Champions League round-up

The First Legs are over, certainly some interesting results accross the board and here they are –gd7357000champions-league-fina_1-3899preview

Atletico Madrid 2-2  Porto

Lyon  1-1   FC Barcelona

Arsenal  1-0   AS Roma

Inter Milan  0-0  Manchester United

Chelsea  1-0   Juventus

Real Madrid 0-1   Liverpool

Villareal  1-1    Panathanaikos

Sporting Lisbon   0-5    Bayern Munich

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Maradona jail bound?

The Sun was tomaradonaday reporting that Diego Maradona could be in trouble with the law once again following a serious driving incident that took place 3 years ago.

The 48 year old is alleged to have rammed his 4×4 into a phone booth. Glass shards were said to have hit two pedestrians that suffered severe cuts in the 6am crash three years ago.

The Argentine manager has since claimed that the “Hand of God” was not on the steering wheel of the aforementioned car, however a judge has now ordered him to turn up in court.

Ronaldo to return!

Brazilian legend Ronaldo aef0fa5b-b97f-5af0-6f287045145b1339could make his long awaited return to football as soon as Wednesday after he was included in Corinthians squad to face Noroeste.

The former Inter, Real Madrid and Milan ace has been out of action for a year and 11 days after suffering a horrific knee injury against Livorno for Milan on February 13, 2008.

However, after major surgery and a year of rehabilitation and hard work, ‘Il Fenomeno’ could be back in action tomorrow night.

La Gazzetta Dello Sport claims ‘Ronnie’ has been picked by Corinthians coach Mano Menezes for the next three games as he prepares for the derby against bitter rivals Palmeiras on March 8.

Ronaldo could make his debut for the Paulista side on Wednesday, before his team travels to Marilia and them Itumbiara next week for the Brazilian Cup.

Reports suggest the former PSV man will get a run out against all three teams so he will be ready for the Palmeiras clash in less than a fortnight.

Inter Milan vs Manchester United : Preview

Without a doubt the tie of the round, the Italian Serie “A” leaders and curSOCCER-FRIENDLY/rent champions against the current English Premier League leaders and champions of the world!

It could be argued that this game means more to Inter than to Manchester United given their lack of European success for such a long time. However, Manchester United are no doubt wanting to stamp their own authority on European football by becoming the first club ever to retain the coveted trophy.

Key Facts

Manchester United have never won at the San Siro, their last visit there ending in a 3-0 demolition by Inters fierce rivals AC in 2007.

The last time these two met in a Champions League tie at the San Siro it finished 1-1 with United winning their home tie to go on and win the tournament in 1999.

Sir Alex Ferguson has only beaten Jose Mourinho once in his career.

Key Battles

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Santon

Young Santon has been compared to the Milan legend Paolo Maldini given his young age and position, he’d go a long way to prove that he could be the heir to his throne should he manage to stop the current FIFA World player of the year.

Cristiano Ronaldo despite his undoubted ability and “that” season, still has his critics that say he doesnt perform in the big games, well they dont come much bigger than this so this is another chance to prove the doubters (me included) wrong.

Maicon vs Park/Giggs

Fergie usually goes for Park in the bigger games given his high work rate and especially in an important away game. However given Giggs’ recent form he could opt to bring in some more experience. Either way, stopping arguably the most in form attacking right back in the world will prove to be some task. Maicon has been in brilliant form this season providing some superb runs down the right resulting in assists and even a couple of goals. A massive area to be weary of.

The Midfield battle

The middle of the park will be key, surely Rooney may even be called back to make up the numbers at times to make a 5 man midfield to combat the threat of Stankovic. Zanetti, Muntari and Cambiasso should be kept busy by occupying Scholes and Carrick. I have the feeling the 3 men in the middle could prove vital in this first leg.

Ibrahimovic and Adriano vs Ferdinand and O’Shea/Evans

Rarely do Manchester United face the physical presence that Inter offer, Ibrahimovic has the guile and strength to trouble many defences, but like Cristiano has often been branded a big game flop. Adriano however has found a new lease of life under Mourinho and that can only be a bad thing for United hearts. Ferdinand has coped well defensively in the PL with Evans, but a partnership with O’Shea has not been tested this much as yet.

