Archive for March 13th, 2008

European Cups DRAW – UEFA Champions League & UEFA Cup Quarter-Finals to be Drawn on Friday

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

UEFA Champions League Draw

With now only 8 teams remaining in each respective tournament, UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon (Switzerland) will host the draws on Friday afternoon for the Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals of the 2007/08 UEFA club competitions, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Cup.

The UEFA Champions League draw will be made at 13.00CET and conducted by the UEFA General Secretary (David Taylor) and the ambassador for the final in Moscow on May 21st (Russian goalkeeping legend Rinat Dasaev). The UEFA Cup draw will follow at 14.00CET and will be conducted by Mr Taylor and the ambassador for the May 14th final in Manchester (1964 European Footballer of the Year Denis Law).

UEFA Champions LeagueUEFA Champions League

The 8 winners of the ties played in the first knockout round of the UEFA Champions League will contest the Quarter-Finals, with the pairings determined by an open draw – meaning no country protection. The Quarter-Finals are played on a home-and-away basis, with the first legs on Tuesday 1st and Wednesday April 2nd and the return matches the following week. The 4 winning teams will, at that stage, know who they will meet in the Semi-Finals (to be played on April 22/23 and 29/30), as the pairings will also be decided during the draw ceremony.

A further draw will also define whether the winner of Semi-Final 1 or the winner of Semi-Final 2 will be considered, for administrative purposes, as the ‘home’ team at the Luzhniki Stadium final. The match in Moscow kicks off at 22.45 local time (20.45CET).


The same procedure will apply for the draw for the Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals of the UEFA Cup. The Quarter-Final matches will be played on April 3 and 10, and the Semi-Finals on April 24 and May 1. The City of Manchester Stadium final kicks off at 19.45 local time (20.45CET).

Roma and Fiorentina await


For the Italian teams involved, Roma and Fiorentina, hopes turn towards the luck of the draw.

LiverpoolMan UtdAs far as Roma are concerned, the odds of drawing an English team (given the presence of Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal) are about 1 in 2, and we all know that English teams haven’t been very kind to Italians lately. Above all, Roma will want to avoid another confrontation with Manchester United, given last year’s 7-1 defeat at Old Trafford (probably still an open wound back in Rome). The Red Devils have been running at full steam ahead lately, both in domestic and European context, and can count on a fearsome striking force lead by the likes of Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tévez, and Cristiano Ronaldo. Liverpool doesn’t bring back happy memories either, since the Anfield Reds have already eliminated the Giallorossi countless times before in European Cups, and are looking a strong contender after causing the elimination of current Serie A champions Inter Milan.

ChelseaArsenalAs for Arsenal, well… they’re leading the Premier League, and whoever thought the Gunners’ young age and inexperience would cause their demise was forced to shut his trap following the Milan-Arsenal game. Having reformed brilliantly under Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor (after Thierry Henry’s departure to Barcelona), the technique, speed, and hunger for trophies of Arsène Wenger’s boys may well prove a determining factor in the hunt for the ‘Cup with the Big Ears’. Chelsea is the team which currently (given their not-so-brilliant moment of form) would offer the least amount of resistance, but we are still talking about a roster of superstars, filled with the likes of Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard, and Didier Drogba. Not exactly your ordinary Sunday league players.

Schalke 04FenerbahceIdeally, Roma would prefer a confrontation with Fenerbahce or Schalke 04. The Istanbul team has arrived for the first time to the Champions League Quarter-Final stage, after eliminating current UEFA Cup champions Sevilla to penalties. Guided by Brazilian legend Zico, Fenerbahce can count on their army of quality South-American recruits and a potentially decisive home factor, inside the 4 walls of Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium. As for Schalke 04, their double header against Porto in the Round of 16, was decided in large part thanks to the help of the public and that of keeper Manuel Neuer (capital during the penalty shootout).

BarcelonaAs for Barcelona, their technical level is probably the highest of all 8 teams remaining in the competition, but their playing level is not at its best lately. With Rijkaard being openly criticized by the Nou Camp faithful, Ronaldinho and Henry struggling to return to top form, and Lionel Messi out injured for at least a month (he will miss the Quarter-Finals), there’s no telling whether the Catalan giants will kill and destroy or crash and burn.

Roma’s Head-to-Head meetings in UEFA club competition

vs. Arsenal Arsenal
2002/03 UEFA Champions League second group stage – 1-3 (h), 1-1 (a)
vs. Barcelona Barcelona
2001/02 UEFA Champions League second group stage – 1-1 (a), 3-0 (h)
vs. Chelsea Chelsea
vs. Fenerbahçe Fenerbahce
vs. Liverpool Liverpool
2001/02 UEFA Champions League second group stage – 0-0 (h), 0-2 (a)
2000/01 UEFA Cup fourth round – 0-2 (h), 1-0 (a)
1983/84 European Champion Clubs’ Cup final – 1-1 (2-4 penalties, Rome)
vs. Manchester United Man Utd
2007/08 UEFA Champions League group stage – 0-1 (a), 1-1 (h)
2006/07 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals – 2-1 (h), 1-7 (a)
vs. Schalke Schalke 04

FiorentinaFinally in the UEFA Cup, the team to avoid for Fiorentina is without a doubt Luca Toni’s Bayern Munich, as the German giants’ domination in the Bundesliga has truthfully been frightening this season. As for other sides left in contention (from Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven to Russian team Zenit St. Petersburg), they all seem within Fiorentina’s reach although, at this stage of the competition, it would be unwise to still talk about ‘easy teams’.

For all those of you who are interested, I will be covering Friday’s draw LIVE on, starting at 13:00 CET (8:00 ET).

