cost the Gunners but the reality is Sol Campbell’s away goal means the result isn’t too bad.
Fabianski, who was deputising for injured number one Manuel Almunia, contrived to fumble Silvestre Varela’s early cross into his own net, before inexplicably picking up a Campbell backpass with Radamel Falcao taking the resultant free-kick quickly scoring into an unguarded net.
The alarm bells may be ringing about Fabianski’s performance, but the Gunners do have an useful away goal. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said after the game, “Sol scored an important goal which can prove to be vital now in qualification. We will give everything in the second game at home.”
The Gunners will need to work on their defending but at home you sense they’ll be a different prospect. Cesc Fabregas was hacked by Porto but they may not get away with such behaviour at the Emirates. They won’t be getting any more gifts either.
The return-leg is on March 9 with Sports Pundit predicting Arsenal to go through.
2009 Champions League runners-up and 2008 winners Manchester United look in control of their last 16 tie against AC Milan after a 3-2 win at the San Siro, left the Italians needing to score at least twice at Old Trafford in three weeks time. Ronaldinho is in excellent form for Milan, but it is hard to imagine it happening.
In-form Wayne Rooney produced two decisive second-half strikes for the Red Devils in an ominous sign. He really will be hard to stop in Manchester. Indeed, conceding three goals at home is a bad sign for Milan despite Ronaldinho’s brilliance in attack. Milan will need to keep it tight at the back (like they did in the first-half at the San Siro) if they are to have any chance.
Milan’s ageing legs found the going tough as the game wore in and you fancy it’ll be too much of a challenge for them in Manchester. They will regret not going on with the job in Milan when they had the lead and perhaps adding a second in the first-half.
On the other hand, Rooney appears impossible to stop and looks a player destined to make a big impression in 2010. On that note, he will take United into the next round.
The return-leg is on March 10 with Sports Pundit predicting Manchester United to go through.
Ligue 1 runners-up Lyon continue their recent dominance over Spanish giants Real Madrid in France after a 1-0 triumph on Tuesday thanks to Jean Makoun’s stunning long-range effort. Both sides may rue missing chances to sway this tie, but Lyon’s trip to the Bernabeu is a little less daunting with their one-goal advantage.
Real looked comfortable for most of the first-half employing a safety first approach away from home although Lyon had their moments with Cesar Delgado hitting the post. The hosts gradually got in control and Makoun put them ahead in the second-half before they wasted a number of opportunities to enhance their lead which they may regret.
The Spaniards, though, had their own chances but failed to get a crucial away goal and face a difficult task in the return-leg. Cristiano Ronaldo, who showed flashes of brilliance in Lyon, will need to inspire Real who will be without Xabi Alonso whose yellow card sees him suspended for the second-leg.
Lyon played some wonderful physical and tactical football on Tuesday and deserved their goal, but not adding to that buffer could prove costly. Real have plenty of quality and you fancy their 100% winning home record in La Liga puts them in good stead.
The return-leg is on March 10 with Sports Pundit predicting Real Madrid to go through.