A post match review of the Champions League Semi final clashes.
On the 17th of this month Champions League saw one of the best encounters of the tournament so far. Played at Bayern's home ground the Allianz Arena, this match did not lacked pace neither did it lacked creativity of any sorts and ended in a 2-1 victory for the home team courtesy Mario Gomez’s last minute winner. The win also gives Bayern an advantage going into the second leg at Bernebeu a week from now. Madrid however have an away goal cushion scored by Mesut Ozil on his first return to Germany as a Madrid player after leaving Werder Bremen in 2010, which can prove to be a decisive factor in deciding as to which team will progress into the final this year, which will be played at Bayern home ground i.e. The Allianz Arena.
Then the following day on the 18th Chelsea took on Barcelona at Stamfor Bridge in a highly anticipated fixture between the two since the 2009 semi final where Chelsea were denied a place in the final by last minute Andres Iniesta strike, which sealed the tie and booked a place for the eventual winners Barcelona in the final. The day was marred by controversies and will be remembered more for the penalty appeals by Chelsea, which were overturned by the referees, than the classy display by Barcelona. Chelsea were at the receiving end, they had 3-4 genuine penalty appeals turned down by the referees. It was the same story but different result this time. Barcelona dominated the entire game reducing Chelsea’s work to just defending, however a wave of missed chances and hitting the woodwork by Barcelona and some solid defending by Chelsea did the trick for them. The home team won the match 1-0 thanks to a goal by Didier Drogba. Chelsea have a huge advantage going into the second leg at Camp Nou, they have kept a clean sheet and lead 1-0, which means that Barcelona will have to win by at least 2-0 margin and if Chelsea could defend like the way they did at Stamford Bridge they might just pull it off and reach the final as well.
Here are a few things that I have discerned from both the matches.
1. BAYERN WON THE MATCH BUT IT IS ADVANTAGE MADRID- Bayern have won the match which they fully deserved to win, but it is advantage Madrid going into the second leg. They have the much important away goal, which will be vital in deciding which team would progress to the final. Madrid will only have to win by a margin of 1-0 and going by the way they have played throughout this season at home, I think it shouldn’t be tough task for them. Bayern though have a great squad to cause an upset anywhere in the world and the way they planned their tactics and they their players performed on the night, I have a slight intuition that they might just do it, on the other hand Madrid also boasts of the best counter attacking side in the world and with the kind of players they have I feel they have an easy task in their hand. They have a huge advantage with them and being the home side, i would surely bet for Madrid to win this match.
2. BARCELONA HAVE A TOUGH TASK AHEAD- Barcelona, the best team in the world right now has a tougher task than their Spanish compatriots as they trail Chelsea by 1-0 after their defeat at Stamford Bridge. Unlike Madrid Barcelona don’t have the away goal cushion, which means after trailing 1-0 in the first leg, they will have to win by at least 2-0 margin at Camp Nou. If Chelsea play like they did at Stamford Bridge and if Barcelona continue to miss chances like they did then it would really be hard for them to break the Chelsea defense. It would however be interesting to see how Guardiola plans his tactics to break the Chelsea defense which was solid as a rock in the first leg. Players like Xavi, Iniesta and Messi would need to be at their creative best to get the result going in their favor and if they fail to produce the inspired performances, which they have done so many times over the years then things could get really bad for them.
3. MESSI’S BLUES CONTINUES WITH CHELSEA- The best player in the world and he may have scored 243 career goals for Barcelona, 63 in all competitions and not to mention 14 goals in Champions League alone this year. He however has once again failed to score against Chelsea, which brings his total tally of goalless matches against the blues to 7, quite alarming for a player of his stature. At Stamford Bridge he had a poor first half, he was inactive for the entire first half and did not play much role neither did he contributed in posing any serious threat to the Chelsea defense. He gave away the ball which lead to Chelsea’s goal. He came back stronger and had a much better second half where he had few amazing runs past the defenders but four Chelsea defenders against single Messi were just too many for him to take on.
