UEFA Champions League: Arsenal on the brink of early exit, Zenit clings to lead

Robinho (Getty Images)
 


By JOHN BOSCHINI

Arsenal are in need of a miracle.

The English side heads back to the Emirates needing to overturn a four-goal deficit to AC Milan in the second leg of the Champions League Round of 16. Arsenal has scored four goals four times this season including in matches against Chelsea and Tottenham, so the needed offense isn't out of the realm of possibility for Arsene Wenger's men. However, Arsenal will also need to keep a clean sheet or they will need to win by at least five goals. Arsenal have only kept clean sheets in 28 percent of their games in all competitions this season and let in four at the San Siro.

Tuesday's other game is set up to be a lot more competitive. Zenit St. Petersburg takes a 3-2 lead into Portugal to face Benfica. The Portuguese side should enjoy much friendlier conditions than the freezing temperatures experienced in Russia in the middle of February, when it managed to secure two away goals. Benfica have lost only once in their last 19 home European games, but all the visitors need to do is hold out for a draw.

Here is a look ahead to both Champions League games this afternoon:

ARSENAL VS. AC MILAN

TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 2:45 p.m.

FIRST LEG: It's difficult to find another word than humiliating when describing Arsenal's trip to AC Milan on Feb. 15. The front two of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho were far too much for the fragile back line of Arsenal. Kevin-Prince Boateng opened the scoring with a stunning strike after just 15 minutes and Robinho scored on either side of halftime. Ibrahimovic likely put the tie beyond all doubt when he slotted home a penalty kick 11 minutes from time.

THE LOWDOWN: To say stranger things than an Arsenal comeback have happened would be somewhat disingenuous because, frankly, they haven't. Only three times has a club overcome a four-goal deficit in a European competition and that hasn't happened in more than 25 years. If Arsenal are going to have any hope of pulling off the shock of the season, the back line is going to have to be uncharacteristically solid. Wojchiech Szczesny will also have to be on top form as Arsenal sacrifice defense to attack early on. AC Milan will likely be satisfied with forcing Arsenal to commit forward and break on the counter attack.

BENFICA VS. ZENIT ST. PETERSBURG

TV: FoxSoccer.tv, 2:45 p.m.

FIRST LEG: Zenit St. Petersburg managed to survive the cold and shake off the rust of a 10-week layoff to down Benfica 3-2 in a thrilling opening tie. The two sides traded goals with Maxi Pereira canceling out Roman Shirokov's opener and Oscar Cardozo equalizing after Sergei Semak regained the lead. Shirokov gave the home side a victory just a minute after Cardozo's 87th minute equalizer.

THE LOWDOWN: Zenit St. Petersburg have a decent defensive record away from home, so conventional wisdom would suggest they'll go all out for a draw. However, an early goal from Benfica would give the Portuguese side the lead on away goals and would open up the game dramatically. Cardozo will be the focal point of attack for Benfica and has scored 20 goals so far this season.

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What do you think of today's games? Does Arsenal have a chance? Are you more interested in the Benfica vs. St. Petersburg clash?

Share your thoughts below.

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2 Responses to UEFA Champions League: Arsenal on the brink of early exit, Zenit clings to lead

  1. drew says:

    I think the timing of Arsenal’s exit is just about right, actually.

  2. mcm says:

    I agree. Only 1 team can win it all.