Monday, March 11, 2013

Champions League Predictions and Power Rankings

The Champions League Round of 16 is 3/4 of the way through but there are still some important games to be decided.

Borussia Dortmund impressed me the most with their turnaround against Shakhtar Donetsk.  Shakhtar looked a bit sluggish and perhaps since it is the Ukrainian league's off-season, they weren't perhaps ready to play one of Europe's most in-form teams.  A victory was expected but Dortmund dominated the game 3-0, barely allowing Shakhtar a sight of goal

The Manchester United and Real Madrid tie was on a knife's edge, but Real Madrid did what was expected of them when United went down to 10 men.  United put in an admirable display and will feel rightfully aggrieved with the red card, but those have been given before. Real weren't convincing but  The form they've been on recently in all competitions including the consecutive wins over Barcelona makes me think that they're finally hitting the heights of last season and that could put them back among the strong favorites to win  La Decima.  Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 9 goals in the competition and leads everyone.

The other ties went roughly according to plan.  Valencia gave PSG a scare and were the better team for most parts of the game but couldn't get the crucial second goal.  Juventus cruised against Celtic and are quietly establishing themselves as a threatening team in Europe again.

On to this week

Barcelona vs. Milan.  Milan shocked everyone with not only a win but a dominant defensive display as they restricted the space for Barca's midfielders to disrupt their passing rhythm.  As a result Barca ended up passing horizontally with little penetration which is very unlike them.  Barca's form has recently dipped but Milan managed to restrict Barca as a whole team to 1 shot on target.  Messi didn't even have an attempt.  A 2-0 win makes the job much more difficult for Barca who require a 3 goal win to go through and that's no guarantee even in front of a hostile Camp Nou.  I think Milan will get the job done but will lose in the process.  A 2-1 Barca win but Milan go through 3-2 on aggregate.

Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal:  Bayern were the much better team against Arsenal and showed how many ways they can hurt you.  They played mainly on the counter attack against Arsenal but scored 3 away goals at the Emirates. Arsenal have an impossible task on their hands and have to go all out to go for a 3 goal win in Munich (next to impossible given Bayern's defensive record this year).  I think Bayern will get a 2-1 win and advance 5-2 on aggregate.

Schalke vs. Galatasaray: The 1-1 draw in Turkey was a very open game for a first leg but Schalke wasted several opportunities to get the second.  Schalke are primarily a counter-attacking side but I expect them to advance and create more chances at home because Galatasaray have to chase the game.  A 2-0 win on the night.  

Malaga vs. Porto: Malaga were very poor in the first leg in Portugal and Porto deserved to score more; however, Porto only managed 1 goal and the tie is fairly open.  Malaga will need to put Porto's midfielders under pressure as they chase for a goal.  However, this Porto side has a little too much quality for Malaga and I think they'll go through 2-1 on aggregate.