Monday, April 23, 2012

Season on the line

Man Utd gave a perfect rendition of How to Throw away the Title after getting caught into a 4-4 tie with Everton. A cross-bar and 2 minutes of madness meant that an assured 3 points transformed into a measly 1 point that could cost the Red Devils dear in the end. It's game on for the Manchester Derby next week and City will no doubt on such defensive lapses if they were to repeat at the Etihad.

Barcelona's season is on the line on Tuesday in the return UCL semi-final leg against Chelsea. 2 costly defeats in the space of 3 days have rocked the Catalan club big time; they lost the Liga to Real this week-end and they are in danger of going out of the UCL if they can't beat Chelsea by more than 2 goals.

Against Real, clearly Guardiola was distracted by the UCL match. His team selection meant that he wanted to freshen things up against Chelsea; after all, even a win over Real would have meant his team still trailing the Los Blancos in the standings and hence the destiny of the title still out of their hands. The problem for Barcelona in these 2 matches has been their profligacy in front of goal. With a lack of a pure striker in the form of David Villa, they rely on Messi (excessively) and midfielders Fabregas and Sanchez to score. As we've seen lately, if Messi fails to score, the reliance on the other 2 can be somewhat misplaced. They have scored, but never in the range of the Argentinian genius.

Much of the game will depend on Petr Cech, the Chelsea keeper. He will need to have a near-perfect night and rely on the aid of his best friends, his posts and cross-bar! There's no doubt that Chelsea's defensive pair of Terry and Cahill will be breached, but it remains to be seen whether Cech can be beaten. Yet again, he was saved by his posts against Arsenal over the week-end.

Barcelona will get plenty of possession, and opportunities to score. In fact, they will score, I have no doubt. But will they concede? Chelsea's best way to score will be on set-pieces, particularly with the lack of height in the Catalan team. Arsenal went to the Nou Camp and scored. So did Milan. Chelsea are always a threat to score with Drobga; particularly if he's keen on his unfair-play antics with his usual dead-man drops, sometimes in the penalty area. The Ivory Coast striker is still dangerous despite his age, but the theatrics he's added to his repertoire leave a lot to be desired.

This could be a high-scoring game. Barcelona could blow this Chelsea team apart if they take full opportunity of their scoring chances. If their defence stays perfect on the night and they do not concede, they will qualify. I cannot see them lose. It looks like Chelsea is in for a hell of a trip. Draw-no-bet on Barcelona is safe; for them to qualify is still on (from previous post selection). Messi to finally score against the Blues doesn't look like a far-fetched selection as well.

 Draw-no-bet: Barcelona

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