Posts Tagged Marseille

Champions League Match Day 2 Preview – Group E to H


First off, here’s how match day one went in the four groups on preview:

Group E: Bayern Munich 2-0 AS Roma. CFR Cluj 2-1 FC Basle

Group F: MSK Zilina 1-4 Chelsea. Olympique Marseille 0-1 Spartak Moscow

Group G: Real Madrid 2-0 AFC Ajax. AC Milan 2-0 AJ Auxerre

Group H: Arsenal 6-0 Sporting Braga. Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 Partizan Belgrade

Much has happened since a fortnight ago when these matches were played with Chelsea and Arsenal falling to first league defeats of their seasons, Bayern being stunned at home by surprise Bundesliga leaders FSV Mainz, Roma edging Inter Milan in Serie A in what should prove a real confidence booster for the Italians and Real Madrid dropping points in a goalless draw against newly promoted Levante to leave los Merengues playing chase in la Liga already.

In Group E, Roma’s seeming revival will be tested by CFR Cluj at the Stadio Olimpico which may prove a bit too imposing for the visiting Romanian side. A win for Roma in this match is especially crucial as any other result will deeply jeopardise Giallorossi’s chance of making the knock-out round. Bayern Munich, that have French winger Franck Ribery back, is favourite to win the trip to Switzerland to face Basle as the Bavarians will be out to get the home loss by Mainz behind them.

Group F sees an attractive fixture with French champions Marseille visiting the Stamford Bridge fortress to face Chelsea and its former striker Didier Drogba. Marseille may not have the quality of players or home advantage as Manchester City but there is much the French side can take to the Bridge. That said, Chelsea is known to recover very well from losses as against City on Saturday and Marseille will be made to rue losing its first match at home to Spartak. The Russians can consolidate on that crucial win with what should be a stroll of a game against visiting debutantes Zilina. A win for Spartak there would mean six points in the bag before a dreaded double header of games against Chelsea with the Blues visiting Russia in the first of those games in mid October.

In Group G, Ajax must utilise its youth and home advantage against seven time champions Milan that have former Ajax striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in its fold along with Alex Pato, Robinho and the ever dreaded Ronaldinho to bank on to ruffle the Ajax back line. Luis Suarez will be key if Ajax is to win otherwise, experience will play in favour of Milan with a point from the trip in the least.

Milan will also be driven to win by the looming fixture with Real Madrid coming after this and with the Spaniards not in top form, an upset in the form of a loss or draw against Auxerre will swing the group advantage to Milan… Jose Mourinho has his work cut out.

Finally from Group H, Arsenal face a tricky trip to Partizan Belgrade without captain Cesc Fàbregas and goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, who was chief culprit in the shock 2-3 reverse at home to West Brom in the Premier League, giving Polish keeper Lukasz Fabianski a starting berth and his chance to be Arsenal’s first choice keeper. Safe for that department, the Gunners should get a point at worst from this trip. Braga meanwhile must pick up from an appaling opening day display at the Emirates when Shakhtar visit Portugal looking to consolidate on its opening day win over Partizan. Any less than a win for Braga will poise Shakhtar for the double salvo in October against Arsenal and a reunion of Eduardo da Silva with his former employers.

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Arsenal, Chelsea Ease to Champions League Wins


Lot’s of criticism has come in light of the quality of clubs that now find themselves getting swept aside in a stroll by their more established counterparts following Wednesday’s round of Match Day One fixtures in the UEFA Champions League.

In Group E, AS Roma held its own until a barrage of unrelenting pressure from Bayern Munich earned the Germans a well deserved 2-0 win thanks to goals in the closing ten minutes from youngster Thomas Müller – with an exquisite finish with the outside of his right – and veteran Miroslav Klose. The Bavarians now lead the group ahead of CFR Cluj that held on for a 2-1 win over visiting FC Basle in Romania.

In Group F, a first half brace from Nicholas Anelka helped Chelsea on its way to a 4-1 win at MSK Zilina with Ghana midfielder Michael Essien opening the scoring for the Blues early on while Daniel Sturridge got the visitors fourth three minutes into the second half. The group’s other match saw Spartak Moscow leave France with all three points in a lone goal win over Olympique Marseille thanks to an own goal nine minutes from time; those three points could prove quite crucial for Spartak at the climax of the group stage.