Rooney and Berbatov vs Chivu and Cordoba

With Matrix snubbed and Samuel injured, in comes veteran Ivan Cordoba, still has the pace to cope. Rooney has made a good goal scoring return from injury and you can bet your top euro that he’l be chomping at the bit as usual. The Inter defence will definately have to be on their toes for that threat. Berbatov has been a bit quiet away from home in the bigger games this year and this will be a chance to right that wrong.

Overall prediction

Tactically the whole tie should be a masterclass by the two managers, however i think in this leg Inter will come out on top, only just by one goal.

Inter 2 – 1 Manchester United.

After another clean sheet victory Fergie thinks Chelski are spent

zak_90alex_fergusonLast night Sir Alex Fergusons World Champions kept yet another clean sheet to cement their position at the top of the table.  Manchester United now find themselves sitting a clear 5 points ahead of nearest challengers Liverpool as they look to home in on their third consecutive Premier League crown.

An inspired display from Paul Scholes saw a dominant United see off the cottagers without too much hassle, using all his guile and craft to score a simply sublime opener, volleying home a corner from outside the box.  Dimitar Berbatov continued to pay off his transfer fee with another goal coming off of a 22 pass move from the red devils. The game was truly dead and buried when returning Wayne Rooney scored after just 2 minutes on the pitch.

Following the game Sir Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports, “You can never be dead sure but it is fair to say Chelsea have an uphill fight now [in terms of the title].

“Things can happen, sure. We were 12 points clear of Arsenal in 1998 but we got a lot of injuries and lost the league.

“Now, though, we can cope with it, like we have done in the last few weeks.

“That is the change at this club. We have such a big squad we can make changes.”

As it stands Chelsea now find themselves with the uphill battle of gaining 10 points on United, a feat that surely even new manager Guus Hiddink will find difficult to achieve.

Line Ups:

Manchester United (4-4-2): Van Der Sar – O’Shea (Evans 63′), Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra – Ronaldo, Carrick (Gibson 68′), Scholes, Park – Berbatov (Rooney 61′), Tevez

Fulham (5-4-1):
Schwarzer – Paintsil (Dacourt 70′), Hangeland, Hughes, Kallio, Baird – Davies, Murphy (Milsom 80′), Gera (Brown 85′), Dempsey – Zamora

Goals:

Manchester United: Scholes 12′, Berbatov 30′, Rooney 63′

Fulham:

Cards:

Manchester United: Park 28′

Fulham:
Paintsil 58′

Referee:
Andre Marriner

Cast your vote!

fcintermilanvjuventusfcserie7snc2mu8bxxlCast your vote…results will be announced by the end of the week!

Milan Derby Player Ratings

ronaldinho-ac-mila_1054022c

Ronaldinho - A constant threat

Julio Cesar – 7.5: Looked a rock in goals tonight, and undeservedly conceded after 70 minutes, when Pato found the back of the net. He dealt with everything thrown at him, and his world class save against Inzaghi on 90 minutes could very well have handed Inter the Scudetto.

Maicon – 7.5: Despite reports suggesting that he would miss the derby, the right back made a miraculous recovery, and was brilliant tonight. He offered plenty in attack, got the better of his battle with Jankulovski, and provided the assist for the Adriano goal, with a glorious ball into the area.

Samuel – 7.0: Great performance by the Argentinean, and he even went close to opening the scoring with a header after nine minutes. He did extremely well to nullify the threat of Pato early on, and was a rock in the centre of defence over the 90 minutes.

Chivu – 7.5: The Romanian returned to the centre of defence in this match, and performed admirably throughout, as he looked comfortable and composed alongside Samuel. He was a little clumsy at times and almost handed Milan a penalty in the latter stages, when it seemed as if he fouled Inzaghi in the area.

Santon – 6.5: The 18-year-old Italian proved his worth once again tonight, as he took part in his first Milan derby. A daunting prospect for any young player, however the starlet can hold his head high following that performance.

