Let us go match by match and see what we have to work with.
Bordeaux vs. Lyon
At first seems like a pretty kick ass fixture. But when you think of it a little more it really seems lacking. One of the reasons the Champions League is enjoyable is because we all get to see how teams do against other teams they never play. This obviously doesn’t happen in this matchup in what really turns out to be a Ligue 1 match with a little more on the table. Everyone can easily look up the last time they played to get a feel of how it might go. On the plus side, it could foster a rivalry which French football has been in dire need of one. I say advantage Lyon by the simple fact that they’ve played in the Champions League more times recently.
Manchester United vs. Bayern Munich
Ok so pundits keep banging on about how this will be great because it was the finale match up from 1999. Why? Are any players left on either team from 1999? But I guess there is some draw here. The best teams in recent history from both the Premier League and Bundesliga. Man United have played pretty darned well this season and I expect them to take the EPL title once again. So I see them as pretty good favorites versus the Germans. At least the stupefying David Beckham story is over with. The only way I see Bayern taking this tie, is if Wayne Rooney somehow can’t play either leg. Without him the Red Devils become a much less imposing team.
Inter vs. CSKA Moscow
So a nice little Russian team decided to join the party with the big boys. Good for them. Ok enough patronizing. Who will win? Bets are on Inter but the Russians are fresh just in the beginning of their season and Inter can throw in a clunker of a game sometimes. The Italians have the better players but I’ll give the Muscovites a punchers chance at taking it. Not really the tie I was hoping for anyway.
Barcelona vs. Arsenal
So the team who plays the most beautiful football in the world plays the team who plays the most beautiful football in Britain. You’d think that once the teams are on the pitch, flowers would spring up out of the grass, a rainbow will descend on the stadium, and everyone will join hands and sing Kumbaya. This, in my mind, is the best of the ties. Barcelona and Arsenal met up in the 2006 CL finale, which is more relevant than the 1999 final. The short story of that was Arsenal outplayed Barcelona for the majority of the match with 10 men only to lose it thanks to Barca’s Supersub Swede Henrik Larsson. Even so that seems forever ago and both teams are barely recognizable from that match with only a couple players remaining on each team. So there’s that. Another interesting thing to watch is how each team deals with the style of the opponent. Neither is all that familiar playing against teams who play as similarly as these two do. Both teams love to keep possession and pass their opponents to death while also playing a pressure defense. Whoever does the better job at that will probably win. Teams really shouldn’t drastically change their strategy at this point of the season, no matter the opponent. I can imagine either team taking it, but I think Barcelona will take it in the end.
One other thing to watch as the final gets closer and closer is that an English team has been the loser in the final the past 4 years. Can that keep going?
I’ll leave it there, any other opinions are very welcome.