At 5pm UK and noon EST, Aston Villa plays Chelsea in the FA Cup Semis. Aston Villa’s recent 7-1 loss to Chelsea looms over the tie. Chelsea skipper John Terry also claimed that Villa wasn’t quite fit and that it showed at the end of games. Why would you say that? It’s not psychological damaging in any way, but it might be motivating. The other EPL action: Hull City has Burnley at their grounds, while Sunderland visits West Ham. Both of those are crucial ties for teams fighting relegation.
But the real action in Spain, where Real Madrid takes on Barcelona at the Bernabeu at 9 UK, 4 EST. Kaka and Ibrahimovic are both out (and presumably not in a Alex Ferguson-Wayne Rooney type of way).
There are alot of parallels to last season, as Real Madrid came in red-hot. If I recall correctly, Real Madrid was already out of Champs League as well, so La Liga was their priority. Similar to this year, there were alot of new high-priced transfers that were playing well as individual pieces but wasn’t yet a team. Madrid got wiped out 6-2 and unraveled which led to the re-assembly of the Galacticos again. In truth, the game was a bit closer than that as Madrid scored first after 15 minutes with master poacher Gonzalo Higuain grabbing a goal, and the score was even 3-2 after 56 minutes…but only for a few seconds, as Henry immediately scored.
Barcelona’s lineup won’t be the same as last year’s, but much of the change is due to mere game-to-game fluctuations. Madrid’s will likely feature only 4 from last year, with pretty much all the rest being new.
Barcelona has missed Eto’o, as he provided more pressure on the ball than Ibrahimovic does (and let’s be honest, Messi is relatively nonchalant about ball pressure). Barcelona’s defense has had injury and suspension problems to the point where their defense is never playing together. Although Barcelona beat Arsenal in the end pretty well, Real will probably play more defensive tactically as they lack the commitment to quality football that Arsenal has. If Barca shows weak finishing like it did against Arsenal, let’s not forget the chances that injury-striken Arsenal had: with players like Higuain, Madrid will make Barcelona pay.
Barcelona is the better team. But it’s an away game, they’ve played lots more matches overall and recently, there defense has been a bit shaky as players are constantly in and out…I would never bet against Messi, but I would pass on betting on this game.