Bish's Briefs - The 2009-10 Champions League story so far
Published: 23 Feb 2010 - 08:02:55
So a new campaign of knock-out Champions League football has come around - and so far it has told us nothing that we did not already know.
Luis Fabianksi is not the long-term, or short-term answer to Arsenal's goalkeeping problems, Lyon always beat Real Madrid at the Stade Gerland, AC Milan remain an experienced side that just fall short, Wayne Rooney is the complete forward and Thomas Henning Ovrebo is not fit to referee in games of such importance, if any at all.
Poor referring was evident in two of the four games that took place in the re-formatted schedule of the last 16 - but despite Arsene Wenger's protestations - and he was correct in claiming that referee Martin Hansson should not have granted the ball so quickly to Porto to put themselves in a 2-1 lead - it does not mask the fact that Fabianski made a horrendous decision that smacked of panic and lack of faith in his own ability when he picked up Sol Campbell's backpass.
It was a decision you should not see from a goalkeeper of a club with aspirations that match Arsenal's. The fact that a defender they signed as emergency cover, with the likelihood of a couple of FA Cup appearances ahead of him, ended playing a Champions League Last 16 tie shows what 60,000 Arsenal fans who fill the Emirates, and everybody else has been saying for too long - their squad lacks a quality of depth particularly in the crucial spinal positions.
Over in south-west France Lyon maintained their 100% record against Real Madrid with a closely fought 1-0 win that makes it three wins out of three for them in the Champions League against Los Blancos.
Something has to give in this tie - Real have been eliminated from this stage in the last five seasons - a staggering statistic when you take into account the standing Real have in the game and the money they have spent on chasing that so far elusive 10th European Cup.
Lyon themselves have tumbled in this round in the last three seasons and they should do again when Real get them back to the Bernabeu where they have a flawless record in La Liga this season. Their 6-2 demolition of Villarreal on Sunday night should strike fear into those with Champions League aspirations this season.
Manuel Pellegrini looks to have found a system that is bringing the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo, and now Kaka, with the pair seemingly enjoying each others success, in the knowledge that between them they have the weaponry to shoot down any side that comes before them. Lyon have been knocked out by the eventual winners in the last two seasons - on this form there is every chance that Real could make it an unfortunate hat-trick.
Ronaldo's former side rode their luck before escaping with a 3-2 lead against Kaka's old side, Milan. United were truly wretched in the first-half hour at the San Siro with Ronaldinho rekindling memories of his former glories from a few years ago.
Sir Alex Ferguson's men could have had no complaints if they had found themselves three down before Paul Scholes' fortuitous equaliser. The public 'hairdrying' given to Jonny Evans, who continued his concerning form in Saturday's Premier League defeat at Goodison Park, highlighted how drastic the situation was with Milan one up.
A combination of Milan running out of steam and Man Utd gradually establishing a foothold in the game, allowed Wayne Rooney to score two quick-fire headers, that barring a calamitous turn of events that will take them into the last eight for the fourth successive season.
At the start of this current campaign Rooney was already a magnificent footballer, the perfect specimen of strength, skill and substance. The difference is, now, devoid of the defensive shackles that once held back his attacking instincts he is now the focal point of Ferguson's attack. Now, whenever he gets the ball you expect him to score. That fear factor is something defenders all over Europe have to tackle as well as the man himself.
At the semi-final stage last season Henning Ovrebo incensed anyone and everyone connected with Chelsea with his performance in their second-leg heartache against Barcelona. Whilst it may have humoured anybody anti-Chelsea - his showing in last week's tussle between Bayern Munich and Fiorentina was nothing short of shocking.
How Mark van Bommel remained on the pitch after a series of crude tackles, handballs and foul play is a mystery, as was his decision to send-off Fiorentina's Massimo Gobbi and to then allow Miroslav Klose to stay on the Allianz Arena pitch after a horror tackle of his own.
He wasn't finished there either - anyone who saw Klose's winner in the 89th minute will have rubbed their eyes when they saw a player who should have been sulking in an early bath wheeling away in celebration. As Ivica Olic played the ball into the penalty area, searching out Klose, the German international was two yards offside. At least. Still, why ruin a consistent performance Mr Ovrebo?!
With ill feeling running through the veins of Fiorentina's players the second leg could be something very special. Only Bordeaux won more points in the Group Stage so Cesar Prandelli will have every confidence in his side, righting the wrongs of Munich, when the tie moves to Florence in a fortnight's time.
The team that Ovrebo angered last year take on their most successful ever manager on Wednesday night. Expect plenty of pout, posture and preening with Jose Mourinho seeing a tie against Chelsea as a perfect opportunity to dominate the headlines for a few days.
Tedious and pointless statements will be made aplenty and it will be interesting to see who the Italian press favour with Chelsea under the charge of a man they love in Carlo Ancelotti. Whilst the English press lapped up any soundbite or excuse for copy that Jose gave them, the Italians have become rather tired of Mourinho's moaning and mitherings.
Expect the football to do none of the talking. Should fit in nicely with Chelsea in town shouldn't it?!
READ BISH'S BRIEFS EXCLUSIVELY AT FOOTBALL.CO.UK EVERY TUESDAY
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:andy bishop
- Having worked in radio, newspapers, magazines, internet and television I hope to now bring my passion for the game to your computer screens with analysis, comment and tongue-in-cheek humour on all things global in the world of football - from Barcelona to Boca and from Blatter to Berlusconi...enjoy!
Previous Blog Posts
- France failure written in the stars
- Spain and Brazil set to shine
- England can be the new Italy
- Keepers go ballistic over Jabulani
- Diego drives them crazy
- Daily Mail own goal puts 2018 bid in jeopardy
- Vote Pedro
- Ronaldo v Kaka looms large
- Platini writes off French challenge
- Spanners for Spain
- What hope for Floundering France
- Sven a risk for Ivory Coast
- England can cope without Beckham
- Madrid and Barca are better than ever
- Europe is the place to be once more
- The 2009-10 Champions League story so far
- Real close the gap as Barca slip up
- Fabio and Traps are halfway to Euro 2012
- Sevilla continue resurgence under Jimenez
- The great demise of Italian defending
- Basque brawn of Bilbao benefits Barca
- The Carnival amid the chaos
- 2010 promises a footballing odyssey
- La Liga Review of the year
- Barcelona rightly crowned team of the year
- Dean Ashton could have been an England great
- Englands dream path to World Cup Glory
- First blood Barca as Madrid flaws exposed
- Beautiful Barca face Money Madrid in 'El Clasico'
- Sowing the World Cup seeds of doubt
- Villa departure only a Mata of time
- Beckham and Milan are a match made in heaven
- Why the Bundesliga is the best league in Europe