Thursday May 15 2014

Barca, Arsenal and Bayern to win titles

By Mark Ssali


Arsenal vs Hull
For Hull it is not going to be enough being every neutral’s preference, because Arsenal will not be denied this time. It has been eight long years, and boy have the Gunners been reminded about that trophyless spell every so often. The emotions of the occasion are bound to wear off at some point, and football will take over.

Once that happens, Hull will discover that it is not going to be easy to shut out a determined Arsenal, Curtis Davies and his men put under constant, immense pressure. To cause the upset, Hull will need a few breaks to go their way. They shouldn’t concede early; have got to make their counter attacks precise most probably through the Ahmed Elmohamady outlet; need for Yannick Sagbo to be clinical since their best strikers Shane Long and Nikica Yelavic are Cup-tied; and must be aggressive with their dead balls. Arsenal will do what Arsenal do though, and it should be enough. Finally. Arsenal win

Bayern vs Dortmund
The fallout from the resounding loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League semis continues, and Bayern Munich players and their manager find themselves having to repeatedly defend themselves against criticism of their possession-based style. Because of that, there remains a feeling of underachievement around the club, despite Bayern winning the Bundesliga at a canter.

They haven’t won too many games since being declared champions mathematically a long time ago, but they still are my favourites for this final. Dortmund are their bogey team, play exciting quicker transition football, recently beat Bayern at the Allianz Arena, and have finished the season in better form.

They have made major improvements on the injury front too, but this is the one game I feel they really needed the still-sidelined Neven Subotic and Ilkay Gundogan around. There will be experience and quality all over the pitch, but I feel Bayern have the stronger midfield, and in the battle of the game-deciding superstars I feel Arjen Robben will topple Marco Reus. Bayern win

Barcelona vs Atletic Madrid
Only Barcelona fans will not call this a gross injustice, but I strongly feel that the rest of the world is going to have its collective heart wrenched out by the most cruel title grab in recent times. Not even Liverpool’s last ditch loss of the English Premiership title to Man City will compare, for I believe that Lionel Messi is going to engineer the mother of all heists as Barca beat Atletico Madrid and win the La Liga title at the death, on head-to-head count.

And it is not just because of Messi that I feel it will happen, also not just because of the eerie enchantment of the Camp Nou on days like this, but also because of the law of averages. Simply put, Barca are due a win over Atleti. It has been long coming. Home win

Real Madrid vs Espanyol
This was supposed to be the day when Real Madrid stole ahead as their two title rivals cancelled each other out. But they let it slip badly, and will instead only use this game as a warm-up for the Champions League final, especially since they will take winning La Decima (their 10th European crown) over a treble any day. They are not likely to risk the star players who have missed their last two games because of injuries, but unlike their loss at Celta Vigo the reserves should be good enough to do the job in front of the Bernabeu crowd. Home win & ‘Over’

Malaga vs Levante
Home win

Almeria vs Bilbao
Away win

Valencia vs Celta Vigo
Home win

Sociedad vs Villarreal

Sevilla vs Elche
Home win


PSG vs Montpellier
Home win & ‘Over’

Monaco vs Bordeaux
Home win

Marseille vs Guingamp
Home win & ‘Over’

Lorient vs Lille
Away win

Nice vs Lyon
Away win