Thursday, 7 April 2011

Champions League Quarter-Finals 1st Leg: What We've Learnt

After all four first legs in the Champions League quarter-finals were completed yesterday; Real Talk Football looks at what we have learnt from four ties, who were the stand out performers, who underachieved and what we can expect from an exciting round of matches.

Real Madrid v. Tottenham – 4-0

Tottenham fans got their wish of facing one of the tougher sides left in the competition, and ended facing up to the harsh consequences. A mystery illness to Aaron Lennon before the game as well as an early red card from Peter Crouch already meant the North London faced an uphill battle.

Emmanuel Adebayor put in a class performance, reminiscing of his best years at Arsenal, and he scored two goals on the night taking his tally to 11 goals in 10 appearances against Tottenham.

Angel Di Maria scored a wonder goal, while Cristiano Ronaldo added the fourth; finally getting on the score sheet after having 14 attempts on goal during the game.

There aren’t too many positives for Tottenham to take to the second leg, Real Madrid are yet to concede at home in the Champions League, and only have only conceded 3 goals altogether. All Spurs can do is go all out attack, and hope for the best.

Inter Milan v. Schalke 04 – 2-5

Inter Milan cannot defend. This is their biggest hindrance in this shaky defence (no pun intended) of their Champions League title. If you look at Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United’s defensive records so far in this campaign, you understand why they are all clear favourites ahead of the Nerazzurri.

Inter are missing their experienced and solid central defensive partnership of Lucio and Walter Samuel, upon which they built their Champions League win last season. During that victorious campaign, they only conceded 9 goals in 13 matches, where as this season they have already shipped 19 goals in just 9 games. They also have the worst defensive record of the last eight teams in the Champions League, conceding an average of 2 goals per game.

In a finaly note on Inter, Dejan Stankovic's unbelievable volley opened the scoring, and is too good to leave out of this review.

Schalke were seen as dark horses to make it into the latter stages of the competition, and thanks to the pacey powerful performance from Jefferson Farfan, the clinical finishing from Striker Edu, along with the fantastic attacking prowess shown by legendary striker Raul all led to thrashing Inter.

The final high point for Schalke, apart from the five away goals, was the performance of 19 year old centre back Joel Matip; who has played in all but one of Schalke’s Champions League game. His composed and confident performance, at such a young age against the likes of Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito, was a joy to behold for the Schalke fans.

Inter need a big turnaround if they are to progress.

Chelsea v. Manchester United – 0-1

Manchester United has been labelled lucky this season, but I believe it’s time for this label to be relinquished. They have this never give up attitude and winning mentality, and now look favourites to progress after beating Premiership rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. As well as giving themselves that desired away goal advantage.

Despite the critics, Michael Carrick had his best appearance in a Manchester United shirt last night, making seven interceptions against Chelsea, at least three more the any other in the game.

Also Ecuadorian international Antonio Valencia had to fill in at right back during the second half and was excellent throughout the match. He created more goal scoring chances than any other player during the match.

Finally Manchester United’s evergreen goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar was also in great form, making two brilliant saves in the game. It’s noted that he has the best saves-to-shots percentage in the Champions League this season with 93%, followed by Petr Cech, 90%.

Chelsea are not completely out of the tie, but it seems older players like Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, who were instrumental in Chelsea performances last year, seem to no longer be the match winners they once were, with Chelsea distinctly lacking in the final third of the pitch.

The £50 million striker Fernando Torres, who’s price tag will not be shaken off until he starts putting the ball in the net, played okay, but just like this Chelsea side were just not clinical enough. Torres linked up well once the full backs (Bosingwa and Cole) got forward and got the ball into the opposition box. His partnership with Didier Drogba however, is somewhat non-existent.

Heading up to Old Trafford, Chelsea will need to take the game to Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, while there are murmurs that the Champions League is Carlo Ancelotti’s last lifeline. This is the closest remaining tie left in the Champions League, and should be another tightly contested game.

FC Barcelona v. Shaktar Donetsk – 5-1

First things first, you cannot give Barcelona an early goal. This alleviates any kind of pre-game nerves the Barca side would have had, and settled them quickly. Lionel Messi was phenomenal, as was Andres Iniesta. Sergio Busquets was solid at the back, while Adriano and Dani Alves were brilliant in the full-back positions, just as they were against Arsenal.

Shaktar had their chances throughout the game, as striker Luiz Adriano even hit the post and missed a one on one with Victor Valdes. But it was Barcelona who was potent in front of goal, and in all honesty always looking capable of exposing the Shaktar back four.

Iniesta, Alves, Pique and Xavi all took their chances in great team moves. The goal of the night came from Seydou Kieta who ran onto Lionel Messi’s pass and smashed the ball into the top corner and past Andriy Payatov. Barcelona showing they don’t need David Villa or Lionel Messi on the score sheet in order to put five past a side.
Shaktar’s record coming into this game was 39 wins in their last 44 games, so that gives you an idea of the quality of side Barcelona were taking on.

Finally: just a word on Barcelona full back Dani Alves. The Brazilian international, who recently signed a contract extension with the Catalan giants, if for me one of the best footballers in the world, but is overlooked for this acknowledgement for the simple fact he play’s a right back.

Last night apart from a few early wobbles in the first half he was vital in all of Barcelona’s attacking moves, and he was the first outlet for every single one of these Barcelona attacks. Also his no nonsense hard working style is something which also is really impressive, a hard worker, a team player and a great individual.

That wraps up the Real Talk Football’s views on what we learnt from the first round of matches, remember you can follow us on Twitter, to get all the latest football news, and remember to cast your vote on who you think will win the Champions League by voting in the poll on the right hand side.

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