Sunday, April 13, 2008

UEFA Cup Final Four

While the UEFA Cup has slipped in stature over the past decade, this year's competition has produced some memorable fixtures, none greater than Bayern Munich's thrilling 3-3 draw at Getafe last week that sent the presumptive Bundesliga champs into the semifinals. Trailing the Spanish newcomers 2-1 on aggregate, Franck Ribery's 89th minute tally stunned the home crowd and sent the teams into extra time. Down a man for most of the match, Getafe scored twice in the first four minutes of extra time and appeared on their way to victory. But an opportunistic Luca Toni scored in the 115th and 120th minutes to put Bayern through on away goals after the teams finished 3-3 on aggregate.

Following a disappointing fourth-place finish in 2007, Bayern Munich have dropped only two league matches this season and remain the favorites to raise the trophy in Manchester, Their semifinal opponents will be defending Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg, currently a distant 11th in the league, but authors of an impressive 4-2 aggregate win in the quarters against Bayer Leverkusen.

On the opposite side, Glasgow Rangers, well on their way to the Scottish Premier League title, face Fiorentina, currently holding down fourth place in Serie A. Both advanced with impressive 2-0 road victories in the quarterfinals- Rangers away to Sporting Lisbon and Fiorentina taking down Dutch champs PSV Eindhoven.

Bayern and Fiorentina are my picks to advance to the final.

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