4. RONALDO ONCE AGAIN FAILS AT A BIG STAGE- It has been the story for Ronaldo for a while now, he’s a great player and has a lot in him than diving and constantly moaning on the pitch. He had an awful game at the Allianz Arena, was invisible for most part of the game and contributed a little in the overall play. He however got the all important touch that ultimately led to Ozil’s goal; whatever maybe said about his role in the goal the bottom line is that it was not his night. He was loose on the ball, woeful with set pieces and worst his finishing didn’t look like coming from a lad who has scored more than 50 goals this season so far. He didn’t play a great part in the match and I was shocked to be honest, to see Mourinho taking off Ozil rather than him. This is one of the reasons he always lags behind Messi and if he really wants to prove himself as the best, it’s these kind of matches that he needs to perform at.
5. CHELSEA NEEDS TO CHANGE THEIR TACTICS- This might come as a shocker to a lot of you, but I feel that Chelsea needs to approach the game in a much positive manner. A lot of you might say Chelsea did well in defending and stopping Barcelona from scoring, however I am sure everybody who saw the match also saw Sanchez and Pedro hitting the woodwork and Fabregas and Busquets failing to score in an open goal. Had those chance been taken Chelsea would have surely lost the match by at least 3-1. Chelsea just had 1 shot on target which was the goal from Drogba apart from that they just defended throughout the match. In all honesty this was the same problem with Milan; they played with defensive tactics at home and drew the match and then lauded themselves for doing that. Then they lost the corresponding fixture at Camp Now 3-1. If Chelsea doesn’t want this to happen to them then they will surely have to work on their tactics again to make sure that they get the best result at Camp Nou
6. DROGBA STILL HAS IT IN HIM-. Love him or hate him for his theatrics, but this man still has it in him to be the game changer. Pace, strength and the finishing, all at a ripe age of 34, when a lot of players are already contemplating retirement he still has enough energy left in him to not just run forward but getting back to help the defense sort things out. He scored the all important goal which gives Chelsea the edge over The Catalans, but Drogba's performance wasn't just about his goal. Drogba's determination to fight for every loose ball and even help on defense when necessary ensured Chelsea got the result they needed. The performance however was marred by his constant diving and honestly, he did go to ground a bit too easily on a couple of occasions. He will once again play a huge part in the return leg at Camp Now and he surely is the man that Barcelona needs to watch out for.
7. BARCELONA’S DEFENSE IS NOT UPTO THE TEAM STANDARD- This has been the story of the season for Barcelona, they have great midfield unit and even greater attacking team but when it comes to defense they are just as much vulnerable as a young kid lost in an strange land. They were caught on a break too many times this season and Valdes has come to the rescue of the defenders more often than not, which as a human he can’t always do. That’s what happened when they lost the ball upfield at Stamford Bridge which ultimately lead to the goal. They really need to sort their defense in the second leg as they can’t afford to let Chelsea score any goals.
8. BAYERN HAS THE BEST WING PAIR- A lot of you might want to argue on this however I feel that Bayern has the best wing pair in Ribery and Robben. Pace, strength and great control, these are the few things that I want to mention about these two. They have been the main source of threat to oppositions defense for Bayern for past 2-3 seasons now, and I wouldn’t be far from right if I say that Gomez owes a lot to these two lads for the goals he has scored for Bayern in his career. They are regarded as one of the best wingers in the world right now, and they rightly deserve to be among top 5 in the world. They had an amazing game at the Allianz arena, especially worth mentioning is Ribery, he caused constant problems for the Madrid defenders with his pace strength and dribbling skills. The goal was an overall compliment to the great game he had.
After the first leg it’s advantage Home teams i.e. Bayern and Chelsea and they both travel to Spain with 1 goal advantage. Chelsea will travel to Camp Nou with slightly better chances thanks to the clean sheet they kept at Stamford Bridge, than Bayern who conceded an away goal at home to Madrid, giving the Los Blancos the advantage of an away goal going into the second leg at the Estadio Santiago Barnebeu. But as I said before these two Spanish sides have enough depth, talent and creativity in their squad to cause an upset anytime and anywhere, being at home is a bonus for them.
My prediction for the second leg would be:
Barcelona 3-1 Chelsea (Barcelona through on 3-2 Aggregate)
Real Madrid 3-2 Bayern Munich (4-4 on Aggregate, Bayern Munich through on Away Goal).