Thursday, 12 April 2007

The Russians are coming

For the first time ever there are three English teams in the semi finals of the UEFA Champion’s League and this guarantees at least one English club will contest the final. In 2005 there were two English teams battling out a semi final, Liverpool and Chelsea. Liverpool won the game and used it as a springboard to go on and win the final against Italian giants AC Milan in the greatest final and greatest comeback football has ever seen. In 2003 there were three Italian teams in the semi finals and in 2000 the Spanish had three teams in the semi finals.

The first semi final is a repeat of the 2005 semi final where Liverpool beat Chelsea with a Luis Garcia goal, whether it crossed the line or not doesn’t matter, Liverpool went to Istanbul, Shevchenko missed, Dudek was the hero, we won number 5 and we got to keep the trophy.

The other game will see The Salford reds... I mean Manchester United battle against AC Milan, the beaten finalists from 2005 to see who will take their place against the winner of Liverpool and Dynamo Chelsea.

Liverpool and Milan could again meet in the final and few could argue that it would surely produce another great football match. With the pedigree they have (11 champions’ league titles between them, compared to the 2 Manchester united and Chelsea have between them!) fewer could argue that they are easily the most fitting of the teams to contest such a grand prize.

Even with three English teams in the semi finals an all English final is not guaranteed; in fact I for one will be hoping that doesn’t happen. There are two reasons, the first is that for it to even be a possibility Manchester united would have to win their tie with Milan and the thought of them being 90 minutes away from the title is stomach churning. The second is that I feel Liverpool have an advantage over Milan, both psychologically because of Istanbul but also because we seem to play better in Europe and there is a chance that against an English team the match would take on a premiership feel and that could work against us.

With United performing like Jekyll and Hyde will they get the opportunites against Milan and will Milan waste opportunites to kill the tie off? This tie could see United unmasked and given the hiding they have been asking for throughout the tournament.

Liverpool on the other hand are a much better team than in 2005, personnel changes mean that beating Chelsea again is a greater possibility and I'm confident we will do it again.

Jose Mourinho is very aware of this fact too and has already began his war of words with Liverpool by suggesting that we have an advantage over them in that they still have three competitions to compete for, good, I’m glad we have an advantage and I hope it’s the difference between the teams. Rafa Benitez responded to these childish remarks in his usual dignified manner with comments about Jose befriending only the managers of the teams he can beat, that’s why he has a go at the managers of the top clubs.

Time will tell but I for one can’t wait to see the Russian rent boys crying on the pitch come the end of this semi final, much the same as the last time. Jose will pack his bags, Roman will follow soon after and Chelsea will return to the obscurity they came from, cant wait.

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