Tuesday, April 22, 2008

United set for captivating clash with Barca, but is Liverpool's luck set to run out?

Manchester United fans around the world will be eagerly looking forward to the clash with Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday in the Nou Camp. It will hopefully turn out to be a match that satisfies those who enjoy watching the beautiful game being played as it should be.

United and Barca have by tradition played attacking football, the Catalan club have attracted some of the biggest stars in world football to the Nou Camp over the years, their latest big name players Ronaldinho, Messi and Henry have been struggling with lack of form and injuries. The Brazilian is out injured, but Messi and Henry are likely to face the Champions, both are lethal on their day and Ferguson will surely stress the need for 100% concentration at the back.

The latest team news is that Edwin van der Sar has recovered from a groin strain and Wayne Rooney, Owen Hargreaves and Anderson are all fit. Gary Neville and Darren Fletcher have also been named in the squad that leaves just 'sicknote' Saha out injured.

Meanwhile, in the other semi-final at Anfield on Tuesday Liverpool are set to take on Chelsea in a fixture that hasn't really lived up to its star billing in this competition, with both teams cancelling each other out whenever they've met.

Whereas the other semi-final is likely to be more open, Liverpool vs. Chelsea is bound to be a more cagey affair. The London club may have parted company with the arch-exponent of pragmatic football, but Mourinho's legacy lives on under the stewardship of Avram Grant - a man whose own personality is more in keeping with a lack of style.

The Israeli coach is viewed as being as dull as dishwater, but whatever anyone says about him, he has seen off the challenge Wenger in the league and guided his team to the Champions League semi-final. Not bad for a chancer.

In the other corner, we have the rather amusing side-show of Waldorf and Statler aka Hicks and Gillett, fighting it out in Merseyside's very own Muppet Show. Should Chelsea win the tie, we really don't want to hear any excuses - this semi-final will be won and lost on the pitch, end of story.

Of the game itself, Liverpool must have a slight psychological advantage having knocked Chelsea out twice in recent meetings. However, on both occasions Liverpool played the second-leg at home which was crucial. The Anfield crowd usually plays a huge part on such occasions, that was certainly the case in the first meeting in 2005, added to which the referee was guilty of getting some crucial decisions wrong, with most of them benefiting the home team.

While Liverpool are seemingly nowhere nearer winning the League title as they have been in the previous 18 years, they have proven that they still know how to win the big one, they are a very good cup team.

Against Arsenal in second-leg of the Champions League quarter-final, Liverpool once again had to prove their durability when coming back from a goal down to win, when for all the world it looked like the Gunners' were going to give them a hiding that they would not forget in a hurry. That really was a great game to watch and if Liverpool and Chelsea can match that in the two legs of semi-final, there will be few complaints from the viewing public.

The game at Anfield this evening could hinge on both sets of defenders ability to deal with the oppositions big name strikers, and from the Chelsea perspective, Drogba is 'an injury doubt' - I'll personally believe that when I see the team-sheet. At the other end Torres is capable of leaving anyone for dead over five yards, he is that quick.

My gut feeling is that Chelsea will turn Liverpool over, but once again there won’t be much in it. United would, I'm sure, prefer to play Liverpool in the final, should we be fortunate enough to actually get there. Bring it on.

1 comment:

  1. I have a feeling this won't be such an open game as most fans predict.I am expecting a tough cagey first half. For me, Barca are still the favs for the home game.

    http://unitedblog.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/04/this-week-will-decide-it-all.html

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