Barstool’s Champions League Preview – The “Eight Becomes Six” Edition
Sam’s Soccer Safe Space For Stoolies
I’m BACK! Who missed me? Anyone, anyone, Bueller? Well no worries, if in the future any of you loyal readers – or special soccer-despising snowflakes who just likes money – needs a crap pick for any particular game, you can always find me here:
Much more importantly though, Champions League is also BACK – and dare I say better than ever. Last week’s first leg appetizers included three one-goal games, and the only club needing a miracle seems to be full of them, so needless to say all four return leg main courses are ‘bout to be must-watch stuff.
First though, let’s all bow our heads and enjoy a quick listen to the single most beautiful song in history (this side of the Star-Spangled Banner):
As a quick reminder/catch-up-to-speed-er, here is the full slate of quarterfinals results and schedule:
Real Madrid [+130]
Bayern Munich [+170]
Bayern have a poor track record at Real Madrid, which is a bad sign heading there already down a goal. As a quick reminder of what happened last time out, Ze Germans came out flying and went up 1-0 on a header from Arturo Vidal – the best player on the field in the first half – and should have taken a 2-0 lead but the aforementioned Vidal apparently takes high-pressure penalties about as well as he drives Ferraris while wasted.
It was a questionable call to begin with – ball don’t lie – BUT Vidal skying the spot-kick just before halftime ended up being a HUGE turning point in the game. Real essentially dominated the second half, especially after Bayern’s Javi Martinez picked up two yellow cards in as many minutes forcing his team to play down a man for the final half-hour.
As for today, Bayern have a massive mountain to climb, heading into the Bernabeau needing to score AT LEAST two goals to have a shot. David Alaba is likely to start for the suspended Martinez, which I don’t mind at all. The key is Robert Lewandowski, who was ruled out just before kickoff last week with a shoulder problem, which completely changed the dynamic. Thomas Muller forgot how to play soccer in 2015 – people forget that – and was a pretty awful fill-in up top. Lewandowski is still in doubt for today. If he’s out this game is over and Real Madrid moves on. If he plays at 80% capacity expect the same outcome. If, however, he is anywhere near 100% he could be a real problem for Real Madrid, who will have to count on Nacho – yiiiiiiiiikes – and Sergio Ramos to mark him out of the game since god knows the two little people wing defenders will be borderline useless against him.
The absence of Gareth Bale for Real is also big, but I’m going to criminally oversimplify things and say it all comes down to Lewandowski’s health. I’ll go out on a limb and say that after sitting last week versus Real and again at the weekend against Bayer, Lewa’s ready to rock today. That’s a big if, but let’s not forget how much better Bayern looked in that first half before getting all out of sorts with missed penalties and red cards.
Bayern to win 3-2 (thus advancing on away goals in case math is hard).
Cinderella is dancing for her life today. The Foxes have clawed themselves clear of the relegation zone and did so just in time to focus all their exertions on what is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make some (even more) serious noise in the Champions League. Those of you who saw the first let know that the wee bugger held their own at the Vicente Calderon last week, which will give them all sorts of hope heading home down only 0-1.
Problem is I can only envision one scenario in which Leicester pull through: both teams slogging it out back and forth for 80+ minutes, which Atletico could potentially be satisfied with doing since Diego Simeone is never one to turn down advancing via a scoreless draw, yet somehow someway the Foxes find a late goal then win it in PKs.
That’d be a pretty crazy scenario – not as crazy as Leicester Football Club being one game away from the Champions League semi-finals when you really think about it, of course – but still tough to imagine it coming to fruition.
The Foxes’ defence has shown signs of life recently (conceding only one goal away to Atleti ain’t nothing after all) but will be without Robert Huth and Wes Morgan is coming off a long layoff. Their other centerback, Yohan Benalouane, played surprisingly well in the first leg but has also had some very shaky performances. Point being: I don’t trust them against Antoine Griezmann (and possibly Kevin Gameiro), especially if Wilfried Ndidi (doubtful) isn’t there to add some cover.
Thus, some sort of shock-goal from Vardy or Okazaki on some sort of blitz-counter – or more likely weak penalty – anytime in the first hour or so would still give Atletico way too much time to change formation and/or tactics (likely by adding Gamerio for Fernando Torres), and I don’t have enough faith in the Foxes ability to hold the fort if/when that were to happen… though it would provide a lot more openings for counterattacks and crazier – muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuch crazier – things have happened.
Atletico to win 2-0.
More Champions League tomorrow – Juve vs Barcelona, anyone? – and a biggggggggggggggggggggg big bigly weekend of EPL and FA Cup action coming up after that. Stay pumped.