Its advantage Manchester United at the half way stage in what looks like being the only competitive Quarter Final in the 2011 Champions League as the other 3 ties look as good as over after the nfirst games.
In an entertaining and closely contested match at Stamford Bridge Manchester United scored the games only goal following a move fit to grace any game of this standard. The impressive Michael Carrick who passed the ball well all night started the move with a sweeping cross which veretan Ryan Giggs collected with a sublime 1st touch before pulling the ball back for Wayne Rooney who calmly side footed the ball into the net with the help of the goal post. United were good value for their lead going into the half, although Torres was a tad unlucky not to level things when hist deftly placed shot came back off the post.
The second half saw a bit more fight from Chelsea, and they will count themselves unlucky to to have had at least one penalty with the one in the final minute where Patrice Evra’s foul Ramires was so blatant that the ref was probably the only person in the stadium who missed it.
A 1-0 lead is nice, however this game is far from over and if Chelsea play like they did in the second half then it would be no surprise to see them overturn this deficit.
The Champions League Semi Final draw has paired Britains best hopes Chelsea & Manchester United guaranteeing an English presence in the last 4, but probably dashing any hope of an al English final. The final 8 are comprised of 3 English Clubs, 2 Spanish, and one each from Italy, Germany and the Ukraine.
Looking at the ties objectively we expect the final four to comnprise Inter Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid & Chelsea, although with teams of this quality anything can happen and some exciting football looks instore.
Inter Milan v Schalke 04
Real Madrid v Tottenham
Barcelona v Shakhtar Donetsk
Chelsea v Man Utd
Talk of the ultimate demise of Chelsea’s season will have to go on hold for a few more weeks at least as the reigning Premier League Champions cruised to a comfortable victory at FC Copenhagen in front of a crowd of 28,000. This was Copenhagen’s first ever home defeat in the Champions League, and was no more than Chelsea deserved as they dominated possession.
Although there is no such thing as a formality it would be a major shock if the Danes managed to overturn this deficit and Carlos Ancelotti can rest a little easier at least until their next game when they entertain Manchester United.
When the Champions League kicked off in earnest it looked like Chelsea were set to sweep all before them, However things have not continued in that vein and defeat tonight could effectively end their season. They face one of the Champions Leagues surprise teams in FC Copenhagen and the Danes will be well rested for the match given they are on a winter break. Further the Danes have never lost at home in the Champions League, having beating the likes of Celtic and Manchester United in recent years and they gained an excellent draw against Barcelona in this seasons group stage.
This might just be the biggest game in Danish Club football, however Chelsea have not played that badly of late despite not getting the results they wanted and I have the feeling they will bounce back to form tonight and should at the very least avoid defeat and possibly take a couple of goal lead bat to Stamford Bridge. Whether that will be enough to save Ancelotti’s job is another matter.
Tottenham face AC Milan in the Champions League tonight without several key players including Influential Welshman Gareth Bale, who has been one of the stars of the Champions League so far this season.
Alos missing will be long-term absentees Tom Huddlestone, Ledley King and Younes Kaboul, and Peter Crouch & Luka Modric are both doubtful. Jermaine Jenas will also miss the match due to suspension.
Some good news is that Rafael van der Vaart will probably be fit and on the other side AC Milan will not be able to field January signings Antonio Cassano, Mark van Bommel and Urby Emanuelson. Milan will be missing midfield duo Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini.
So no side will really benefit from the others misfortune injury wise and there is sufficient talent available to make this a game to watch. This is a difficult game for Spurs and they will be very pleased to leave the San Siro with a narrow one goal defeat. A repeat of the 4-3 scorline against Inter on their last visit to Italy would set up a great night at White Hart Lane on the 9th March.
The nights other tie is between Valencia & Schalke 04 and given the German side are struggling at present its hard to see them getting anything from their trip to Spain.
As expected Shaktar Donesk, Arsenal and Roma secured their Champions League knock out stages last night. Arsenal could only finish second and given they cant meet one of the other English clubs until the Quarter Finals they will now face the prospect of meeting the likes of Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Arsenal failed to clinch a place in the last 16 of the Champions League last night after Eduardo’s goal proved enough to give Shakhtar Donetsk a 2-1 win. It looked like Arsenal would break Shakhtar’s long unbeaten home record with some ease after Walcott struck after 10 minutes, however from then on Shakhtar looked the better team and it was left to one time Gunners hero Eduardo to grab the winner late in the first half.
This was a much under strength Arsenal team and they can sew up their last 16 place with a point away to Braga in their next match.
Manchester United travel to Turkey tonight to face Bursaspor knowing a win will practically guarantee them a place in the last 16, however despite the Turks poor showing this is not a given and expect Alex Ferguson to put out a strong side. Man Utd should scrape this one.
Rangers will probably play for a draw in Valencia and this is a tactic which has backfired on Scottish clubs a lot this year. A win for Man Utd tonight coupled with a draw for Rangers would just about guarantee Rangers a Europa League place at least but they will do well to get a draw here.
Tottenham were totally outclassed for 45 minutes against Inter but showed a lot of spirit to come away with a credible 4-3 defeat. Now with the backing of their home fans they can take a massive step towards the last 16 with a win against the reigning champions. Spurs are playing quite well and they can win this one.
So overall despite the ties looking hard we expect a win for Spurs & United and a disapointing narrow loss for Rangers.
Tottenham Hotspur are one of 6 clubs making their Champions League Group stage debut this week and they look the most likely to have a chance of progressing to the latter stages, despite not having the easiest of groups.
They will hopefully welcome back Luka Modric for tonight’s match with Werder Bremen and although they will be without Jermain Defoe and Michael Dawson they will fancy their chances of making a winning start. Bremen will be without Per Mertesacker and have other injury worries, so Spurs will not have a better chance of picking up an away win than in this one.
The other teams making their Champions League Group Stage Debuts are:
Tottenham’s first ever game in the Champions League will be played on a plastic pitch tonight when they travel to Switzerland to take on Young Boys of Bern. Spurs are taking this qualifier seriously and are sending a strong squad, although Ledley King’s knee will not be risked on a plastic pitch and midfielder Jermaine Jenas is being rested as he has a minor Calf injury.
Young Boys will be no push over, having already knocked Turkish side Fenerbache out in the previous round, and the £10 million in prize money up for grabs just for reaching the group stages is enough to make any team take things seriously. Young Boys only lost once at home in the league last season and their win over Champions League regulars Fenerbache will have instilled a lot of confidence in them.
If Tottenham can come away from Bern with a draw, preferably having scored then they should progress giving England a strong presence in the group stages again this year.