Zanetti – 7.0: The captain was as solid as every in another derby, and he did extremely well at anchoring the midfield along with Cambiasso. He failed to put a foot wrong all night.

Cambiasso – 8.0: The Argentinean midfielder was arguably the Nerazzurri’s most consistent performer throughout, as he controlled the midfield for the entire match, and was damaging from set pieces.

Muntari – 7.0: Provided his attacking team mates with some glorious long balls all night, and it was his ball in towards Ibrahimovic that led to the Stankovic goal. He was also responsible for setting up Adriano on 47 minutes; however the Brazilian somehow missed the target.

Stankovic – 8.0: Continued his brilliant run of form in the derby with another solid display. He deservedly scored a goal after 43 minutes of play, after missing a crucial opportunity on 18 minutes. He was substituted in the closing stages to a rousing reception.

Adriano – 7.5: Worked hard all night and managed to score one, even if it was off his arm. He could have had two, and possibly even three, had Abbiati not been in such good touch.

Ibrahimovic – 7.5: The Swede was not at his brilliant best tonight, however he still managed to do the little things that counted along the way, such as getting a touch on Muntari’s long ball to set up the Stankovic goal. After a quiet first half, he burst into life in the second half, and was highly responsible for ensuring that Inter held on to win.

Subs: Vieira N/A, Burdisso N/A, Maxwell N/A

Milan

Abbiati – 7.5: The Milan keeper was certainly not at fault for either goal, as there was nothing he could do to prevent either. He made a brilliant save to deny Adriano a second on 60 minutes, as well as another world class save to deny the Brazilian a one on one opportunity just 14 minutes later.

Zambrotta – 6.5: Gave his all on the right, and got forward as often as he could. He made life tough for the Inter defenders early on in particular, however his impact was minimal when his team were not playing their best football.

Maldini – 5.5: The beloved captain will be disappointed with what could very well be his final derby appearance, as he was left for dead on more than one occasion tonight. He was completely at fault for the Adriano goal, despite the fact that it came off his arm, as he was caught ball watching when the Maicon cross came in.

Kaladze – 5.0: Made a timely return from injury for this contest, however the Georgian defender certainly struggled throughout. His inability to outmuscle Ibrahimovic in the air led to the Stankovic goal in the first half, and just moments after the restart he almost gifted Adriano his second goal, when he slipped and provided the Brazilian with a one on one opportunity against Abbiati.

Jankulovski – 5.5: Similar to Zambrotta, the left back got forward early on, but failed to impose himself when his team were down. He managed to test his luck on a couple of occasions, however unfortunately for his sake nothing came of them.

Ambrosini – 6.0:
A solid performance from the Italian midfielder, however he was a little inconsistent at times. He made an outstanding challenge from behind to dispossess Stankovic on 18 minutes; in what certainly would have been the opening goal had he not made the challenge.

Pirlo – 5.5:
The World Champion struggled defensively once again tonight; however to his credit he did provide some good service to his attackers throughout. Still nowhere near the Pirlo of old though.

Beckham – 4.5:
Without doubt the least influential player on the park, the Englishman had no impact whatsoever. He was substituted after just 57 minutes as a result, and was replaced by the veteran striker Pippo Inzaghi.

Seedorf – 6.5: Was one of his side’s most composed players all night, and he had several opportunities to score, including one on 69 minutes, after some great work between he and Pato.

Ronaldinho – 7.5:
Rediscovered some of his very best form tonight, with a dominant performance throughout. He was involved in absolutely everything in the first half, and continued in similar fashion in the second, to keep his side in it. His glorious ball through to Jankulovski led to the Pato goal, which gave Milan a glimmer of hope.

Pato – 7.0: The young Brazilian grabbed his ninth goal in ten matches, which was a reward for all of his hard work over the course of the 90 minutes. He made life for Samuel and Chivu difficult at times, however his performance was not as consistent as it has been previously.

Subs: Inzaghi 6.5, Senderos N/A