This one I felt contrarian about after the first leg. Common sense and normal analysis now say that Barca should win relatively easily. They are at home, have the away goal, have gotten back to winning with last weekend’s La Liga win, increased their lead to six points thus taking some pressure off the squad and have Messi. However, a big reason they are favored is that Benzema is a doubt. On the other side, Lyon have the always dangerous Juninho (his first leg goal was probably one of the top 3 free kicks I have ever seen given where it was taken from), nothing to lose and a shaky Barca defense now that Puyol is out. That’s the one major chink in the armor.
Key: If Lyon can score first, they have a shot. However, no Benzema is a problem. I just don’t know if they will have the gas to keep Barca out for 90 minutes on that big pitch at the Camp Nou. Plus, Iniesta is back. I also think Eto’o is due to score.
Surprise match winner: Keita or Gerard Pique.
Prediction: Barca 3 Lyon 1 (if Benzema plays, Lyon in an upset on away goals after holding Barca 2-2).
I was wrong on the Inter game, but the qualifier was that United wouldn’t have Evans or O’Shea. That said, here is a quick note with my predictions:
1. Liverpool eliminates Real in the second leg with a goalless or 1-1 draw.
2. Chelsea will squeak through against Juve on away goals as I believe they will lose 2-1 in the return leg.
3. Porto through over Atletico (after games with Barca and Real Madrid they are going to be spent), Bayern over Sporting (way out on a limb on that one!), Villareal over Pana (toughest one to pick but I just think Villareal will be better on the road in this one as they will be more solid at the back).
4. Arsenal is going to beat Roma in the second leg at the Olympic stadium. They are about to score a hatful of goals and I think some of it is going to happen in this match. At worst, they tie and go through.
5. While everyone thinks it will be Barca through to the next round, I feel like Lyon can cause an upset. If Barca’s lead is down to three or less in Liga by next weekend, I predict Lyon upsets Barca. If not, Barca wins through comfortably.
6. Finally United v Inter. This tie should have been over. I am shocked at how pedestrian Inter were at home. And I can’t believe Ronaldo didn’t score at least one of the six chances he had, not to mention Giggs’ one on goalie. That Cesar is awesome. However, United has to be worried about the away goal at OT. I still think United wins, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 2-0 United before Inter pulls one back and United has to sweat it out. I just don’t think Inter can keep United from scoring at home, so it’s only a question of whether Inter can score themselves. More importantly, it’s going to be based on who plays for United in the game and what the squad’s state is – go to my next thoughts before coming back to this.
7. If United beats Newcastle tomorrow, United will win the Premier League, no question. If United beats Fulham in the FA Cup on the weekend and if they don’t have to play one of the top 4 in the semis, then United will win the FA Cup. I personally think they will lose to Fulham or in the next round. More on that in a second. And if they beat Inter AND Newcastle and get knocked out before the finals of the FA Cup, they will win the Champions League. I think the Carling Cup OT is going to be a serious problem for United. It means Ronaldo and Scholes have to sit out the Newcastle game which begs the question of who starts at Fulham as the Inter game is coming up the following Wednesday. Also, with the disarray at right back, who is going to play Ibra when he floats to the left wing – O’Shea or Evans? I think SAF has to play Tevez with Welbeck at Fulham for the FA Cup along with the kids. Rest Giggs, Scholes, Carrick and Park. Play Fletch, Gibson, Tosic and Nani in midfield and Fabio, Evans, Vidic and Eckersley at the back. Forget the FA Cup if you want to progress in the Champions League.