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Monday, August 10, 2009

Arsenal vs Villarreal Champions League 08-09 Preview

(This entry was originally published on Friday, March 20th, 2009)

Arsenal will face Spanish club Villarreal in the quarter final of Champions League 08-09. Arsenal seems to have got the easiest opponent of the last eight and thus, the Gunners have a very good chance to make it to the last four of the competition. Though Villarreal’s recent form may not be very impressive, but you should remember that Villarreal finished second in Spanish league last season and qualified directly into the group stage of Champions league this season.

Arsenal would not get the service of Summer signing Andrei Arshavin as he is cup-tied and this is an important thing to count on, but still Arsenal is favorite against the Spanish club whose recent form is not that much impressive as they sit fourth in the La Liga point table with 21 points adrift of leader Barcelona. Arsenal is also out of title race in Premier league sitting in the fourth place with 13 points behind leader Manchester United. However, Arsenal’s recent form is pretty much impressive and this would give them some extra confidence while taking on Villarreal.

Arsenal

Arsenal’s revitalized form might be a source of fear for the opposition team. Arsenal’s recent 4-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers might have boost up their confidence, but given the fact that the Gunners would not get the service of Summer signing Andrei Arshavin in Champions League, Arsenal’s midfield strength might be depleted in Europe. However, it is expected that Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas will be back in action by the time Arsenal will play the first leg quarter final match on 7/8 April.

Victory over Roma in the penalty shoot-out in the first knock-out round might have impressed many, but their performance was not that very impressive against Roma. No doubt, Arsenal displayed some of their best form against Blackburn Rovers this season and then clinched a come-from-back 2-1 victory over Hull City to reach the FA Cup semi final.

The most positive thing about Arsenal is that they are now very confident after the recent victories. Arsenal knows it very well that they can not fight for premier league title this season, and thus, they can focus more on Champions League, though they are still fighting for a fourth place finish in premier league, a requirement for qualifying into Champions League next season. Arsenal reached the final of Champions League in 2006 which has so far been the best performance for Arsenal in Europe.

Despite missing the service of Arshavin, Arsenal still has some quality players. With Theo Walcott and Eduardo da Silva back in action after recovering from injury, Arsenal’s attacking strength has been increased significantly. If Fabregas can come back from injury by the time Arsenal will play the first leg of quarter final match, their midfield would be boost up significantly. In the presence of Gallas, Sagna, Toure and Clichy, Arsenal defense is pretty much strong. In fact, if you look back, you can see that Arsenal did not concede many goals over the last few weeks in all competition. Overall, Arsenal seems to have a balanced squad to fight for title in Europe.

Villarreal

Villarreal defeated Panathinaikos 3-2 on aggregate. Not many people expected Villarreal at this stage of Champions League. However, when they were drawn with Greek club Panathinaikos in the last 16 of Champions League, there were many who were sure about their progress into the quarter final of the tournament. In the first leg, they drew 1-1 at home, before winning the second leg 2-1 at Panathinaikos. Well, I do not think that Villarreal’s performance against Panathinaikos was very impressive. So, making it to the last four would not be very easy for the Spanish outfits, but to be honest, I would be surprised if they can really reach the semi final, considering their consistent form of last one year.

Villarreal has some quality players in their squad who can be crucial for them in the quarter final. They have a balanced defense line up in the presence of Diego Godín, Joan Capdevila, Ángel López and Fabricio Fuentes. In the middle of the park, Villarreal features the quality player like Captain Marcos Senna, Robert Pires, Santi Cazorla, Ariel Ibagaza and Sebastián Eguren. Both Nihat Kahveci and Giuseppe Rossi are skill and talented to lead Villarreal attack. They have two quality goalkeepers in Diego López and Sebastián Viera.

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