Another Champions League matchday is upon us: 2 matches today and 2 more tomorrow, 2nd legs of Round of 16 matchups, which means that by the end of Wednesday 4 of the 8 quarterfinalists will have been set. Here’s the fixture list for today–both matches kick off, as usual, at 20:45CET (= 2:45pmET/11:45amPT for those of us in the US):
|Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN) – Stadium: Arsenal Stadium, London (ENG)
|Referee: Howard Webb (ENG) – Stadium: Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica, Lisbon (POR)
Even though Arsenal-Milan is the marquee matchup in terms of some of us here at CultFootball HQ are leaning towards watching Benfica-Zenit instead. After watching O Classico (i.e., Benfica-Porto) last Friday, we’ve decided Benfica is the Portuguese team we’ll support (though unfortunately when we went to Lisbon a few years ago we randomly ended up at the Sporting Lisbon stadium/club shop, and picked up a Sporting jersey.)
Really Benfica-Zenit is the only of these 4 matches this week that’s in play, since the first leg was 3-2 victory for Zenit in St Petersburg. As for the other three ties, it’s unlikely that the trailing team will be able to turn it around.
Despite the euphoria of the past two Premier League wins for Arsenal, can they really beat Milan 4-0? As pointed out on yesterday’s Guardian Football Weekly pod, how likely is it that Arsenal’s defense hold Ibrahimovic, Robinho, etc. scoreless, esp since the Gunners will have be going forward to score? If Milan gets just one goal, Arsenal will need to win 6-1 in order to advance.
There is historical precedent for a team coming back from a big 1st leg deficit against Milan to win a Champions League tie with a big 2nd leg win at home. In 2004, Deportivo La Coruña lost the 1st leg at the San Siro 4-0 to the defending champions–coached by Carlo Ancelotti and featuring such names in their squad as Kaka, Maldini, Cafu, Shevchenko, Pirlo, Nesta, Seedorf, and Inzaghi. But they went back to Galicia on April 7 for the return leg–and shocked the world by winning 4-0. It appears in this list of course in this list of Top 10 Champions League comebacks, as well as in this list of Top 25 matches of the decade. See the video on our tumblr here.