- Posted by Geoff Reid
- On April 6, 2011
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- Geoff Reid, UCL 2010/11
By Geoff Reid
Chelsea vs Manchester United from Stamford Bridge, London
Another great match-up and this one being a repeat of the 2008 final for the Premier League rivals. Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech tried to set some sparks off by claiming that United didn’t really win the final three years ago, but at the end of the day it was their name engraved on the trophy. The hosts claim they are not focused on a revenge mission, and after all manager Carlo Anchelotti was not at the helm when that match took place. However, it is also no secret that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich wants the Champions League more than anything else, and to justify that why else did he spend the kind of money he did to bring in Fernando Torres in January (who is also yet to get off the mark in a Chelsea shirt)?
For the visitors, Sir Alex Ferguson has seen it all, and been here before many times just as his rival on the other bench. United are still in with a shout to win the treble, although at least on first impression this season’s team is not as good as the one back in 1999 that won the Premier League, FA Cup, and the Champions League. With the Premier League most likely going to Old Trafford for a record 19th time with no real consistent challengers, this will be the biggest test for the red devils and with Chelsea going for this trophy as well it should be a trilling two legged tie.
The hosts still have Brazilian defender Alex out with a knee injury, but other longtime concern Yossi Benayoun is now available for selection after making a 20 minute cameo appearance for Israel during the last round of Euro 2012 qualifiers. For today’s visitors, not too much to worry about on the injury front as Park Ji-Sung and Michael Owen both returned on the weekend in league play, while Johnny Evans, John O’Shea, Rafael and Wes Brown are all good to go. Darren Fletcher is questionable, while Wayne Rooney did pick up a bruised thigh, but should be good.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-2 Manchester United
Barcelona vs Shakhtar Donetsk from the Camp Nou, Barcelona
It was an interesting press conference listening to Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola where he stated he clearly feels more nervous now than ever before because most members of the media are already giving them a place in the semi finals, and today’s visitors from the Ukraine don’t stand a chance. Guardiola’s strongest point in coaching is his ability to motivate his players at his disposal. For a lot of the time at Barcelona, tactics aren’t the center piece, the playing style is, and with so many players coming through the youth system they already know how to play. The key for Guardiola has always been how to motivate his players against teams such as Shakhtar because players don’t need motivation to play against Real Madrid or Arsenal. Mind you, if you can’t get up for a Champions League quarter final no matter who you are playing, you shouldn’t be playing football.
For the visitors, manager Mircea Lucescu has declared Barcelona the “strongest team in football history.” Whether he really believes that is another story, but he’s under no illusion to the task ahead of him. The good news is the second leg is back on home turf in the Ukraine so if his side can get away from Camp Nou with a 1-0 defeat, or knick an away goal somewhere it will give them a chance. And let’s be clear here, Shakhtar are no fluke, they are this far in the tournament because they deserve to be. They finished ahead of Arsenal in the group stage, and have a very good number of attacking players.
For the hosts, Lionel Messi is confident he’ll recover from his illness while Maxwell and Pedro Rodriguez are both fit. Captain Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal are both sidelined. The main concern for Shakhtar is Chygrynshiy and if he’ll be available because they are short of options at center back. The good news is former Arsenal man Eduardo, and Fernandinho are available.
Prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Shakhtar Donetsk