Chelsea v Barcelona : Champion’s League Weekend Preview

April 6, 2012

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Chelsea v Barcelona - Champion's League Weekend Preview

Chelsea played host to Benfica for the second leg of this heavily contentious Champions League tie. Benfica began the game knowing they would need two goals to progress in the competition, and because of the away goal rule that favors teams scoring off their home turf, two goals was still the Portugese clubs’ target even after Frank Lampard’s penalty kick slipped under Benfica’s keeper in the 21st minute. Only 19 minutes later, Benfica took another blow when Maxi Pereira received a second yellow, the first having been earned while protesting the soft penalty that saw Chelsea extend their lead. With ten men to Chelsea’s 11, Benfica could have been forgiven for fading out of the match, but in losing a player the team was far from resigned to defeat, and instead dominated for long periods with only poor finishing, Peter Cech and a John Terry goal line clearance keeping them from equalizing.

Benfica would eventually register a goal when in the 85th minute Javi Garcia found himself unmarked in Chelsea’s penalty area to nod home past a rooted Peter Cech. Mata’s eventual substitution for Meireles could have proven a fateful decision, but the former Porto and Liverpool midfielder justified his call to action when Chelsea broke from a free kick. Meireles took a forty yard run which he capped with a powerful drill into the top corner of the Benfica net, sealing the victory for his team. The result may have been good for Chelsea, and ultimately deserved after victories in both legs, but with a poor defensive showing and some wasteful passing, the display does not bode well for the Blues upcoming contest with Champions League holders Barcelona. To add to the uncertainty, Defensive stalwart and captain John Terry is a doubt for that contest, struggling with an injury to the ribs.

£30 FREE at Betfair: Chelsea: 4.9 | Draw: 3.95 | Barcelona: 1.79

Real Madrid came up against tenacious underdogs APOEL, who have been favorites to be knocked out of the competition since the group stages. The un-favored club progressed to the quarter finals through team unity, clever tactics and fantastic work rate, but the talents of Ronaldo, Kaka, Callejon and di Maria were only too happy to display the technical prowess that justifies many pundits and fans favoring Madrid to win the competition. A three to nil victory for Madrid in the first encounter left little in doubt as to the team in the ascendancy, and within the first half hour, Ronaldo added another goal to his teams advantage through a scrappy moment that would seem average when compared to the fantastic free kick he would score in the 75th. Kaka curled a beautiful strike in the net from a long way out, while di Maria and Jose Callejon both celebrated returns from injury with well taken goals. APOEL reminded Madrid of their abilities in the second half, taking advantage of complacency in Madrid’s defense to find Gustavo Manduca who finished a well coordinated team move. Hamit Altintop fouled Aldo Adorno to give APOEL a chance to lessen the gap, and substitute Esteban Solari took his kick well enough to beat Casillas.

In Bayern Munich’s match up with Marseille the return of Ivica Olic powered the attacking German side to a comfortable victory over Marseille. Both Olic’s goals were taken in the first half with Ribery and Alaba providing excellent crosses for the targetman, well regarded for his poaching abilities, to finish with accuracy and grace. The striker has been vocal about the frustrating lack of opportunities and made a case for more involvement in the first team, although a striker of Gomez’ quality will be hard to bench.

£30 FREE at Betfair: B Munich: 2.68 | Draw: 3.6 | Real Madrid: 2.78

Milan and Barcelona went into Tuesday’s game on a level playing field, but two Lionel Messi penalty kicks and an Andres Iniesta goal that came from a tight angel proved too much for Milan. The Italians briefly held an advantage through the away goal policy after Robinho and Ibrahimovic exchanged passes before the latter slid a deft ball through Barcelona’s defence to find Antonio Nocerino who made no mistake and beat Victor Valdes brilliantly, silencing the home crowd. The lead didn’t last long, however, as Barcelona were awarded their second penalty less than ten minutes later after Nesta was judged to have pulled on Sergio Busquet’s shirt. Messi took his second penalty of the night and played the hero once more after the break when his blocked shot fell to team mate Andres Iniesta who still had plenty to do from a tight angle, but finished his chance expertly.

Up coming matches will see Madrid face Munich in what will be a close match between two fantastic, in-form sides, while Barcelona will face Chelsea with question marks over the Blues’ managerial experience, defensive personnel and passing ability.

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