Everton 2-0 Fiorentina (4-4 p.s.o.): La Viola Suffer in Liverpool But Qualify For Quarter-Finals, Courtesy of Super-Frey (UEFA Cup Round of 16, Leg 2)

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Everton vs. Fiorentina (UEFA Cup)

Cesare Prandelli had said it, and La Viola players knew it all too well: the 2-0 first leg win obtained at Stadio Artemio Franchi was a good result, but by no means guaranteed qualification to the next UEFA Cup round. The Everton players would be really fighting for their soul at Goodison Park, determined to cancel their bad performance in Florence, and remind their Italian opponents why their Premier League ranking puts them in contention for a Champions League spot. Fortunately for Fiorentina, a certain Sebastien Frey was keeping guard in the Viola net, and while the French keeper could have done a lot better on Everton’s first goal, his performance was absolutely spotless for the remaining 120 minutes, including the decisive penalty shoot-out. Vive Frey!

UEFA Cup - Round of 16, Leg 2 - Everton 2-0 Fiorentina (4-4 p.s.o.)

Tactically, there were no surprises in the Fiorentina ranks tonight: Christian Vieri occupied the center spot in the attacking trio, supported by Martin Jorgensen and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo. Manuel Pasqual started the match over Massimo Gobbi as left-back. On the other end, David Moyes had to do without the services of Tim Cahill (who picked up a knock in training) but could count on a fully recovered Mikel Arteta, ready to supply strikers Andrew Johnson and Aiyegbeni Yakubu with accurate passes.

Everton’s Andrew Johnson celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the matchSpeaking of Arteta and Johnson, the two Toffee players would be the biggest source of danger to the Viola backline tonight, in addition to putting their name on the two aggregate-tying goals. Much like the rest of the Everton team, they seemed completely transformed compared to their performance in Florence just a week ago, and while Johnson‘s tally appeared to be the result of luck more than skill (coupled with Frey’s mistake), the Spaniard’s long-range piledriver was a marvel of precision and execution, quite similar in fact to Steven Gerrard’s effort vs. Inter Milan. Both goals were scored in Liverpool, albeit in different stadiums… coincidence?

With that being said, after the Toffees’ early 1-0 tally in minute 16, the Fiorentina backline was really pushed to the ropes: Alessandro Gamberini and Dario Dainelli were sweating bullets in trying to contain Yakubu’s and Johnson’s runs, while Sebastien Frey kept being called into action (let me rephrase… called into super action). Sebastian Frey, Fiorentina goalkeeperThe French keeper saved his team’s hide at least 3 times during the first half (parrying shots by Yakubu, Osman, and Johnson), but unfortunately even his best efforts could do little on Arteta’s long-ranger in minute 66.

What about La Viola’s striking force? Well, Bobo Vieri was on the field… or was he really? Bobo was so ‘invisible’ during the first 45 minutes that Prandelli decided to substitute him with Giampaolo Pazzini after the break. This turned out to be quite a good move, because the speed and agility of the young Under-21 Italian international forced the Everton defense to constantly mark him, allowing the rest of the Fiorentina team to play higher up the field and get a little bit of breathing space. It was no coincidence to see La Viola’s biggest scoring chance arise precisely from Pazzini, as the Fiorentina striker powered a strong header below the bar in minute 75, forcing Tim Howard to his only real save of the night.

Gianpaolo Pazzini, FiorentinaAfter 90 minutes, the Fiorentina players were glad to take this game into overtime, given they had been clearly dominated by their opponents for much of the proceedings. With some luck, they would take this to penalties and beat the Toffees then. Before that happened however, Everton had two good chances to make it 3-0 through Yakubu, but found the last-ditch tackles the Viola backline protecting Frey. Pazzini could then have clinched it in minute 118, but his shot from outside the box was wide of the mark.

So on to penalties it went. With Goodison Park’s ‘hostile’ (to put it lightly) atmosphere, the psychological advantage was clearly favoring Everton. All that changed however, the very second Yakubu put his shot onto the post, giving Fiorentina a one goal lead. Subsquently, after Pazzini, Montolivo and Osvaldo transformed their spot-kicks, Frey turned once again miracle worker by stopping Phil Jagielka’s effort and setting up the win on a platter for Mario Santana. The Argentine midfielder did not miss, and put La Viola through to the Quarter-Finals.

Who will Fiorentina be playing then? We will know in Nyon Friday, the day for which the European Cups draw is scheduled. One thing’s for sure though: despite some very fond memories of common history together, every Fiorentina fan is hoping to avoid a confrontation with Bayern Munich and a certain Luca Toni.


 ACF Fiorentina
2-0 (4-4 p.s.o.)
[Match Highlights]
Everton F.C.
GOALSCORERS: 16′ A.Johnson (E), 66’ Arteta (E)
PENALTY SHOOTOUT: Everton (E) goal, Pazzini (F) goal, Yakubu (E) post, Montolivo (F) goal, Arteta (E) goal, Osvaldo (F) goal, Jagielka (E) saved, Santana (F) goal
EVERTON (4-4-2): Howard – P.Neville, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott – Carsley, Arteta, Pienaar (106’ Anichebe), Osman, Yakubu, A.Johnson (119’ Gravesen). (bench: Wessel, Hibbert, Baines N.Valente, M.Fernandes). Coach: Moyes.
FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey – Ujfalusi, Gamberini, Dainelli, Pasqual – Kuzmanovic (91’ Gobbi), Donadel, Montolivo – Jorgensen (106’ Santana), Vieri (46’ Pazzini), Osvaldo. (bench: Avramov, Potenza, Kroldrup, Cacia). Coach: Prandelli