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Champions League Preview and Predictions: Arsenal face AC Milan as penalty for not winning group

Posted by Arsenalist on December 21, 2007

We mustered a draw away to Slavia Prague and dropped all three points against Sevilla in Spain. We needed to be punished for those indiscretions and the sentence was handed out today. Instead of facing the likes of Fenerbahce, Schalke 04 and Celtic we were drawn up against European giants like AC Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid with the only silver-lining being a chance to draw FC Porto.

So it’s current Champions League holders AC Milan that we’ll have to tackle first and Arsenal are fully capable of beating the Italian side that is currently struggling in Serie A with the balance of power in Milan being shifted from red to blue. AC Milan’s domestic form has been very poor and they’ve become a mid-table club with an 11th place league standing. However, their dominance in Europe has continued from last year as they collected 13 points with a 4-1-1 record in Group D.

Going into the draw it was obvious that the team you wanted to play to advance to the quarter finals was FC Porto but if such wasn’t the case, I’d rather the Gunners faced Barcelona and end up going head-to-head with Henry with the chance of paying back the Frenchman for his off-season indiscretion. But that’s not the case and we have to arguably play the greatest European club of all-time. Get pumped.

Here’s the video of the Champions League Draw:

Arsenal Managing Director Keith Edelman summed up the Arsenal reaction:

“We’ve only played them once in a competitive tie. We drew at Highbury in 1994 and lost 2-0 at San Siro. Hopefully we can turn it around this time. We would probably have preferred an easier one at this stage but this is a great match, everyone will look forward to it tremendously. Arsene has built a great squad and we are confident. We’re playing good football. We’re doing well off the pitch as well as on it and we’re looking forward to a very exciting end to the season.”

Here are some predictions for the first knockout stage of the Champions League:

Arsenal v AC Milan: This is Arsenal’s year to return the Champions League final and AC Milan’s European competition hasn’t been terribly challenging with Celtic being the only “good” team they’ve faced. Expect their poor domestic form to show up in the group stages. Arsenal 3-1 on aggregate.

Celtic v Barcelona:
Celtic’s nice run in the group stage is bound to come to a screeching halt at the first opportunity against a stacked Barcelona team. Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry are simply too much to handle for the Celtic back-four and don’t look for them to be scoring much against Marques and Co. Barcelona 5-1 on aggregate.

Lyon v Manchester United:
Lyon’s resurgence in the latter stages of the group stages was impressive and the win against Rangers at Ibrox was impressive at all levels. The French champions will battle Manchester United but unless they score a goal or two at Old Trafford, it’ll be hard for to progress. Manchester United 4-2 on aggregate.

Liverpool v Inter Milan: Liverpool is read to implode. Inter Milan is in super-form and there’s no reason to believe Hyppia and Carragher can contain Crespo and Ibrahimovic. Getting any goals in Italy is out of the question and unless a highly unlikely dominant home performance surfaces for Liverpool, Inter will progress. Inter Milan 3-1 on aggregate.

Roma v Real Madrid: This might be the tightest matchup of them all. Madrid is leading La Liga but has issues from the left-back position all the way to the top and Roma have shown that their a fiesty club, after last year’s embarrassment at the hands of United, they’ll be ready and will know how to play. Roma on away goals: 2-2.

Fenerbahce v FC Sevilla:
Sevilla looked good in winning the group but so did Fenerbahce in mustering up 11 points against a group which had Inter Milan, PSV Eindhoven and CSKA Moscow. Fenerbahce plays with grit while Sevilla plays with style and although as a Gunners fan I think the edge will always go to style, I’ll pick Fenerbahce to display a tight performance in Spain and eek this one out. Fenerbahce 3-1 on aggregate.

Olympiacos v Chelsea: I haven’t seen Olympiacos play much. At least I’m being honest. Olympiacos did finish tied in points with Real Madrid Group C so there’s something to be said there. Chelsea bulled it’s way through in Group B and by all accounts this should be a tight one but one must favor Chelsea and their experience: Chelsea 2-1 on aggregate.

Schalke 04 v FC Porto: I did not watch a single game of either team in the group stages and cannot comment but you’d think FC Porto would move on.

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