When I saw the CL draw this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of reactions would occur on this blog. It’s a fairly good mix of the positive, distraught, and absurd, which I suppose is fairly natural. Had I listed the teams I wanted to face in the quarters, Arsenal would have been third behind the two French teams (Bordeaux and Lyon).
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Arsenal is weak–not in the least, not with players like Arshavin, Cesc, and Nasri, to name just 3–instead they play a style that I think is enjoyable to watch and when you combine two beautiful styles, you often come up with a run-and-gun classic. Or sometimes you come up with the 2006 final, which was robbed of some of its style by Lehmann’s red card. I think this is going to be a tremendous couple of games and I hope they live up to my expectations. We aren’t going to paste them 4-0 like we did Stuttgart and they’re not going to paste us 5-0 like they did Porto.
I’m guessing, right now, without too much consideration to injuries and absences, that we’l see something like 2-2 at the Emirates and 2-1 or 1-1 at the Camp Nou. Obviously I’m biased and I think we’re the best team in the world, so take my predictions for what they are (Barça-centric thoughts), but I really do expect us to win and while the scoreline might not show it, I think it will be a brilliant couple of matches. We’re going to have to show up like we did in the return leg against Stuttgart in order to get by, but that’s the fun of it, really.
I don’t mind playing a quality team when we could have drawn a worse team because I think we’re the best and, as the best, we can beat anyone. We just have to play our damned asses off to do it. They’re good. But so are we and we can play with anyone, so let’s make them play with us, shall we? Let’s see if they can handle Xaviniesta with a side of Messias.
If we get by Arsenal, we’ll meet the winner of Inter-CSKA, which should be an interesting matchup in its own right. We’ve already played Inter and we know how good they are (defeating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is no joke–we should know) and playing in Moscow in April wouldn’t be too bad, weather-wise. Then, if we get by Inter/CSKA, we’d be back to Spain for the final, which would be breathtakingly amazing, especially if it included Manchester United in a repeat of last year’s final. Not that I’m rooting for ManU at all–not in the least–but if they’re to make it, it would be a spectacular rematch.
We’ll get a taste of the Bernabeu regardless, with our away clásico scheduled for April 11, just half a week after our return leg against Arsenal. It would be just that much sweeter to have qualified for the semis of the CL as we visit They Who Cannot Get Beyond the Round of 16 and then to beat them and grab the Liga title from them. Monumental.
A funny aside mentioned by Marca: regardless of whether or not we’ll be “home” team should we qualify for the CL final, we won’t be using the RM locker room. Cause we don’t go into that ugly, evil space. Plus, we don’t want our players to pick up any, ahem, uncleanliness from particular lockers.
Much more later as we gear up for the trip to Zaragoza on Sunday, when we’ll likely be down 3 points to RM in the standings because they’re facing Gijon at home, which should be a win for them (but let’s hope it’s a catastrophe of Real Union or Lyon proportions). Pellegrini fuera! Woooo.