The last of the round of 16 first leg matches take place in Champions’ League on Wednesday. Surely, the pick of the two in so far as storylines go is the Inter-Chelsea match. However, equally exciting for us here at One Game, One World will be the CSKA Moscow-Sevilla pairing. Will one of these two do a “Porto” (suprise winners in 2004) and come out of nowhere to challenge?
A quick recap of yesterday’s matches show us that although Barcelona struggled mightily in the first half against VfB Stuttgart, the defending European champions showed their mettle with a solid second half showing which saw them snag an all-important away goal. Stuttgart could still make things interesting at the Nou Camp in a few weeks’ time, however the advantage surely lies with Pep Guardiola’s team.
Bordeaux recorded a fine 1-0 over Olympiakos in Greece. This result undoubtedly puts Laurent Blanc’s men into the driver’s seat for the quarterfinals, especially considering the Greeks’ awful away record in the competition. In all fairness however, Olympiakos were extremely unlucky not to get at least a goal. The end of the match saw a flurry of action where the Greeks had chances galore, however they ran into some super goalkeeping by Bordeaux’s Cedric Carrasso. Unfortunately, Bordeaux’s goal had some controversy to it as the foul that was called by Howard Webb that led up to the goal was absolutely ridiculous. It was as clean a slide tackle as you could ever see (executed by Olympiakos’ Lomana LuaLua) and the fact that Webb made such a poor decision really begs the question if he is fit to referee such a match, yes it was that bad.
On to today’s previews.
And so we finally see if all the fuss was worth it as Inter and Chelsea square off on Wednesday. Two giants of European football clash as well as two leaders of some of Europe’s most respected leagues. However, it is the return of Jose Mourinho to face Chelsea that has football media all over the globe salivating over this one.
This will be exciting for us to watch at One Game, One World, though the second leg promises to be the real story as Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge and the tie will eventually be decided in London. So, you’ll forgive us for delving into the match analysis for now and perhaps a more in-depth report about Mourinho’s return when the second leg gets closer.
Inter enter the match on the back of a weird match on Saturday, a 0-0 draw with Sampdoria that saw Inter reduced to 9 men for most of the match. Mourinho of course couldn’t believe it and after making a gesture to the referees (he made a handcuffed gesture with his hands suggesting that the officials were unfairly treating his team) received a three-match ban for Serie A matches. Despite the sometimes controversy prone Mourinho, the manager has his team sitting pretty atop Serie A by 5 points and looking favorites to claim another Italian title.
It is in Europe however where the Nerazzurri really hope to make their mark. Victory in the Round of 16 over Chelsea would really send a warning to all of Europe that Inter Milan should not be overlooked in this tournament.
Chelsea meanwhile are becoming a sort of bridesmaid in the Champions’ League. Though they have only made it to one final (losers to Manchester United on PK’s in 2008) in recent years, they are perennially present in the later rounds and poor form and mostly bad luck have combined to ensure they don’t claim Europe’s biggest prize.
Carlo Ancelotti was brought in to bring prowess on the continental stage and give the Londoners that little missing bit in order to win that elusive European title. Ancelotti has done well in his first season with the club and it remains to be seen whether he can keep the house in order during this important stretch. With players such as John Terry and Ashley Cole making headlines for all the wrong reasons, Chelsea have seemed a bit distracted in recent weeks. Nonetheless, this is a club that is mentioned as one of the favorites as their experience in these sort of matches is vast.
Don’t expect too much in the way of open, attacking football here. Perhaps more of a chess match between Mourinho and Ancelotti. Inter would love to bring a clean win to England and though Chelsea have plenty of attacking power, I fancy the Italians to bring a narrow advantage back to Stamford Bridge.
One Game, One World Prediction: Inter Milan-Chelsea 1-0
Can Sevilla survive the icy cold conditions in Moscow? That seems to be one of the questions being asked ahead of this match-up. Having avoided the big names in the draw for the Round of 16, both sides will consider themselves having a great shot to reach the last 8.
Though CSKA may have the advantage of being a bit better suited for the cold weather, the problem is that the Russian League ended a couple months ago and they have had to make due playing friendlies since in order to prepare. But, then you could look at the other side in that they have a fully fit squad from which to choose from. The Russians performed very well in the group stage, claiming a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United and progressing from a group that included United, Besiktas, and Wolfsburg. Winners of the UEFA Cup in 2005, CSKA are now hoping to make a run in Europe’s biggest club competition.
Sevilla enter these matches as favorites to go through, but there has been an annoying inconsistency about the team this season. While they haven’t been able to make a real charge at the leaders in La Liga, they are currently fourth and have qualified through to the Copa del Rey final against Atletico Madrid.
The Spanish side had little trouble advancing from their group stage section against the likes of Rangers, Unirea Urziceni, and Stuttgart, but now the real test will come. Based on talent alone and their good track record in knockout competitions, this is certainly a team that could make some noise in the knockout rounds.
A cold February night in Moscow is never fun and while CSKA will have that advantage, expect Sevilla somehow to get that precious away goal.
One Game, One World Prediction: CSKA Moscow-Sevilla 1-1