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Saturday, 19 March 2011

Champions League Draw

So the Champions League draw took place this morning and I have spent most of the day trying to decide if I am happy with the draw from a fans' perspective and also about some of the prospective games we will see. I will break down the games as I see them in order they came out of the hat (or pot in this case).

Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur
Real Madrid were actually the one team that I wanted to avoid with my Manchester United hat on- I think their brand of football would actually pose many more problems than Barcelona and they are much harder to defend against. In saying all that, I actually felt Tottenham were actually the best equipped English side to give themselves a chance against the 9 time European Cup winners.

It should be a tie full of goals in both legs as we have two teams that are better going towards the opposite goal than defending the one behind them. The first leg is all important- if Spurs can come back with at least one goal and a close defeat at the very worst, they will fancy their chances of causing an upset.

However, I feel Real Madrid may end up being a little too strong and seeing themselves through to the Semi Finals.

Chelsea v Manchester United
The tie of the round is a rematch of the 2008 Champions League Final, a game that will forever be etched in the memory of a certain John Terry unless the ghosts are exorcised at Wembley in May this season.

I think it was the one draw that neither team would have wanted, and the bookies dont really know which way to turn after pricing the tie as a pick 'em. The first leg being at Stamford Bridge could be the factor that tips the tie in favour of Chelsea- I am sure Carlo Ancelotti will feel his side can go through if they can keep a clean sheet in that game and take it back to Old Trafford. Ask the Italian if he would take a 0-0 in that game now and I truly feel he would accept and take his chances in scoring what could be a crucial away goal in Manchester.

It also could favour the Blues in terms of personnel being available with United suffering a number of injuries to their defence. We have to remember the game is only a little over 2 weeks away and there is no telling what shape Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Rafael will be at that stage.

It looks like a tough tie to call, but I have this sneaky feeling Chelsea will come through on away goals.

Barcelona v Shakhtar
Josep Guardiola was playing an interesting brand of mind games when he suggested he did NOT want to play Shakhtar in the last 8 of this competition because he 'does not like them'. While a trip to the Ukraine is going to be tough, I am sure the Catalan giants will expect to take a comfortable lead over to that part of Europe with the first leg at the Nou Camp.

Barcelona have not travelled that well in Europe, but I dont think I am being controversial if I feel that tie could be over after the first leg, making the trip to Donetsk a moot point.

Inter Milan v Schalke
The other side teams would have been looking out for was Schalke, especially after the Germans fired Felix Magath earlier this week.

It is a testament to Schalke that they reached this stage of the competition, but they look like they may have gone as far as they can although they will not fear an Inter Milan side that looks very vulnerable at the back.

Inter were also a little fortunate to beat Bayern Munich in the last 16, but I would expect the reigning European Champions to have a little too much class and experience for Schalke, and come through the tie.

Potential Semi Finals
If the results go as I have predicted (at this moment in time), the Semi Final line up would see Inter take on Chelsea, and Real Madrid take on Barcelona.

I would then favour Chelsea and Barcelona to get through those ties respectively and meet in the Final at Wembley on May 28th.

I have had a sneaky feeling about Chelsea winning the big prize for a while now, and I think the draw has panned out in such a way that they will feel they can get to the Final and have that opportunity if they beat Manchester United.

The draw seems to favour Barcelona the most, and I truly think they will reach the Final as they avoid the 3 teams that have given them a really tough time over the last 3 seasons. Manchester United beat Barcelona 1-0 on aggregate in 2008 in the Semi Finals, Inter Milan did the same 3-2 last season, while we all should remember Didier Drogba describing the 1-1 Semi Final draw at Stamford Bridge a 'fucking disgrace' when Chelsea were clearly robbed of the game by some suspect refereeing.

The likes of Shakhtar, Real Madrid and Tottenham do not have the defensive shape and understanding that the likes of Chelsea, United and Inter all did, and so I feel Barcelona will be in London on May 28th.

While I guess Chelsea will be their opponents, I am secretly hoping to be completely wrong and the Final will actually be Manchester United beating Shakhtar Donetsk to complete another Treble.

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