Group G saw 2-0 wins for favourites Real Madrid and AC Milan over Ajax and Auxerre respectively. At the Bernabeu, Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain was in form for los Merengues as he sealed the win for Real 20 minutes from the end after his first half opener was credited as an own goal. At the San Siro meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic picked himself from a missed penalty over the weekend with a brace for the Rossoneri to down the French debutantes.

And finally from Group H, where Arsenal barely needed the second gear in the 6-0 thrashing of Sporting Braga with captain Cesc Fàbregas the star of the night with two goals and two assists. Andrei Arshavin got a goal and two assists, Marouane Chamakh scored his first with the foot and third for Arsenal in competitive football and substitute Carlos Vela got a brace, including a well executed chip over Braga ‘keeper Felipe. Arsenal lead ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk that pipped Partizan Belgrade by the lone goal.

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UEFA Champions League Day 1 Preview – Group E to H


The wait is now down to the hours for the kick-off of the UEFA Champions League and you can view the preview of Group A to D at http://wp.me/puIC6-3u while Group E to H is previewed here.

Group E
Last season’s beaten finalist Bayern Munich and Italian giants AS Roma would straight away pop up as favourites to qualify from the group, but that’s what the paper says. Based on form, Bayern will need to raise their game a notch coupled with a bit of luck in front of goal when the Bavarians begin their campaign at home to the Italian club that on its part, has to raise its game well more than a notch coming on the back of a rattling 5-1 humiliation at Cagliari. I’m thinking Bayern will use this game as a launch pad for what has been a below par start to the season while the light seems a long way off in the tunnel Roma is in now.

As for the other group game in Romania between CFR 1907 Cluj-Napoca and Swiss champions FC Basle, I’ll go for a Cluj win even though Basle are a decent side coupled with the fact that the club – with very similar stripe to Barcelona – has started its domestic season on a good note but the trip to the Eastern bloc may prove too daunting for Basle against a Cluj side that is capable of getting a much bigger scalp in its campaign based on the adventure of previous seasons in this competition.

Group F
Here’s how it is here. We have French champions Olympique Marseille, Russians Spartak Moscow and debutantes MSK Zilina looking forward to fighting for valuable points against each other while only hoping for whatever against overwhelming group favourite Chelsea. The Blues are in exceptional form with four league wins from four…but in truth, Chelsea is prone to a bit of a struggle on the occasional odd trip and that to virtual unknowns Zilina may well not turn out to be a stroll in the park for the Premier League leaders.

The other game between Olympique Marseille and Spartak Moscow at the imposing Velodrome should have a more competitive edge. It is games as this that Marseille, the champions of 1992, must win to stand a strong chance of making the knock-out rounds and I’d have fancied l’oM to achieve just that had a certain Mamadou Niang remained at the club…still not enlightened to the wisdom of allowing him leave. Anyway, Marseille should nick this one even if it turns out tough.

Group G
Touted as the group to watch (trying not to use the cliche), the group could just turn out to be a straight fight for top spot between favourites Real Madrid and AC Milan with Milan confident of its chances against Real having had the better of the Spaniards at the Bernabeu after a draw in the San Siro the last time the two met. But I like the starlets from Ajax, led by Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez and backed up by a good ‘keeper in Marten Stekelenberg. The team spirit of the Dutch side may fall just short of upsetting the odds to claim a second round berth but it sure should create a few headaches, starting with the trip to face Real Madrid that has failed to impress so far under new manager Jose Mourinho but we all know the Portuguese tactician will take any kind of win – scrappy or classy – even at the expense of a goal feast…three points are three points no matter how it is gotten and Real will be out to do just that against Ajax. Milan meanwhile will be out to erase the shock loss at Cesena on Saturday with an assured display against visiting French debutantes Auxerre and the presence of a fearsome attack comprising Ronaldinho, Pato, Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic should undo the French resolve. Ibrahimovic especially has something to prove to his new employers following a missed penalty against Cesena…not what he had in mind for a first impression no doubt.

Group H
Should Arsenal fail to win all its home games in this group, there is going to be trouble to simply put it. The Gunners on paper are runaway favourites but Sporting Braga knocked out Sevilla in the final qualifying round while not many clubs fancy trips to places like Donetsk or Belgrade. I therefore see this group staying competitive till match day five and six and here is why. Arsenal is not exactly a good guest on Portuguese soil nearby, let alone the frozen fields far at the former Soviet. So having two home games in its first three matches I feel may play to Arsenal’s advantage especially if the Gunners get a good result in the trip to Partizan Belgrade on match day two. Match day one against Braga at the Emirates should meanwhile be a good one for Arsene Wenger’s side in light of the very dismal record of visiting Portuguese teams to England.

