Chelsea 1-0 Benfica
As hard as it was to attain a positive result last time out for Chelsea, this away win will do them wonders. In Roberto Di Matteo’s 2nd UEFA Champions League game, Chelsea found it hard to unlock Benfica until surprise starter Salomon Kalou made the difference in the 75th minute with a clinical finish. Di Matteo did exactly what Andre Villas-Boas did in resting six veteran players except his reasoning was tiredness; the Chelsea boss recalled John Obi Mikel, Kalou, and former Benfica defender David Luiz.
Benfica struggled to kick start themselves at home and giving up an away goal makes their semifinal chances even slimmer. Although they had more chances, only eight ended up on target-the most important being Nicolas Gaitán’s cross that was almost diverted into the goal by Ashley Cole’s foot.
Real Madrid 3-0 Apoel Nicosia
Karim Benzema’s brace and Kaka’s goal put a rest to the Cypriot “Cinderella” Apoel. Kaka was introduced in the 63rd minute and immediately made an impact as he set up Benzema’s first and tucked away his own. Jose Mourinho’s substitutions made the difference as all of the goals were scored after the 74th minute with Kaka a vital piece in each goal.
Now on the brink of elimination, Apoel will have to do the impossible (something that they’ve been doing the whole tournament), and that is score four goals without Real scoring two. Apoel never seemed to have a chance in the game with Real dominating them in attempts, 25-0, and possession, 78%-22%.
AC Milan 0-0 FC Barcelona
AC Milan survived a prolonged Barcelona onslaught to hold their visitors goalless, but will leave the San Siro wondering how they blew some guilt-edge chances. A series of Barça attempts came up empty unlike usual, but will look forward to head back to their home hunting ground in Barcelona.
Kevin Prince-Boateng squandered their best chance in the 3rd minute when he took too long to release his shot inside the box and allowed for Gerard Piqué to block his attempt. Next, in the 20th minute, Clarence Seedorf put Zlatan Ibrahimović clean through only for him not to convert from point-blank range. Milan will lament these missed chances for sure as they head to the Camp Nou and should brace for another Barça blitz.
Bayern Munich 2-0 Marseille
Without their usual goalkeeper Steve Mandanda in goal due to suspension, Didier Deschamps preferred 32-year-old Elinton Andrade, their third choice keeper, to number two Gennaro Bracigliano, and his decision backfired in the 44th minute when Andrade’s mistake gifted Mario Gomez his 11th UCL goal of the year.
Munich had the better chances as Marseille’s defense looked shaky without their leader in the back, Suleymane Diawara. However, Marseille had the best chance of the game in the 7th minute when Rod Fanni’s powerful header from a Mathieu Valbuena corner was acrobatically turned away by Manuel Neuer. It was hardly Munich’s best performance, but it was good enough to defeat a Marseille team that is in a terrible run of form domestically.
Of all of the great rivalries in Italian football from Lazio vs. Roma to Napoli vs. Palermo, AC Milan vs. Inter Milan has to be the greatest. The Rossoneri vs. Nerazzurri have produced some epic displays of football and the passion that is involved in every tackle or attack thwarted is something for other rivalries to take note of.
In every sense of the word, Inter Milan’s start to the season was awful. Losing to teams that were cellar dwellers and abysmal displays of defense left management stunned, and so the manager was fired leading everyone to just mark this season off as “just one of those years.” However, the last ten matches for the Nerazzurri have been anything but bad, thus ending 2011 in the form of yesteryears. Claudio Ranieri will be no doubt elated with this great run of form and with their decisive victory last weekend over Parma, 5 to 0. Coming into the weekend, the pressure is definitely on Inter Milan to continue their great run of form and mark the resurgence of their title challenge.
Despite starting poorly to the 2011-2012 season, AC Milan has found their footing with the patching-up of a leaky defense and the great form of their talismanic striker, Zlatan Ibrahimović. Since that awful beginning to the season, the Rossoneri have just kept on chipping away at the deadlock at the top between Udinese and Juventus and with their steady comeback, they have surpassed Udinese in the table and have become even on points with Juventus, but leading in goal difference. So when they meet with their city rivals, Inter, this weekend, AC Milan will have to stay solid at the back and burst out when counterattacking with the pace of Kevin-Prince Boateng and the trickery of “Ibra” to land that decisive blow to Inter’s title hopes.
Although both of these clubs started the season off slowly, both have gotten back into the thick of things at the top with Inter Milan on a great run of form and AC Milan steadfast at the top alongside Juventus. Inter’s leaky defense has been mended with goalkeeper Júlio César in the best form of his life, and AC Milan has used their superstars to get them back to the top. The scene is set, and the lights are on these two giants of Italian football as they face off this weekend in the “Derby Milan.”