Gimme those predictions: Champions League Round of 16, Leg 2

Tuesday, March 4th

AC Milan vs. Arsenal
                (0-0)

The Gunners could go either way – too young, inexperienced to win at San Siro or young enough to not care or allow intimidation to get in the way of beating Milan at home. Wait…but is anyone telling Alexandre Pato to be nervous?
Prediction: 1-0, AC Milan

Barcelona vs. Celtic
                (3-2)

According to the girlfriend studying abroad in Barcelona, the town is OVERRUN by Celtic jersey-wearing fans, but none of that should affect the outcome of this game. Messi and company won’t mess up a good thing, especially when they need to refocus after a disastrous 4-2 loss to Atletico Madrid this past weekend. Barca is angry and Celtic haven’t won a road match yet in this season’s competition. Doesn’t mean the Hoops won’t fight hard…
Prediction: 2-0 (5-2) Barcelona

Sevilla vs. Fenerbahce
              (2-3)

Sevilla has home advantage which means it’s a virtual guarantee that Luis Fabiano, Frederic Kanoute, Dani Alves will be at the top of their game. If by chance, Alex and Mateja Kezman can catch Drago and Alves sleeping and get an early one, Sevilla could fold under pressure. This is going to be another high scorer though.
Prediction: 3-1 (5-4) Sevilla.

Manchester United vs. Lyon
                     (1-1)

Do you think Sir Alex Ferguson really wants Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa for the $90 million Lyon is asking for? Or is this a mind game – Sir Alex trying to mess with the youngsters’ heads before a big game. It’s a little bit of both and if Cristiano Ronaldo and Rooney work their usual magic, even first team goalkeeper and long term injury returnee Gregory Coupet will have a lot of work to do. Nemanja Vidic is supposed to return as well to shore up the defense, one that wasn’t tested much against Fulham. For Lyon though, all it takes is a Juninho set piece – home or away – to put things in the right place for OL.
Prediction: 2-1 (3-2) Manchester United.

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UEFA Champions League: Gunners keep firing; Rangers surprise the hell out of Lyon

Group E 

Rangers 3, Lyon 0

A definitive win for the Gers as they dispatched the French champions without so much of a whimper of disapproval. DaMarcus Beasley had the clincher and also provided the assist on the first goal from former Wigan man Lee McCulloch. The Rangers now control their destiny sitting atop the table with an undefeated and tough-looking Barca side.

Barcelona 2, VfB Stuttgart 0

Not quite domination, but the air of the game never felt like Barca were threatened. The German champs couldn’t deal with Henry and Messi, who put in the second goal.

Group F 

Sporting Lisbon 2, Dynamo Kiev 1

A good recovery win over Ukraine’s strongest squad. Yannick Djalo stood out above the rest……..again.

Manchester United 1, AS Roma 0

Despite receiving the news that Owen Hargreaves would be out another month, United handled Roma well amidst questionable finishing and a less fluid style of play. It was Wayne Rooney who took matters into his own hands by clanging the only goal off the post and giving the Devils their second European win in Group F.

Group G 

CSKA Moscow 2, Fenerbahce 2

A last-gasp put back from Brazilian Deivid gave the Turkish giants a key tie against Moscow, leaving them atop the Group G standings. It was the Brazilians who drove the game in this Eastern European clash. Vagner Love scored the go-ahead goal for CSKA after fellow Brazilian Edu Dracena took him down in the box (one of his most forgettable performances). Alex provided the first strike in the 9th minute.

Inter Milan 2, PSV Eindhoven 0

Despite two ejections late in the game, Inter had already put themselves clear of a somewhat disjointed PSV squad. Zlatan Ibrahimovic put in two by the 31st minute, making the ejection of defender Chivu and Honduran David Suazo a ho-hum. Inter will not have Suazo and Chivu as they take on CSKA Moscow sitting right in the thick of the table.