Shakhtar Donetsk should have enough of themselves when Partizan visit Ukraine in the group’s other encounter on match day one. It will be interesting to see how former Arsenal striker Eduardo will fare for Shakhtar in the competition especially against his former employers on match day three when the Croatian will be at the Emirates in what will be an emotional return.

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Ahead of the Champions League Draw


So who do you reckon will face whoever in the UEFA Champions League group stage, with the hour for the draws drawing ever so close now.

Pot One has last year’s finalists Inter Milan and Bayern Munich along with English trio Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, Spanish champions Barcelona, AC Milan and Olympique Lyon that I feel will make quite an impact again this coming season following their capture of talented midfielder Yoann Gourcuff from Bordeaux.

Pot Two is highlighted by Real Madrid; no thanks to losing out in the first knock round to Lyon last season, the sixth straight time los Merengues have bade bye to the competition so early, AS Roma, Werder Bremen and Olympique Marseille. A lot of eyes will be on Tottenham Hotspur in Pot Three that also has Scottish champions Rangers and Ajax Amsterdam while Pot Four has got among others, FC Copenhagen, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Auxerre, Spartak Moscow and MSK Zilina (no offence, who?).

Also watch out for the likes of Portugal’s Sporting Braga in Pot Three after knocking out Sevilla in the final qualifying round as well as a certain Bursaspor from Turkey…whatever happened to Fernabahçe and the likes?

My guts tell me Real Madrid would probably get their nemesis Lyon and I’m counting on Raul making a return to the Bernabeu as well in Schalke colours. The Red Devils could also draw Rangers, just to play up the Scot link with Sir Alex and Tottenham should get ready for one of Barcelona, Inter Milan or AC Milan, I’d prefer Barça!

But hey, it’s just my guts! The real draw will be known from 17:00 BST and the group stage will kick off from September 14 and 15…now the season’s completely started!

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Wouldn’t it Be Fun?


Would it not be fun if Stuttgart the the football world a favour and pulled off the shock of the competition by defeating CF Barcelona in the Champions League second round?

How about French Ligue 1 leaders Girondins Bordeaux going all the way and lifting the last Champions League trophy competed for in this Millennium’s first decade?

And by the way, that Bordeaux win would come at the expense of an enterprising, yet unlucky FC Sevilla that came back from two goals down to force extra-time at 2-2, go ahead early in extra time, only to allow the Frenchies pull off a comeback of theirs and win 4-3 after 120 exhilarating minutes of football?

It would be lovely to see all that and a few more happen after watching draws for the knock-out phase of the competition made but thing is…most of it won’t (if not all) unless of course we get a re-run of FC Porto and AS Monaco from ’04.

In my opinion, Real Madrid looks sure bets for an umpteenth second round exit; Olympique Lyon may not be performing as well as they are used to in Ligue 1 (down in 4th place) but Real; with all the talent, didn’t quite inpress (me) in the group phase and Marseille could’ve got the ticket instead but they aren’t made of the stuff Lyon is and I count on Lyon to continue its good UCL record against Real.

As for the Italians, pity! Be not deceived by Chelsea’s current form. We’re talking of February; a time Drogba and Essien should be back from the African Nations Cup just as the league title race heats up (which is when Chelsea really get to stride).

Manchester United also get their stride at that period. Besides, Leonardo’s got no fan in me and recent Anglo-Italian history just doesn’t favour a fair return to Old Trafford for David Beckham and the rest of Rossoneri.

Truth is, everyone wanted to avoid the English sides (except if Liverpool had made it….actually, no!) so FC Porto (with one win in, what…a dozen visits to Queensland) joins the club of “oh dear” when they square up with Arsenal (who, hopefully for all Gooners, have acquired a forward or two by then).

Everyone also failed to list Bayern Munich on the Christmas wish list but Fiorentina was unfortunate…or are they now? the Viola did pretty well in the group stage and (to me) seem a most appropriate opponent for the Germans who I think are getting to their best.

In all, we’re in for some cool football (as usual) from the knock-out phase and sentimentally, I’d love for Arsenal to go all the way but the favourites for me are Barcelona while rank outsiders are Bordeaux…they’ve really impressed me!

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