Saturday, March 15, 2008
Drawn and Quartered
As was the case in 2007, the top Premiership clubs have thrived in the competition, while the gap between the haves and the have-nots in England has been demonstrated by the UEFA Cup fortunes of the second-tier Premiership clubs, who have recently been indulging in that favourite British pastime of losing penalty shootouts.
The Manchester United v. Roma tie, of course, has a particular edge given the 7-1 thrashing handed out to the Italians at Old Trafford last season. Although everyone seems to be writing the Italians off, I think they have a fair chance this time; Manchester United were less than impressive in their second leg against Lyon, with Wayne Rooney and Anderson somewhat out of form. It's a pity, too, that we've now seen the last of the electric Karim Benzema in this year's competition.
Arsenal v. Liverpool will be a fascinating encounter. When Wenger's Arsenal are on form, they are fantastic to watch, but Liverpool is just the sort of pragmatic side that might be able to stop them in their tracks. And Fernando Torres showed in the second leg against Inter that he only needs the slightest of chances to punish a side that presses without reward.
Schalke are unlikely to trouble Barcelona, even taking into account Lionel Messi's injury, but the surprising Fenerbahce should provide more than token resistance against a Chelsea side who are not quite the force they were, despite their excellent recent run in the Premiership.
Who to pick at this stage, then? Oddly enough, although their star has appeared to be on the wane of late, I'm inclined to go with Barca. The fact that they may effectively lose the La Liga race to Real Madrid before long could give them added incentive to repeat their 2006 success, and they can avoid the two sides I believe would be their most troublesome opponents - Liverpool and Chelsea - until the final.
I don't Roma this time would be getting the jitter like they did last time at Old Trafford.
How that tie pans out after last year's debacle (for Roma) is going to be fascinating. Let's be honest, it's not every day that a top team is at the wrong end of a 7-1 shellacking - how they respond a year on will be full of intrigue.
By the way - thanks for the plug!
I'm sure there must be large networks of interlinked companies operating in the "News" business whom already employ large teams of writers to focus on the best puns rather than factual stories - who would pay elephant bucks for your services.
Maybe you ought to be less knowledgeable, less considered, less erudite and forget to do research once in a while then.
Just a thought. Carry on. Schalke04 for teh win.
I'd love to see Arsenal in the final against either Barca or Roma (whoever is better in a potential semi should they get through Schalke and Man U respectively).
Recent history proves that when two English teams meet in Europe it's generally cagey and boring...
That would be compunded if Liverpool were to meet Chelsea in the semis...only Torres would be worth watching, although the destiny could well be with Abramovich taking his Chelsea to the Moscow final.
Arsenal v Roma/Barca is a wish-list...every chance a pragmatist (Liverpool or Chelsea) will be there.
Non fa niente, Pippinu!
...Sometimes I wonder, mikey, if you spend more time coming up with the brilliantly pithy titles as you do the piece below....
Been saving that one up actually.
...Hey Mike, can you please send me your email address?...
Shall do Hamish.