Group H 

Sevilla 4, Slavia Prague 2

A host of goalscorers stepped up for Sevilla but it was talisman Frederic Kanoute that opened the scoring and jumpstarted the Sevilla offense. After questionable results within La Liga the past couple weeks, last year’s Spanish surprises were looking for an encouraging win and got it. Slavia Prague did leave without a fight though – cancelling out Kanoute’s opening goal and grabbing another in the waning minutes of the match.

Arsenal 1, Steaua Bucharest 0

The Gunners only needed one and it came late and in this year’s Arsenal-fashion. Both Van Persie and Adebayor have refined their game this year and transformed these Gunners into a multi-weapon team.

La Liga Para Todos Sept 6th–Tengo un gato en mis pantalones

Well I couldn’t be left out of all the fun that Jeff and Breton are having posting their daily pieces on the MLS and EPL, so I am joining in with my ‘daily’ (note parenthesis) take on all things La Liga. Note that most of my links are in Spanish because I’m an adopted Spaniard, so if you can’t read Spanish, lo siento mucho.

Here is some good Spanish music to start you out right. ‘El Besolla’ by La Excepción (its essentially about a Fútbol Sala team from the singer’s home ‘barrio’ Pan Ben, in Madrid.

Juan Román Riquelme said that he will stay put in Villareal until his contract is up in 2009, despite his well publicized falling out with manager Manuel Pellagrini last season.

Riquelme was essentially told that he ‘doesn’t fit into the plans’ at Villareal and will not play this season. Riquelme is probably glad he didn’t play in the 5-0 thumping by the hands of Real Madrid last week. This is a long way from being nominated for FIFA player of the year in 2005 based on his work at Villareal.

He was shipped off to Boca Juniors last season, where he did net 10 goals in 20 games and helped Juniors win the Copa Libertadores 2007. There was rumor that Boca wanted to sign Riquelme for good, but Boca denied an offer placed by Villareal, thus shipping the Argentinian back to España.

Pellagrini should get his head out of his ass and put Riquelme in as he is a proven goal scorer, but these things happen when coaches act like 12 year old school girls. Boca have said that they want to renegociate in December with Villareal, but we will see what happens. CHI will keep you posted.

Ernesto Chevantón is looking for an exit from Sevilla in December if he can find one. Chevantón has has a hard time fitting into the scheme of things over in Sevilla with the likes of Kanouté and Luis Fabiano upfront. Now with bringing in Kone from PSV Eindhoven, there is even less room in the Sanchez Pizjuan for the Uruguayan.

He is a great player and has amazing pace with the ball. Juande Ramos should look to keep him around, but unfortunately there is no where to effectively put him. He is getting looks from Racing and Galatasary, and wants to be out come the next transfer window.

La Liga has told the Spanish media companies to kiss and make up as Audiovisual and Mediasport still have not come to an agreement on televising La Liga games this season, thus turning Spain into a riot zone if they don’t come to some sort of decision soon. Trust me, you don’t want to take away football from Spaniards, you just don’t.

Miguel Ángel Portugal did a bit of whining in Marca today, saying that they ‘could have had’ Leo Messi, Giovani and Cristiano Ronaldo all on the cusp of signing with Madrid, but they never got them. Pity, it really is.

As my dad always said, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

La Palabra del día.

‘leche’—-Leche literally means ‘milk’, but it also means fantastic, great, ‘the shit’ As in this sentence.

Joder tío, Capel es la leche.

La Liga Preview—Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, FC Sevilla

For the past few weeks I have combed the paella and sangria filled landscape that is Spain to come up with a definitive La Liga preview. For the most part, La Liga coverage in English is a bit difficult to find, so I have had to do lots of digging to figure out what is going on with the teams that have ascended into La Liga from the Segunda Division last season. However, there is no shortage of talk about La Liga in Spanish, thus I do a good deal of time trolling the Spanish dailies and team forums to get all the goods. It was so much easier when I lived there.

In all of the previews, I’ll give you the team, stadium, nicknames, who’s out, who’s in and what is going on. I don’t give starting 11’s because I’m shockingly bad at that.

Today we will have a look at the top three teams that fought it out till the last Temporada, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC (Note that you can find a million reviews and previews of these teams, so I don’t waste my time talking about every player on Madrid’s roster)

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