One of the most wonderful things about football is that despite months of progress through the group stages, hundreds of games, meticulous tactical preparation and the genius of some players, it may well yet be a volcano in Iceland which is the biggest influence on each of this week’s Champions League semi final first legs!
Barcelona face a long trip across Spain, through France and into Italy to take on Inter Milan for the first semi final, a trip of over 1000km that is taking them almost two days to make.
Will Inter take their cue from Espanyol?
On the field, Jose Mourinho’s men will be heartened by the way city rivals Espanol managed to negate Barcelona at the weekend, holding their city rivals to a goalless draw.
No doubt Jose Mourinho will have his own plan of action at hand to deal with the free flowing football of the Catalan side.
Mourinho has, after all, faced Barcelona twice this season, a 0-0 draw in the home leg of their group game followed by a 2-0 defeat in the Nou Camp. The “Special One” will have learned much from those encounters.
Many eyes will now be focused on Lionel Messi, but the Argentinean may struggle to influence the game, particularly in the first leg. Inter will no doubt haveformulated a plan to keep him quiet and Messi’s best performances this season have tended to come at the Nou Camp.
If the Italians can wrestle control of the game in midfield and get at the Barcelona defence, which I still maintain is by far the weakest aspect of the side, I feel Inter could perhaps sneak a narrow victory in the first leg perhaps by a single goal.
Certainly Samuel Eto’o will have plenty to prove against his former club and with Diego Milito in good goalscoring form, allied with Inter’s vast defensive experience and Mourinho’s tactical genius and home advantage over a Barcelona team forced to travel for many hours across land to get to the game, I strongly fancy the Italian side to hand Barcelona a rare defeat.
My advice is to get on the 3.20 on offer with Betfair for an Inter home win against a Barcelona side that looked particularly muted at the weekend.
Bayern odds on against Lyon?
Wednesday night sees the two less fancied teams in the competition square off in the beautiful Alianz Arena in Munich as hosts Bayern face off against the big underdogs in the competition, Lyon.
Most of the betting sites online have Bayern as strong favourites for this first leg and given their resurgence in form in recent times under Louis Van Gaal, and their strong home form in particular, it is hard to argue against that.
However Lyon have shown great resilience this season in the Champions League. The French side have beaten Liverpool at Anfield already this season and having come through their all-French quarter final with Bordeaux, they will be confident going into the clash with Bayern.
Problems facing Lyon on and off the field
However the French side face two problems, firstly there is the seven hour bus journey taking them from their home to Munich, due once again to the ash cloud.
Secondly and perhaps more worrying for their hopes, is an injury to striker Lisandro Lopez making him a doubt for the game. Should the striker miss the tie, his loss would be a huge blow to Lyon’s hopes in this crucial first leg.
Bayern, in contrast, have few injury concerns and come to the game fresh from another outstanding performance in the Bundesliga, where they smacked seven goals past Hannover at the weekend.
In form Arjen Robben scoring a hat trick to add to his catalogue of key strikes for the German giants.
Given that Lyon could be without Lopez, the seven hour journey to Munich and the form of the German giants, it is hard to argue with the most betting sites appraisal of the game.
This looks to me like being a solid Munich win and you can get that at 1.73 with Paddy Power at the moment.