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Football News: Match Previews Wednesday 15th February 2017

Wednesday 15th February 2017

Bayern Munich v Arsenal UEFA Champions League 7:45pm

Boateng (out)
Ribery (doubt)
Alonso (doubt)

This is the usual story for Bayern Munchen, another season of them running away with the Bundesliga, having built up a seven point cushion, following a run of nine games unbeaten, eight of those wins and still in both domestic cup competitions. They are still unbeaten at home, in the Allianz Arena, in the league, with over half the season gone. However, things are a little different in the Champions League, with two away defeats, one at the hands of Atletico Madrid but the other a shock defeat to Rostov. Since then, Carlo Ancelotti has managed to get things back on track and Bayern look like a juggernaut heading for the final stages of the competition.
Most important player: Arturo Vidal. The Chilean midfielder is devastating when on form. With defensive solidity supplied by Xabi Alonso or Niklas Dorsch, Vidal has the freedom to roam and create havoc. Up against an Arsenal side that severely lacks battling qualities all over the park, his energy and desire will be difficult for the opposition to deal with.

Debuchy (doubt)
Elneny (doubt)
Sanogo (out)
Cazorla (out)
Ramsey (out)

Like Bayern, this is another deja vu season, with Arsenal once more blowing a genuine chance to challenge for the league title and once more showing a weakness and lack of fight that has been a concern for a very long time now. The Gunners got back to winning ways at the weekend, with an unconvincing 2-0 victory over struggling Hull City, but sit in fourth in the Premier League, their usual place. Once again they strolled through the group stages in the Champions League, and once again they look to be going no further as they come face to face with the mighty Bavarian behemoth of Bayern Munich. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain finally moving into the central midfield role that was expected to be his long term future when he arrived, alongside the fiery Francis Coquelin, at the weekend, will manager Arsene Wenger stick with that pairing?
Most important player: David Ospina. While Alexis Sanchez is without a doubt the best player at the club, it is Ospina that will be most important in this away match. Like many at the club in recent weeks, Petr Cech has been struggling for form, looking nowhere near the world class goalkeeper that once commanded the area so well in a Chelsea shirt. This is a chance for Ospina to make a real challenge for the shirt.

Defining Battle: Arsenal's defensive weaknesses in wide areas have been exposed a number of times this season, with Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi conspiciously lax in their defensive duties. Bayern's excellent wing options and attacking fullbacks could totally overwhelm Arsenal in the wide areas, if they are not careful. This is probably a game that needs Sanchez and Lucas Perez in the wide forward positions, due to the cover they give the fullbacks, but then who does Wenger play up front?

Editors' predictions:
Ed003: 1-1
Ed007: 2-0


Real Madrid v Napoli UEFA Champions League 7:45pm

Bale (out)

Zinedine Zidane has certainly got something right this season, as Real Madrid have already added the UEFA Supercup and FIFA Club World Cup to their glittering trophy cabinet and are currently topping the Spanish league by a point with two games in hand. So far this season, they have suffered just two defeats, one against Celta Vigo in the Copa Del Rey and one against Sevilla in the league. Those blips aside, this season has been about as close to plain sailing as you can ask for. Zidane has brought much more balance to the Madrid line up, looking for his midfield to show defensive responsibility as well as attacking intent and not being afraid to tinker with the set up and formation to suit the players.
Most important player: Luka Modric. While the Croatian is not the big star name in the team, he runs games for the Spanish side, pulling the strings from central midfield, as well as working hard to protect the defence. If he has a good game, then Napoli are in real trouble.

Despite only being third in Serie A and a distant nine points behind Juventus, SSC Napoli enter this Champions League fixture in excellent form, having gone thirteen league games without a defeat. With their attacking players, in particular Dries Mertens, in a rich vein of form, this might be a more difficult game for Madrid than it would appear to be on paper. Maurizio Sarri has certainly got the most out of the Neapolitans forward players this season, and he will need them to make the most of every chance created tonight.
Most important player: Jose Callejon. It is always a big game when a player faces his former club, so both Callejon and fellow Spaniard Raul Albiol will no doubt be up for this match against the team that sold them to Napoli. This is likely to be a game of few chances for the Napoli attack, so they will require Callejon to make the most of any half-chances that do fall his way.

Defining battle: the game is likely to be decided by how well Napoli's deep-lying central midfield pairing of Piotr Zielinski and Amadou Diawara handle the attacking threat of the Madrid midfield. If they allow the likes of Toni Kroos to dictate the game and make it easy for Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema to drop off and receive possession, they will be in trouble. A lot of trouble.

Editors' predictions:
Ed003: 1-0
Ed007: 1-1


Aberdeen v Motherwell Scottish Premier Football League 7:45pm

Tonight is a chance for the Dons to put some space between them and Rangers in the race for second place in the SPFL by winning this game in hand against mid-table Motherwell. With a 3-1 win over Motherwell already this season, Aberdeen will enter the game in good spirits. With their rivals for second place in disarray and without a manager, Aberdeen have a big opportunity they really need to take.

Motherwell are playing for a top 6 place, before the odd split that takes place in the Scottish league. With just two points separating them from that 6th place, a win would put them in the forefront of that particular race.

Editors' predictions:
Ed003: 2-1
Ed007: 3-1

Written by Tris Burke February 15 2017 05:43:21