by Chris Behrens for World Football Commentaries
Chris correctly predicted all 16 teams from the Group round phase.
Phillip LahmIn a rematch of last year’s Champions League final, Phillip Lahm should have the ability to shine with his attacking runs from defense. Inter have been rejuvenated thanks to a new manager, Leonardo, but will find a tough time containing the Bayern Munich vice-captain and his scintillating pace and decent defensive skills. I would argue Lahm is this year’s version of Maicon.
What can you say about the 23-year-old monster? He’s tactically sound, has the physical tools to push around any striker in any league, and partners with one of the greatest center backs in Barcelona history, Carlos Puyol. He should be able to help contain the creativeness of Van Persie and new signing Chamakh, just like he did last year in the Arsenal v. Barcelona tie.
Arguably the best centerback tandem in European football, Thiago Silva and company will have their hands full against Harry Redknapp’s creative and attractive footballing side. He’s strong in the air, a fine tackler, speedy, and tactically sound. I think he’ll have a great chance to contain a fluid attacking squad and hopefully shine.
The speedy right back should wreck havoc on Gunner defenders with his searing pace and his ability to go toe-to-toe with fast wingers such as Samir Nasri or Theo Walcott. A truly scintillating player on his best days (and lately, he’s been looking good), he can make opposing defenses and offenses look silly. The perfect matchup to suit the Brazilian’s skills.
What more can you say about the 21-year-old Welshman? Blinding pace, bags of energy and a knack for scoring big goals and making opposing fullbacks look plain silly. He has terrorized defenses in Europe thus far in the tournament and his opponents (AC Milan) do not have the greatest outside backs in the world. Expect Bale to shine once again.
The 30-year-old Barcelona maestro will be drooling at facing Arsenal again. Though his form is not quite on par with that of last season’s, he can still pick out almost any man on the field and devastate teams with his accurate passing and intelligent play. Truly the orchestrator in the total football package, he will be Arsenal’s worst enemy come February.
The 24-year-old Portuguese international speedster has been in scintillating form in his Adidas Adizeros for Manchester United this campaign and has a great chance to keep up his excellent play against a struggling Marseille side. His performances in Champions League Play thus far have not been terrific, but for some reason, I’ve got a good feeling about Nani lighting up the round.
I have no more words to describe the Argentinean magician. He’s had one of the greatest seasons ever put together thus far in both European and league play, averaging about a goal a game and providing assists to everyone on the pitch. The Arsenal defense is not exactly rock solid so you can count at least a goal and a couple of assists to the man’s name
Arrogant. Abrasive. Amazing. What a phenomenal campaign the former Manchester United man is having, averaging a little more than a goal a game thus far. He’s been the backbone of the Jose Mourinho-led squad thus far and will be more of a center piece to the team with Gonzalo Higuain likely to miss the rest of the term. Expect him to get at least a goal or two.
What a difference a new team can make. After being shunned by Sampdoria, Cassano has looked terrific in an AC Milan jersey thus far. Surely, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will probably do quite well as the primary striker as he has done all season long, but the orchestrator could easily be Cassano with Robinho not exactly having the greatest start to his time at Milan.
About the Author
Chris Behrens, Champions League Correspondent, Soccerpro.com.
Chris gets his all of his licensed soccer equipment at soccerpro.com.
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