Monthly Archives: May 2009

Chelsea v Barcelona – Post Game

Well Chelsea played it exactly as they should have and they should have won this game 2-0.  But, that’s what happens when you don’t score the second goal and have to worry about the away goal.  It happened to Man U against Porto to launch Mourinho’s career and it happened again today.

Messi and company were choked just as I said they would be.  One real shot on goal and they scored in injury time.  Doesn’t get closer than that.  Chelsea deserved this win.  They should have had two penalties.  But it was a questionable red card for Abidal.  What’s with these referees?  They don’t seem to talk things over with their linesmen for very long before handing out red cards.  It’s ridiculous.

Anyway, now it’s Man U vs Barca in the final.  Messi and Henry.  Rooney and Ronaldo.  Barca without both wing backs and Marquez, but with Henry probably back.  Man U without Fletcher.  Should be awesome.  More awesome – I will be at  the final!

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Chelsea vs Barcelona: Semi final 2nd Leg Pre game prediction

I know what Barca did to Real Madrid on the weekend.  I know Messi is supposed to be the player of this generation.  I know Iniesta and Xavi are incredibly talented midfielders and Eto’o is one of the best strikers in the world.  But the only things that are matter are these:

Barca has the away goals shut out of Chelsea in its favor.  If Barca scores at least one goal, Chelsea needs to win the game.

Messi is going to be determined to show he is the best in the world after the performance Ronaldo put on today.

The game is being played at Stamford Bridge where the pitch feels smaller than the Nou Camp which means less room for Messi and company to play their football.

No Marquez and no Puyol in the middle.  That means Pique, who for all his game is a relative rookie, and Caceres in the middle with the mercurial Valdes behind them.

Eric Abidal got skinned by first Robben and then Ramos for the first goal.  Hiddink, if I were you, I’d start Kalou on the right.  Dani Alves on the right is at best an average defender.

Henry might not play due to a knee injury.

Hiddink is a scarily successful coach no matter the squad he has – and he has a tough, experienced, motivated squad playing at home.

Based on these factors, while I still think its going to be tight, I think Chelsea goes through.

Guus, this is what you need to do to win.  As I said in the prior post, (1) water the pitch well to slow Messi down.  (2) Start Kalou on the right and Malouda on the left.  Lampard in the middle.  Drogba up front.  Essien and Mikel holding midfielders.  If you go one down, then bring on Anelka up front in the second half for Mikel.  For now, Ballack needs to start on the bench.  (3) Make sure Cole doesn’t give Messi the sideline – funnel him inside and then have Essien pick him up.  Not Mikel who gives away too many fouls on the edge of the box.  If Messi tries to go to the middle as he did against Real Madrid, even better for you.  That’s when you have Essien man mark him with Mikel sitting in a holding position behind him.  (4) If Henry doesn’t start, I believe Keita or Busquets will play in holding midfield along with Yaya Toure to help out the two kids at the center of defense.  Resist the temptation to play Ballack even with the reduced Barca team speed if Henry is out.  Yes, he may be good for headers off set pieces, but that’s a luxury you can’t afford in this game.  (5) Make sure Chelsea pumps more diagonal balls into the box.  See how Barca was all at sea during the Real game with crossed balls – they scored both goals on balls like that.  Cech was wasteful with his long clearances straight to Valdes.  (6) Keep possession better than you did at Barca.  Don’t be so nervous.  Barca isn’t that strong at pressing.  You play in the EPL.  You can hang with Liverpool and Man U.  Why be so concerned about Barca’s pressure up the pitch.  Pass your way out.  You always have Drogba to hold the ball up.

Pep, this is what you need to do.  (1) If Henry is out, then play Iniesta down the left and start Keita and Yaya at holding mid behind Xavi, Eto’o and Messi.  Hold Chelsea first, give cover and confidence to Pique and Caceres and wait for Messi to deliver.  If it’s tough going, then bring on Bojan for Keita and push Eto’o wide.  (2) Score a goal.  In fact, score two.  Because I think that’s what you are going to need to win with the defense you have for this game. (3) Shave and get a decent tie.  (4) Start Messi going up the middle to confuse the crap out of Chelsea’s backline and then move him back to the right.

Prediction:  Chelsea 2 Barcelona 1

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How to stop Lionel Messi

Relatively straightforward in concept, but hard to do in reality unless you have the personnel.

First, water the pitch as much as you can.  That’s why Messi didn’t really get going against Chelsea at the Nou Camp in the first leg.  He couldn’t plant and cut with the pitch so wet.  Also, he couldn’t get the ball rolling naturally to use his usual feints to get the defender off balance.

Second, get a quick left back.  Messi didn’t get much change out of Patrice Evra against Manchester United last year.  He didn’t get much out of Bosingwa in the first leg either.  Quick defenders take away Messi’s main advantage of burning the left back one on one down the wing before turning for goal with the defender on his back and too many options for the center backs to deal with.  That’s when he either cuts in and blasts past the keeper or sets up late arriving Xavi and Iniesta or goes to the far post for Henry.  I bet he struggles against Ashley Cole though Ashley has lost a step since leaving Arsenal.  I’d even consider playing Bosingwa as a shadow for Messi.  He’d be more productive than Ballack was in the first leg.

Third, get him moving right to left parallel to the goal line.  Do not give him the wing and do not let him play a one two to get behind the left back on the wing.  That’s death.  As he cuts across, the defensive midfield player has to pick him up, the center half has to stay goalside of Eto’o for the diagonal run to receive the Messi reverse ball and the left back has to stay goalside and to the outside of Messi so that he cuts off the one two reverse to Messi.

