Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

UEFA Champions League: Semi-Final Preview

Posted in European Football by peterbein on April 18, 2010
Ribery and Robben

Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben played crucial roles in FC Bayern München's progression to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals

The UEFA Champions League reaches the semi-final stage and there are two great games to look forward to. There have been fears that the games would be postponed because of the travel disruption that has affected Europe since the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted last week, bringing the whole continent to a standstill. According to the UEFA website on Sunday “the two UEFA Champions League semi-final first legs will go ahead as scheduled this week despite the current restrictions on European air travel due to the volcanic cloud.” Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews the two fixtures ahead of the first leg ties which, we presume, will still take place later this week:

INTERNAZIONALE FC (Italy) v FC BARCELONA (Spain)

Both of these teams have already played against each other this season in the UEFA Champions League group stages with FC Barcelona getting the better of their Italian opponents. After the teams drew blank in a Matchday 1 stalemate the European champions made Inter pay at the Camp Nou on Matchday 5 with a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Gerard Piqué and Pedro Rodríguez. Inter coach Jose Mourinho has had many battles against the Catalan giants in his managerial career and he will hope that the Nerazzurri can provide him with more cause to celebrate against the club who once employed him as Sir Bobby Robson’s interpreter.

In the quarter-finals FC Barcelona performed amazingly well against an Arsenal FC side who came back well in the first leg to claim a 2-2 draw having been two goals down at one stage. The London side even had the cheek to take the lead in the Camp Nou in the second leg after much-maligned striker Niklas Bendtner gave the Gunners an 18th minute lead. After that the game became a one man show and who else but Lionel Messi was going to step up to the plate? After scoring a hat-trick just before half-time the Argentinian superstar capped off a wonderful performance two minutes from the end of the game with a fourth goal, the first player to score four in one game during the UEFA Champions League knock-out stages. Since defeating Arsenal the Blaugrana have continued their impressive league form including a 2-0 away win at Real Madrid in “El Gran Clásico” and an easy 3-0 win at home to Deportivo de La Coruña before dropping two points in the derby of Barcelona drawing 0-0 against local rivals RCD Espanyol on Saturday.

Inter defeated CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals with two 1-0 victories home and away. Diego Milito scored the winning goal for Inter in the first leg whilst Wesley Sneijder scored the only goal in the second leg in Moscow. In Serie A, however, the Nerazzurri have lost top spot to AS Roma despite having taken four points in the two games since defeating CSKA in the second leg. A 2-2 draw away at AC Fiorentina could prove to be the pivotal moment in the domestic season for Inter as the two dropped points allowed AS Roma to overtake them at the top of the table. They have kept the pressure on the capital side though having defeated Juventus FC 2-0 in the “Derby of Italy” on Saturday.

FC BAYERN MÜNCHEN (Germany) v OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS (France)

FC Bayern are dreaming of The Treble after knocking out English champions Manchester United in sensational fashion in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. Olympique Lyonnais are still just about involved in the title race domestically too and took great satisfaction from emerging triumphant in the Battle of France against FC Girondins de Bordeaux, going through with a slender one goal advantage over the two legs.

FC Bayern have seemingly got the 1999 UEFA Champions League final defeat out of their system having put Manchester United to the sword in the last round. After Wayne Rooney gave the Red Devils the lead after two minutes of the first leg in the Allianz Arena, there was late drama which decided the outcome of the match thanks to a deflected free-kick from Franck Ribéry and a last minute winner from Ivica Olić. It was to be Olić who began the comeback for FC Bayern in the second leg at Old Trafford after United had raced into a 3-0 lead on the night after just 41 minutes. Two minutes before half-time Olić struck home from an acute angle to reduce the arrears for the Bavarians and it wasn’t until the 74th minute when Bayern’s Dutch maestro Arjen Robben beautifully struck from the edge of the penalty box to equal the match 4-4 on aggregate which was how it stayed, much to the relief of Bayern who went through courtesy of the away goals rule. Domestically they have taken charge in the race for the Bundesliga title having defeated nearest challengers Schalke 04 away from home as well as picking up a point from suffering Bayer 04 Leverkusen. On Saturday FC Bayern disposed of Hannover 96 in style putting seven goals past their hapless opponents without reply with Arjen Robben scoring a hat trick.

There was much anticipation in France ahead of the battle between Olympique Lyonnais, seven times French champions from 2002-2008, and Girondins de Bordeaux who took OL‘s title away from them in 2008-09. With both teams dropping points in the domestic title race this European clash became more important as they both wanted to be the team that would represent French football going into the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. The first leg in Lyon was a fantastically open affair with many chances for both sides, especially in the first half. Lisandro López scored the opening goal on ten minutes only for Marouane Chamakh to equalize just four minutes later for the Girondins in a frantic set of opening exchanges. Olympique Lyonnais regained the lead after Michel Bastos had put them 2-1 up before the break. A penalty from Lisandro López further enhanced OL‘s lead in the 77th minute and it was the men from Lyon who were celebrating going into the second leg. Understandably the return fixture in Bordeuax was a more tense affair with both sides cancelling each other out for most of the first half but then came the breakthrough on the stroke of half time thanks to Maraoune Chamakh scoring the opening goal of the night. Try as they might in the second half Les Girondins just couldn’t find that crucial second goal which they needed to take them through. Olympique Lyonnais won 3-2 on aggregate and will hope to upset the odds against FC Bayern in the next round.

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINALS (Team on left at home first)

Internazionale FC v FC Barcelona (1st Leg 20th April; 2nd Leg 28th April)

FC Bayern München v Olympique Lyonnais (1st Leg 21st April; 2nd Leg 27th April)

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