Columnist Ed, with some thoughts on the Champions League Final Four:
The best league in Europe -- the one that doesn't feature either Manchester A or Manchester B -- is down to the final four. And as all readers of this site know, Bayern took down Real Madrid in the first leg of their series last night in Munich by the score of 2 to 1. Here are my thoughts.
-- Gomez is much better than I realized. I never thought much of him, as I beleived it was Ribery and Robben that do most of the work for Bayern's offense. While it is true that they do all of the delivery work, Gomez played with tons of energy Tuesday night, challenging defenders with the ball and bullying his way forward. He is not necessarily quick, but he is certainly fast. Plus, he anticipates the hard snap crosses they put into him remarkably well. He had one goal but could have had three. I can see now why he has 40 goals. This was the type of player that Liverpool foolishly believed they were getting when they signed Andy Carroll. There is still room for the big holder and finisher in modern football. There aren't too many better than Gomez.
-- Ribery is a fantastic player who gives all he has on the field, but the flopping he did the other night was shameful. He certainly fooled Howard Webb on a more than one occassion, and his flop in the penalty area should have been carded. Ribery's behavior screams for post game yellow cards or fines. When will this happen? Some day please?
-- Ronaldo was also no stranger to the flop. Ronaldo, I think, is used to being the Michael Jordan of his league, and getting the call any time anyone touches him. Last night he was treated by Webb in the same way as a reserve teamer on Wolves. Shoving is a part of the game also, Ronaldo. Remember the BPL? While Barcelona brings an elegance to the game that is unparalleled, there is also a diva quality to their game and it's found, as well, in Ronaldo -- something that is tough to swallow for an American like me.
-- The Bayern v. Real game was interesting on a tactical front as both teams have very similar styles of play. Their formations, their conservatism upon scoring, their personnel -- all strikingly similar. Neither of these teams are like Barca. This was a battle of traditional tactics between old rivals. Are these teams the last of this era, and will the possesion game eventually take over?
-- I'm not sure how many more times Barca has to beat Real in order for us to close the book on that one. Even should Real advance and Barca lose, it's hard to say Real is the better team. And the likelihood of Real beating Barca seems in light of recent history to be silly. Plus, who wants to watch another match filled with hair pulling and flopping. These two teams desperately need to stop playing each other. Let's hope Bayern moves on so we don't have to see this. And as I've said ever since I saw Bayern crush a good Manchester City team, I think Bayern remain my favorites, even over Barca.[Ed. Note: This was written prior to Wendesday Evening.]
-- Am I not giving Chelsea enough credit? Don't they have a chance against Barca? Well, not much of one I think. Chelsea is, by the way, a very good team. They are playing with much more discipline on defense and in a system they know well. They are playing with great energy for the time of year. And players like Ramires and Mata have added a lot to their roster from last year. It would be fun to see an English team advance; I just don't see how they hold up in Barcelona even if they do well tomorrow at home. Messi is playing out of his mind these days; I don't see Chelsea having a strong enough defense to keep him in check. But we will see!!This is farlieonfootie for April 19.