UEFA Cup Roundup and Quarter-Final Predictions
Benfica’s struggles continued as they failed to make any impression in Spain, as Getafe progressed to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup with a 1-0 (Agg. 3-1) win thanks to Albin’s gorgeous lob. Getafe’s reward is a quarter-final matchup against my favourites to win FC Bayern Munich. Bayern had for all intents and purposes sealed their passage to the quarter-finals with a 5-0 first-leg win over RSC Anderlecht in Belgium last week. Anderlecht restored some pride by sealing a 2-1 victory in Germany but it was nowhere near enough to prevent Bayern from advancing. With key players Franck Ribéry, Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose making their mark in the first leg, many of them were rested or used sparingly in the second leg. In the last two rounds Bayern have advanced by aggregate scores of 7-3 and 6-2. Will they be able to put up the same impressive numbers against Getafe?
English clubs Everton and Tottenham were both knocked out after losing penalty shootouts. Tottenham managed to overturn a 1-0 deficit against PSV after a barrage of consistent pressure in a match that PSV played with surprisingly negative tactics. Tottenham were rewarded for their attacking mindset as Dimitar Berbatov scored with a perfectly executred volley straight into the bottom corner. With no goals in extra-time, the game went to penalties and Jenas could have won the tie, but saw his penalty saved by Gomes. Chimbonda missed Spurs’ final effort with a terrible attempt.
Everton also overturned a first leg deficit against Fiorentina with a strong performance at home. Goals from Andy Johnson and Mikael Arteta took the game to extra time. Extra time produced nothing so it was off to penalties, where Yakubu (hit the post) and Jagielka (saved) both missed, while the Viola scored all four of their spot kicks to knock Everton out. Everton had numerous chances to win the game outright in normal time were it not for the excellent work of Fiorentina keeper Sébastien Frey.
PSV will now meet Fiorentina in the quarter-finals and I expect a very close match but at this stage I am giving the edge to PSV as they get to play at home in the second leg. There is very little to choose as both sides are evenly matched and it could go either way.
The other English club to make the round of 16, Bolton Wanderers, were also eliminated after losing 1-0 away to Sporting Lisbon. Bolton had come out and attacked strongly despite missing a number of experienced players but Bruno Pereirinha’s goal five minutes from time ended Bolton’s momentum and secured a 2-1 aggregate triumph.
Sporting now will face Rangers FC after they escaped with a single-goal defeat away to Werder Bremen. Having won 2-0 at home in the first leg, Rangers advanced on aggregate score. Bremen dominated both halves of the second leg but the heroics of Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor kept the German side off the scoresheet until the 58th minute when Brazilian playmaker Diego flicked the ball over one opponent and, as other Rangers defenders converged on him, fired a low shot beyond McGregor. At that stage it looked like Bremen would rally to tie the fixture but Walter Smith’s men weathered the storm and advanced. I expect Rangers to play a similar set of tactics against Sporting and I think their squad is just a bit stronger at the moment so I am picking Rangers to advance.
Bayer Leverkusen just edged into the quarter-finals on the away goals rule despite losing 3-2 in their second leg matchup at Bundesliga rivals Hamburger SV. They are matched up against FC Zenit St. Petersburg who overturned a 3-1 loss in Marseille with a 2-0 win at home to advance on the away goals rule. Zenit was powered by two goals from Pavel Pogrebnyak, who is the currently the top scorer in the UEFA Cup with 7 goals.
I am taking Zenit to win this matchup. Zenit won the 2007 Russian Premier League, which means they will compete in the group stage of the Champions League 2008-09. Zenit have been coached by “The Little General”, Dick Advocaat, since 2006 and he was the first foreign coach to guide a club to the Russian championship. While big summer signing Pogrebnyak has been key to the team during their UEFA Cup run, the main man for this side is midfielder Andrey Arshavin. Arshavin was the only member of the squad to start all 30 leagues matches, and he posted 10 goals and 11 assists. Quick, skillful, and equally deadly with his passing and finishing, the 26-year-old may draw attention from other European clubs this summer.
Another key member of the Zenit squad is another big-money summer signing Anatoliy Tymoschuk. Tymoschuk moved to Zenit from Shaktar Donetsk a fee rumoured to be about €15 million. He usually plays as a holding midfielder and provides strength, stamina and tackling to the Zenit midfield.
Here are the quarter-final matchups (my picks to advance are bolded)
Bayer 04 Leverkusen v FC Zenit St. Petersburg
Rangers FC v Sporting Clube de Portugal
FC Bayern Munich v Getafe CF
ACF Fiorentina v PSV Eindhoven
The semi-finals would then setup like this:
Bayer 04 Leverkusen/FC Zenit St. Petersburg v FC Bayern Munich/Getafe CF
Rangers FC/Sporting Clube de Portugal v ACF Fiorentina/PSV Eindhoven