Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Champions League Preview

After a two month hiatus the Champions League is back. For this year the format has changed slightly with the first leg ties spread out over two weeks rather than being held on the same week. Tuesday's fixtures sees AC Milan v Man Utd & Lyon v Real Madrid. For this round of fixtures I will stick to previewing ties involving English clubs.

AC Milan v Man Utd
This first tie is one of the glamour fixtures of the Champions League. Both clubs have a great tradition in the competition as well as some personal history having faced off twice in recent years. On both occasions AC Milan were victorious but going into this fixture Man Utd would be regarded as favourites.

In terms of tactics United will go with a 4-3-3 formation that has become Sir Alex Ferguson's preferred choice for all big games. With injuries & suspensions the personnel is also fairly predictable & so you would expect a line up of

                 Van der Sar
Rafeal - Ferdinand - Evans - Evra
     Fletcher - Carrick - Scholes
      Valencia - Rooney - Park

AC Milan also favour a 4-3-3 formation, which has been designed to get the maximum from Ronaldinho. Their are several interesting choices facing Leonardo the most fascinating will be the decsion on whether to use Alexandre Pato from the start. And despite the hype surrounding David Beckham its likely that Leonardo will want the defensive skills of Gennaro Gattuso meaning the England international will have to settle for a place on the bench. The expected line up would be

Abate - Thiago Silva - Nesta - Luca Antonio
             Gattuso - Pirlo - Ambrosini 
            Mancini - Pato - Ronaldinho

AC Milan's main threat comes from their front three plus the craft of Andrea Pirlo. Pato is a real livewire & will test United's centre back pairing. But where I expect Milan to really try to attack is down United's right side. Ronaldinho will try to exploit the inexperience of Rafeal and this could be particularly fruitful given the young full backs penchant for diving in. 

Man Utd's principle attacking outlet is obviously Wayne Rooney. Currently in great form, the England striker has the potential to cause devistation among the Milan back line. It will be important for Milan not to leave any defender isolated against Rooney. The other aspect of United's attack is ball retention. As was apparent in last season's Round of 16 tie with Inter Milan, United have the ability to keep possesion for long periods of play. How Milan cope without the ball will be an important factor in the match.

As this is the first leg the expectation would be on cagey match. Man Utd have been circumspect in away legs with the emphasis on catching teams on the counter. AC Milan will be wary of this threat & so will be careful not to over commit. The experience & the ability of Man Utd definitely favours them going into this tie. Having gone 15 games undefeated in European Cup away matches I don't expect that run to end tonight. But given Milan's pedigree & what is perhaps an extra cautiousness from United I think the scoreline will be 1-1.


  1. I see this is your first football post - just a suggestion but I'd imagine that you'd get more readers if you offered something that's not freely available on mainstream sites written by established journalists. Maybe a humorous angle on the game, or a piece focusing on one player, or just something outrageously biased? It's difficult to compete with real newspapers on their own turf, they'll generally do a better job and make fewer mistakes (eg Mancini was cup-tied last night).

    Good luck.

  2. I appreciate your comments. There's definitely an intention to do something other than just standard match reports/previews. This blog will offer opinion pieces as well as articles on subjects that are often overlooked by the mainstream press.

    And I dropped a ricket on the Mancini inclusion. Completely forgot that he was cup-tied but in my defence I've seen many national papers make far worse errors.