Actually, the party is at Emirates Stadium tonight in North London when Arsenal and Sevilla get it on. For a full preview of this game from the Gunner’s perspective check out the superb A Cultured Left Foot. The comment section alone is thoughtful reading for Arsenal fans.
Throw out TTL’s (un)proven theory of 1st games in CL Group stages lacking offensive firepower. Hoping the goal-scoring carries over to tonight. But in order to look forward, we must first venture back to the past. Specifically, some TTL headlines from last night’s action.
Liverpool, were “very, very bad” in the words of their Manager Rafa Benitez. LP were lucky to draw 1-1 with Porto as the Portuguese Champs dominated the game everywhere but the scoreboard. LP conceded their 4th penalty kick of the year(!) in the 8th minute and Lucho Gonzalez converted from the spot. This was after Steve Finnan’s poor clearance almost gifted Porto a goal in the 2nd minute as only a fine stop from Pepe Reina prevented a goal. The Dutch porn-star Dirk Kuyt headed LP level after 17 minutes but that was the high point of LP’s evening. Jermaine Pennant picked up a needless 2nd yellow forcing LP to play a man down for the final 32 minutes and some staunch defending kept it tied. TTL was furious at Pennant for his ill-tempered game all night and forcing me to watch LP play with 10 men. The best one can hope for is a draw at that point. Could have just chanted “Defense, defense” for the rest of the game. Ruined a perfectly fine night of football and wouldn’t find seeing Pennant rotated out of the much ballyhooed rotation for his poor performance.
Shakhtar Donestk proved the Ukraine is strong in hammering hapless Celtic 2-0. Celtic has lost 13 CL away games on the trot and they certainly weren’t convincing last night. Realistically, Celtic is playing for 3rd in Group D as 3rd-place finishers are put into this season’s UEFA Cup. But Celtic will need a much improved performance as Donestk could easily scored 5. Every time TTL glanced at the game the Ukrainian side had Celtic under pressure.
Andriy Shevchenko rescued Chelsea from an embarrassing home loss to Rosenborg. The Blues drew 1-1 as Rosenborg put in a good performance and benefited from Chelsea twice hitting the post in the 2nd half. And things keep getting worse for Chelsea as it appears both Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba will miss this Sunday’s tilt with Manchester United at Old Trafford. TTL suggests Jose Mourniho skip the omeletes all-together and go with scrambled eggs.
Spain won their duel with Germany as Real Madrid beat Werder Bremen 2-1 and Valencia won at Schalke 04 by the score of 1-0. Always think the Bundesliga teams are slightly overrated as its been awhile since a German club made a good run in the Champions League.
Here are tonight’s games. Already covered Arsenal-Sevilla today and yesterday, so TTL sincerely hopes it lives up to my high expectations. The other two games that TTL will be watching are Sporting Lisbon v Manchester United and Barcelona v Lyon.
It’s a homecoming in Lisbon for former Sporting stars Ronaldo and Nani along with Man U’s influential assistant coach Carlos Queiroz who managed Sporting from 1994-1996. There’s a good chance Wayne Rooney will play tonight after recovering from his metatarsal injury. (Ok, it’s officially spooky that as Rooney comes back from his injury England/Wigan striker Emilie Hesky broke his metatarsal). Rooney and Carlos Tevez have yet to play together, so it’ll be interesting to see when/how their partnership up-front meshes. They’re both fantastic players but TTL is wary of their ability to play with each other since their styles are quite similar. Both like to drop deep to pick-up the ball, run hard at defenders and are not great in the air. The situation could parallel the Lampard/Gerrard situation on the English national team as that team floundered because Gerrard and Lampard were unable to play well together despite both being good/great players. Just bears watching.
As for Barcelona v Lyon need to see if Lyon’s window to win the CL has passed. The 6-time defending Ligue 1 Champs were TTL’s trendy pick to win it last season before they exited with a whimper in the 1st knockout stage at the hands of Roma. They started slow in their domestic league this season but have regained their stride winning 4 in a row. And have traditionally played well on the road in the CL the past few years. On the other side is Barca, off to a slow start in La Liga as “los magnificos” are yet to find the goal with any consistency being held to goalless draws in 2 of 3 league games. A team built for offense is sputtering as manager Frank Rijkaard searches how to array his attacking talent of Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o and new 17 year-old sensation Bojan Krkic. This could be the game of the night if Arsenal-Sevilla fails to deliver.