Fourth, have disciplined center backs to mark Eto’o’s diagonal runs.  Let Messi have to take you on with a longer run.

Five, make him use his right foot.  He isn’t entirely left footed, but he doesn’t have long distance power in his left foot and is below average with his right foot.

If people think this is theoretical, pull out the tapes of Man U vs Barcelona from last year (yes, he was just returning from injury) and Argentina vs Brazil from the South American Cup.  That’s what happens when you put a fast marker on him and back that up with physical play on him and his teammates.  Messi doesn’t like it when he can’t blow by you.  Frustrate him and he’s easier to control.  Kicking him is not going to work.

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Man Utd vs Arsenal – Post Game

Well can’t say that I was surprised.  Arsenal backline was not good and Ronaldo did exploit their lack of understanding and ability.  United were great on the counter attack and the pitch was heavier so Arsenal didn’t really get going with their slick passing.  I predicted 2-2 and it should have been 4-0.  Either way, United is through and its a shame that Fletcher got a red card that wasn’t for a  penalty that wasn’t.  I don’t know that he would start against Chelsea and probably wouldn’t have done so against Barca either as I believe Giggs and Berbatov would be on for Fletcher and Park from this lineup.  Key question is whether Scholes or Anderson starts in the final.  However, Fletcher would have been first sub should United have a lead going into the last 25 minutes for either Giggs or Scholes.  But that’s for another time.

The things that jumped out to me:

Arsenal managed one real shot on goal in the first leg and had a weak Fabregas header the first half and a straightforward van Persie blast in the second half to show for offense (apart from the non penalty).  That is unbelievable.  Adebayor didn’t have a real shot on goal!  United’s defense is good but that’s not down to the defense.

It was a waste to start van Persie.  He was obviously not fit enough.  I would have started Bendtner and pounded United with high balls to get an early goal.  It’s tough to guard Adebayor when Bendtner is in there.  It’s hindsight, but Arsene should have started Eboue instead of Nasri initially to give more cover for Song and Gibbs down the left.

That was about as dominant a two legged semifinal performance over a quality team that I have seen.

Arsene has a problem next season trying to accommodate Fabregas, Nasri and Arshavin.  This might be the time to cash in on Cesc.  Let Arshavin play his spot.  Wilshere will be ready to take over in three years anyway, just when Arshavin is done.  If you keep all three, Wilshere’s opportunities to progress faster diminish.  Use the money to buy a couple of center backs and a holding midfielder.  They will have Eduardo back next season and then the four strikers they have are good enough.

Ronaldo is easily the best player in the world for all the hype about Messi being a genius and the player of a generation.  Ronaldo showed that he can be an incredibly effective striker today.  The man is two footed, has a rocket of a right foot, takes penalties and free kicks, is lightning quick with great feet, scores in the big games, rarely misses games from injury (the operation this season notwithstanding) and is great in the air.  Till Messi shows me he can smoke a left back who is quick and experienced, he’s not the best in the world for me (more on that in my next post).

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Man United v Arsenal – Further pre game thoughts

Part of the reason Arsenal struggled in the first leg and the main reason Messi was a no show in the Chelsea game was that the pitch was waterlogged and heavy.  That took away Arsenal’s team speed and slowed their movement.   If it rains or the pitch is heavy, Arsenal have no chance.

Walcott has to get in the game else it’s going to be tough for Van Persie and Adebayor to get space.  I wouldn’t be surprised if, should Arsenal start 2 strikers, Van Persie drops in the hole to give support to the midfield and help Cesc with a number mismatch should United play 3 in midfield like they did in the first leg.

Ronaldo has to be the man today.  He didn’t massacre Santon as he should have, nor did he do the same to Gibbs in the first leg.  It’s time he taught these young left backs why he is the best in the world.  If Silvestre doesn’t start in the middle, look for Ronaldo to drift in time and again to test Djorou or Song – whoever will start in the center with Toure.

Wonder if Eboue starts.

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Man Utd v Arsenal: Champions League Semifinal 2nd Leg – Pregame

I have a hard time believing Man United doesn’t go through.  It absolutely can happen, but hard to see.  It’s not that the Gunners can’t score a couple of goals nor that they can’t win.  They have done that this season.  However, no way does that defense keep Man United from scoring at least one goal.  It’s been a long time since Arsenal has kept United off the scoreboard.  And it’s hard to see it starting tomorrow.

So if United score one, Arsenal need three scores to win.  Hard to see that.  The only shot Arsenal has is if they score first and score the first one early.   The longer it goes, the more they will come forward and the easier it will be for them to be caught by United on the break.

Issues for United: Rooney played 90 minutes on Saturday and is on a yellow.  Will he melt down late in the game or if he gets a yellow which means he knows he will be out of the final.  I feel as if Sir Alex purposely played him 90 minutes on Saturday as he is not going to allow Rooney to play the full 90 on Tuesday in order to save him for the final assuming that United is up going into the last 25 minutes.  The other issue is that Evra may have an ankle knock and is also on a yellow.  I have to think that Walcott is going to get one of them on a yellow during the game.  Which means – Rooney needs to play in the middle and Park plays on the left with Berbatov and Tevez potentially on the bench.   Tough to see that happening but you never know.

Issues for Arsenal:  They are screwed if Silvestre is fit enought to play and screwed if he is unfit to play.  If they play to win from the start, they will play Robin Van Persie up front with Adebayor along with Fabregas, Walcott and Nasri in midfield.  Which means only one holding midfielder.  Bad news against the  United break.  If they play it conservative like the first leg, they will not be able to deal with the United midfield and defense.

Prediction: Man United 2 Arsenal 2

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