Arsenal v Barcelona is without a doubt the marquee fixture of the round. Barcelona are masters of playing the beautiful game, their brand of football is cavalier like, successful and perhaps the closest version to total football. Like Barcelona, Arsenal has a heavy emphasis on producing a beautiful game however are less successful, less efficient and more fragile in defence.
Rubin Kazan and Inter Milan defeated Barcelona by playing a rear guard defence and then scoring on the counter attack. This tactic gained further credibility when Switzerland memorably defeated a Barcelona influenced Spain by employing the same rugged tactics in this year’s World Cup. To defeat Barcelona, it is up to Arsene Wenger to draw up a different strategy because if it has anything to do with playing beautiful football like last season then his Arsenal will not progress.
A.C. Milan v Tottenham Hotspur will be an advert for attacking football with Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan thriving with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović, Alexandre Pato and Robinho. However what Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur lack in world class players, they have abundance of pace with Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon hugging both touchlines. Spurs leaked five goals against Inter Milan, Milan not only have better attacking players but they have outscored Inter by nine goals in the Serie A. It will be interesting to see how Bale plays because if he plays the exact same way he did against Inter, Spurs will progress.
With Inter Milan v Bayern Munich, both managers are in danger of the sack. This season Rafael Benítez handed Roy Hodgson a sinking ship and after being handed a treble winning squad, his Milan have somehow fallen 13 points behind league leaders A.C. Milan. Though Louis van Gaal’s Bayern are no better considering they’re 17 points behind league leaders Borussia Dortmund. By February, van Gaal will hope a fully fit Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry can rejuvenate Bayern. Benítez will just be hoping he still has a job.
Lyon v Real Madrid is a chance for Jose Mourinho to exonerate the demons Madridista fans have when watching their side play in the round of 16. Interestingly the two times Mourinho won the Champions League, he faced a world class club in this round. With Porto, he faced Manchester United and with Inter Milan, he faced Chelsea. Lyon represents a potential banana peel for Mourinho as his Madrid are playing an attacking brand of football whilst Claude Puel is Mourinho personified with his Lyon side with a safety first counter attacking style which has polarised Puel amongst Lyon supporters. Though it would be ironic if Mourinho’s demise came by playing attacking football.
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Written by Allan Jiang
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