European football is around the corner (as soon as we deal with today’s Sunday fixtures – Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham for the win, btw) and it’s time for us (you and me) to predict the future with all the confidence that being arm-chair critics gives us.
Here are my predictions (that’s my crystal ball up top) – let me know yours in the comments:
On league form and history you would side with Arsenal, but as Chelsea have found out over the last few years, Liverpool are a different beast altogether when it comes to the Champions League.
Thing is, so are Arsenal. The quarter-final – more suited to a grand semi-final perhaps (definitely a more attractive proposition than a Chelsea-Liverpool or Chelsea-Arsenal semi-final – no offense but those rivalries have been done to death in recent years) will be a pulsating affair, and the winner of this tie has already been tipped by people to reach the final.
Manchester United are in imperious form in the league while Roma have improved quite a bit in Europe since last season. Their ties are unfortunately remembered for action off the pitch as well, and hopefully the authorities will keep that from happening this time.
United are good enough to come away with a draw in the away leg, and even with a goal down in aggregate, as we saw last season, United are simply irresistible at Old Trafford.
Prediction: Manchester United.
Schalke have done good to get this far and Barcelona won’t have Messi, which limits their chances of getting out of a jam if they go behind in either leg. The reverse they faced against Betis on the weekend – they were cruising at 2-0 at one point only to lose 2-3 – won’t have done their morale any good either.
You’d back Rijkaard and his men to pull together and qualify for the semi-finals, but Barcelona are probably the weakest of the top 6 sides left in the competition (I’d fancy Roma to beat them over 2 legs, if they were to get a shot) and they’ll have a tough time against Schalke.
If Grant puts out a full-strength Chelsea team, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to win the away leg or at least come away with a score draw. Chelsea have come under a lot of criticism this season but they are one of few teams in Europe whom you can count on to pull through under the most difficult of circumstances. Fener are better than people expect them to be and they’ll give Chelsea a good fight (perhaps even score at Stamford Bridge) but I don’t see them dumping Chelsea out this time around.
Arsenal v Liverpool
Roma v Manchester United
Schalke v Barcelona
Fenerbahce v Chelsea
who do you think will progress to the semi-finals? And beyond?