Tuesday, April 22, 2008
The 2006 Good Luck Charm Returns
And G-d knows we need it this year.
Four keys to the game for Barca:
1. They absolutely, positively cannot get caught forward with too many players committed to attack. This has been their downfall for two years in home games and it will play right into Manchester United's counter-attacking style. If you see Barca leaving only its central defenders back when in possession of the ball or you see four-on-fours, then the Red Devils are on their way to Moscow.
2. Samuel Eto'o has to shoot the ball accurately when he gets chances. Eto'o is not a great finisher, despite being an excellent striker overall. He will get one or two clear chances tomorrow night and he has to bury them. Conversely, Wayne Rooney can be similarly profligate in front of goal, so Barca have to hope that he misses when he gets a clear sight of the net.
3. Yaya Toure's back has to be healthy. One of the major differences between the solid Barca of the first half of the year and the suspect team of the second half has been Toure's back injury and resulting weakness in defensive midfield. Xavi and Iniesta have played fairly well in the last several weeks, but they need proper support behind them in order to properly boss the game.
4. With Carles Puyol suspended after getting two yellow cards in the Schalke ties (the yellow in the first leg was a bizarre decision by the ref that Puyol was time-wasting), Lilian Thuram will likely play in the center of defense. Thuram is in the "I play well once every three games" stage of his career, not unlike Zidane at the end of his career. This game has to be the one out of every three for Thuram. If Barca get the player who was an absolute pillar in the 2006 World Cup, then they have a chance. If not, then Rooney and Ronaldo are going to have their chances.
Work permitting, there will be a pseudo-live blog tomorrow night when I watch a recording of the game.