Champions League meeting of England’s big guns hard to call
FRIDAY’S Champions League draw threw up some tantalising contests, with the clash of Premier League duo Chelsea and Man United unquestionably the most intriguing of the four quarter-finals.
Chelsea have been inferior to Man United for much of the season but they have rediscovered a bit of their old spark in recent weeks and the Red Devils have been plagued by injuries, particularly in defence.
However, with Chelsea’s star-studded strike force out of sorts it’s hard to see where the goals will come from. None of the Stamford Bridge trio of Fernando Torres, Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba seems capable of hitting a cow’s arse with a banjo at the moment so they could depend on goals from the resurgent Frank Lampard or even defenders John Terry or new-found cult hero David Luiz.
It’s a real tough one to call but if United get one or two of their regular defenders back, their frontmen look better equipped and in better form to take advantage. However, if Torres, Drogba and Anelka are firing on all cylinders by then the tide could turn in Chelsea’s favour.
Tottenham got a dream tie when they were paired with the competition’s most successful side, Real Madrid. It’s a glamourous fixture but also one Harry Redknapp’s men are capable of winning. The real down side for Spurs though, is if they do manage to topple Jose Mourinho’s side, Barcelona would then lie in wait should they come through as expected against Shaktar Donetsk, and that would surely be a bridge too far for the Londoners.
Cristiano Ronaldo is a doubt for the quarter-final, having been taken off after 73 minutes of the 2-1 derby win over Athletico Madrid, and if the Portuguese winger did miss out it would be a huge boost to Tottenham.
Spurs have a good chance, particular- ly if Ronaldo is sidelined, but if pushed ‘Inside Right’ would have to plump for Real Madrid to just shade it and set up a mouth-watering El Clasico semi-final against Barcelona.
Champions Inter Milan have been drawn against Schalke after their dramatic win over Bayern Munich and should have enough to move a step closer to defending their illustrious crown.
That would leave us with Barcelona versus Real Madrid in one semi-final and Man United against Inter Milan in the other.
Barcelona will have too much firepower for their Spanish counterparts, while despite the apparent decline in standards in the Italian league recently, Inter might just have enough to halt a Man United side that have only impressed sporadically this season.
Whoever gets to the final would in all likelihood struggle to contain Barcelona. Man United wouldn’t be able to live with their one-touch passing game and lightening surely can’t strike for Inter Milan.
Of all the quarter-finalists, Chelsea would probably have the best chance of shocking Barcelona and they could try to outmuscle the Catalan giants.
There is a chink of light for the others who are trying to halt the Barcelona charge; they’ve been completely dominating teams but failing to kill them off in recent games. Against Arsenal they owned the ball for most of the tie but in the end Nicklas Bendtner had a decent chance to send them packing.
Similarly, on Saturday night they completely overran Getafe for most of the game but after conceding an 88th minute goal were left clinging on for a victory that should have been well and truly in the bag by half-time.
A glimmer of hope for the other contenders, but a faint one.
Wayne Rooney of Manchester United closes in on Chelsea’s John Terry during their recent Premier League meeting.