Back after hiatus, the UEFA Champions League picks up a bit of steam today with two Round of 16 matches. Two more follow tomorrow, but we’ll deal with those then. The schedule is extended in this round, with four of the eight matchups in this round not starting until next week.
Today, there is no shortage of intrigue, however, as Manchester United visit AC Milan, and Lyon host Real Madrid.
There’s certainly a lot being made about the David Beckham angle to Milan-Manchester United, and I guess deservedly so. The former Manchester United star still might have the ability to turn games, but Milan probably are going to need more than that to advance past this round. United’s struggle for much of the season has simply been to find healthy bodies to put in every position. An inability to take advantage of Chelsea’s slip-ups in the Premier League has cost them a chance at the lead, and United must be better at taking its opportunities now that the eliminations have begun in Europe.
In the other match, Lyon get a chance to really prove their worth with their draw vs. Real Madrid. A lot is expected of this Madrid side with the summer signing of Ronaldo as part of a bit of a spending spree (to put it mildly). That money so far has transferred to what many would call a solid season, but like the two teams in today’s other match, there’s some current disappointment in the league table in seeing rival Barcelona ahead of them (55 points to 53). Ronaldo’s 2-goal return in a 3-0 league win over Xerez over the weekend will certainly help.
Lyon are not having one of their characteristic seasons in France’s Ligue 1, at one stretch going five matches without a victory. The club has seemed to turn things around lately, collecting 13 of a possible 15 points in the last five matches. The prior poor form, however, has left Lyon eight points out of first in the league, standing in fourth place behind Bordeaux, Montpellier, and Lille. This after a third-place finish a season ago ended a six-year run as French champions.
Picks are below. To spice it up for this round, the point values are increased. Now, for picking the result and exact score, it’s 20 points. Getting the winner and winning margin (if the score is different, of if a predicted draw has a different score) is worth 10. Simply having the winner is worth 5.
* AC Milan vs. Manchester United: Milan could really do with a victory here, and it’d almost be fairy-tale for Beckham to play a part in it. But to pick the game, you have to deal in reality. Both are good sides, but not great. I see the match representing that. 1-1 DRAW.
* Lyon vs. Real Madrid: While Lyon’s form has taken a turn for the better, Madrid seem too powerful to me. I’ll be hoping Lyon pulls a result, but I’m not picking it. 3-1 MADRID.
Here are the current standings:
1) 206 – writered21
2) 165 – aaronstollar
3) 155 – RegularGuy
4) 107 – nica1004
5) 101 – dkstones
6) 65 – Lowecifer
7) 60 – tomwilhelm
8) 52 – FlashMan
9) 16 – FFCinPCB
10) 5 – RandyNA
Good luck, everyone. Both games today kickoff at 2:45 p.m. Eastern time, and picks entered after that time will not be scored.