It looks like three English teams will make it to the semifinals of the Champions League, just like they did last season. Arsenal or Liverpool are sure to be there while Manchester United and specially Chelsea are favourits against Roma and Fenerbahce, respectively. We may well see a repetition of last year’s semifinals setup with Liverpool, United and Chelsea, with Barcelona instead of Milan this time.
Well, last year Milan defeated the English competitions, United by a 5-3 aggregate in the semis and Liverpool by 2-1 in the finals, but Milan is out, after being well defeated by Arsenal in the eight-finals.
Milan: End of an era
The Gunners cut short the magnificent Milan’s European run since the 2001/02 season. In the last six campaigns, Red and Blacks made it at least to the quarterfinals, in fact playing five times in the semifinals. Such balance made the Italians the most successful European side in the said period.
Since 2002, when they were stopped in the Qiu Qiu Online UEFA Cup semis by Borussia Dortmund until last season’s grand finale in Athens against Liverpool, Milan failed to make the last four just in 2003/04. On that occasion it took a magnificent performance by Deportivo to kick Silvio Berlusconi’s boy out of the competition.
Apart from that incident, Milan won the Champions League in 2003 and 2007, got narrowly beaten by Liverpool in 2005 and eliminated in the semis of 2006 by eventual winners Barcelona.
Arsenal have thus made history as the team that ended the latest era of Milan’s continental domination, but making it past Liverpool will take an extra effort. The Champions League is Rafael Benítez’s lucky ground and the Reds in Europe regularly look quite a different side, significantly superior to the one seen in the Premiership.
Prediction: Liverpool to progress
Manchester United last year demolished Roma by 7-1, the heaviest defeat in the club’s European history. This season in the group stage the Devils won by a mere 1-0, salvaging a draw in Rome. Francesco Totti and the rest of the ragazzi may be closing on United, but they are not matching them yet.
Prediction: Manchester United by a narrower margin this time
Of all English sides, Chelsea should have the easiest task against the ferocious Turks from Fenerbahce. The Canaries from Istambul boast a reported army of 20 million fans, but Roman Abramovich’s invested millions will count far more on the pitch.
Prediction: Chelsea absolutely must go through
In the remaining tie, the mighty Barcelona’s squad face Schalke, theoretically the weakest side left in the competition. The Germans are struggling even in the Bundesliga, where they have practically surrendered all chances of winning the title (the fans are accustomed to them doing that, by all means). But, this is a spirited, fighting German team which will engage Barca stars in a pitched battle with some, not many, hopes of pulling a stunning upset.
Prediction: Barcelona is so much more talented
Round of sixteen 1st 2nd
Schalke 04 vs Porto 1-0 0-1 (4-1 pen)
Arsenal vs Milan 0-0 2-0
Roma vs Real Madrid 2-1 2-1
Liverpool vs Inter 2-0 0-1
Olympiacos vs Chelsea 0-0 0-3
Celtic vs Barcelona 2-3 0-1
Fenerbahce vs Sevilla 3-2 2-3 (3-2 pen)
Lyon vs Manchester Utd. 1-1 0-1
Quarterfinals (1/2nd and 8/9th April)
Arsenal vs Liverpool
Roma vs Manchester Utd.
Schalke 04 vs Barcelona
Fenerbahce vs Chelsea