UEFA Champions League – Review and predictions

Posted: April 4, 2014 in Football, Soccer
Tags: , , ,

I’ve given United’s back-to-the-wall performance a couple of days to sink in and I still can’t understand why Moyes is being criticised. People are saying it’s not the Man United way, that they were way too defensive and that Moyes is molding United into Everton. While it may not have been pretty and I wouldn’t want to see it every week the reality is that Moyes had little alternative. It’s no secret that the squad is in need of an overhaul and against the juggernaut that is Bayern Munich I feel that Moyes took the right approach. With Pep at the helm, Bayern have taken their possession game to a new level and were always going to dominate against United, home and away. I actually feel this played into United’s hands as it meant starting Vidic and Ferdinand wasn’t such an issue because experience and positioning at the back were more important than speed and there was little to no risk of being caught on the break.

Enough has been written about Wellbeck’s miss, he should have scored. I’m probably biased but I also thought the high foot was dubious. That said I have no doubt that Wellbeck had heard the whistle so whether he would have scored otherwise is debatable. Otherwise his performance was outstanding. He worked tirelessly and kept the Bayern defense occupied. His performance gave further credence to the argument that United might actually be better off letting RVP go at the end of the season. But that is an article for another day.

While both Managers will point to defensive lapses as the reasons for conceding, both goals were beautifully taken. Mandzukic looked more threatening than Muller from the moment he arrived on the pitch and it was no surprise to see him involved in the goal. Expect to see him start next week. Dante will also return for Bayern and they will need to find a replacement for Schweinsteiger after his late red card. Maybe Gotze will start but it depends how much protection Pep thinks his back four need. On that red card, I thought it was harsh. Rooney made the most of it and Bastian paid the price for sliding in with his studs showing.

Fellaini has been heavily criticised this season and that didn’t ease up on Tuesday night. While he gave the ball away more often than he should have he offers United something different and was a target for De Gea. Attacking from goal kicks (I’m not sure I have or ever will write that again) was a tactic that United employed with some success and expect to see more of it in the second leg. United have an obvious advantage in the air, more pronounced with Martinez suspended, and set pieces will be one of their primary offensive weapons.

I think Kagawa should start in place of Giggs. He has been showing more and more glimpses of getting back to the player he was at Dortmund. He provides confidence on the ball and creativity in attack. He also has a great record against Bayern. Evra will return at left back. The only other change Moyes will be considering is in the centre of the park, where Fletcher may be preferred to Fellaini. I have a feeling that Moyes will give Fellaini another chance. Maybe he will start to repay some of that rather large transfer fee.

Elsewhere, Klopp may have said that Dortmund could have scored five but Real always looked to have their measure. PSG continued their rise into Europe’s elite with a confidence-boosting win over Chelsea. News that Ibrahimvoc will miss the return leg will provide Chelsea fans with some confidence but PSG have depth and talent across the board. Pastore’s goal was sheer class, even if Mourinho will have given his defenders a monumental dressing down after the game. It may just be the goal that ignites Pastore’s season. Athletico and Barca played out another tight contest and now have everything to play for. Athletico will be the happier after their away goal and will be confident that they can finish the job.

 


 

Predictions for the return legs:

– United will score but will be unable to contain the Bayern attack quite as successfully as they did at Old Trafford – 3-1 to Bayern

– Dortmund to be more competitive and take a chance or two but Real have too much firepower not to score and class will carry them through – 2-2 on the night

– PSG will manage to hold onto their advantage and take their place in the last 4 – Chelsea to win 2-1

– Athletico versus Barca was the most difficult to call before the first leg and still is. The sides have proved incredibly difficult to split in recent seasons and that won’t change. 1-1, Athletico to win in extra time.

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