UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE:
Judging by results in the first knockout round, British sides’ recent dominance of the competition looks set to continue.
But could the draw throw up one or even two all-British quarter-finals encounters? Could holders Manchester United be given a chance to avenge their 4-1 Premier League drubbing at the hands of Liverpool last weekend?
Bayern Munich, Villarreal, Barcelona and Porto are the four non-British sides still in the reckoning
BAYERN MUNICH :
Bayern Munich boss Jurgen Klinsmann is confident of success in the Champions League after his side’s 12-1 aggregate victory over Sporting.
Having won the first leg 5-0 in Portugal, the Bundesliga side then more than doubled their lead in the home tie with a 7-1 win, despite having star players Franck Ribery and Luca Toni unavailable through injury.
And, while they are still yet to hit top form in the league, Klinsmann believes Bayern have now proved they can compete with the best in Europe.
“We played very well,” he said. “The boys enjoyed the match.
“We are happy to have recorded such a convincing victory in front of our home fans – it was a perfect Champions League night.
“Now we hope we will meet an attractive opponent in the quarter-finals.
“The players have already shown what they are capable of. At this stage of the tournament, there are no favorites. All games are 50-50.”
Bayern general manager Uli Hoeness, meanwhile, said he believes the victories will cause other clubs to sit up and take notice.
However, he admitted he would be loath to face Liverpool in the next round after their 5-0 aggregate win over Real Madrid.
“I certainly don’t want to play against Liverpool,” he said.
“I think they are very, very strong at the moment.
“Liverpool has no chance of winning their league anymore and that enables them to concentrate on the Champions League.”
He added: “The important thing would be to play the first leg away. That would be a huge advantage.
“I would not like to have to play first at home to Manchester United and then go to Old Trafford.”
Bayern Munich – Miroslav Klose – A player to watch out for:
While the cat’s away the Miroslav Klose will profit. That seems to be the case in the absence of Luca Toni from the Bayern ranks, anyway. Italian hit man Toni seems to hog the headlines when he plays and scores, but Klose has shone of late with goals and assists and will look to enjoy himself again on Tuesday with his strike partner sitting this one out.
Villarreal have not reached the last eight of the European Cup by outmuscling the opposition. They are committed to tasteful, passing, clever football and in that regard they are probably the side with the closest DNA match to the squad who, it should not be quickly forgotten, are the most recent to have been crowned champions of Europe. That team are Spain, victors at Euro 2008, a championship as free of English involvement as the Champions League seems dominated by it.
Villarreal look well enough placed in La Liga to think they will be in the European Cup again next season, although their domestic form has undulated since they took brief, early-season residence at the top. In the group phase of the Champions League their Spain players showed signs of fatigue from their summer adventures and two goalless draws shared with Manchester United were no advertisement for the flair in both squads. But the more Villarreal frequent this competition, the less they look up at mightier institutions in awe. If the tournament does have a dark horse from outside the Premier League, it is ridden by the men from the one-horse town.
Fabrfegas believes arsenal has what it takes to become Europe’s dchampions.
After more than three months out with medial knee ligament damagfe, Fabregas is set to return in time for the first leg of the last-eight matches on April 7 or 8.
The draw will be made on Friday, and Fabregas is confident of further progression whoever the opponent.
“We know it will be tough in the next round, but we also know we can beat any one of them,” Fabregas said. “Let’s see what the draw brings.Europe, and we are there on merit.
“We are in the quarter-finals, among the eight best teams in
“We deserve to be there, and it’s serious now. If you want to win this competition you have to beat the best players in the world and now is that time.”
The Gunners will find out who they face at the next stage of the competition on Friday, when Uefa make the draw for the ties at their headquarters in Nyon.
The Spaniard’s comeback will be a timely boost for his side, who reclaimed fourth spot in The Premier League from Aston Villa over the weekend and edged past Roma on penalties in the last 16 of the European competition to book their place in Friday’s draw
It’s still a big ask to win the Champions League, but Arsenal should certainly not be written off as genuine contenders for the trophy. A favorable draw next Friday could be enough to see the Gunners into the semi finals and once you get that far, anything can happen. In saying that, what are the odds of a trip to the Nou Camp and the return of a certain Mr. Henry taking place?
ARSENAL – BENDTNER – PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Wenger defended the 20-year-old after the game and insists he has a great future at the Emirates.
“What is interesting with him is that his performance improves,” said Wenger.
“I’ve seen players miss chances before when they are young and then once they start to score they quickly get impressive.
“Just imagine if he had taken two of his chances (on Saturday], everyone would have said what a great game he had.
“He was not far away from taking two chances so let’s support him, be positive and encourage him.”
Porto looked strong in the group stages, topping a difficult quartet that included Arsenal, Dynamo Kiev and Fenerbahce.
Porto, on the other hand, is a well-balanced and well-organized team that can go toe-to-toe with anybody. They’ve been very impressive in the Portuguese league this season, and I think a lot of people are under-estimating them in this competition.
After the 4-0 Anfield mauling of Real Madrid, the Reds make themselves the team to beat in the quarter finals, with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres firing on all cylinders.
Liverpool are serious contenders lined up in the champions’ league quarterfinals. After thumping Manchester United at home and crushing real Madrid, with Liverpool scoring over 4 goals in both matches, It almost seems unfair to write them off .Beating the European champions Manchester United shows Liverpool are one of the hot favourites to win the champions league this season. I think Liverpool has what it takes to beat the likes of Chelsea (crushed their astounding home record this season), Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern Munich and of course arsenal.
Liverpool – Gerrard and Torres – players to watch out for:
Gerrard accepts that he has been guilty of storming all over the pitch, attempting to single-handedly change the course of matches. “I have tried to improve that,” he said. “That was a criticism from Rafa (Benitez).
The clubs captain has truly been in sublime form this season and hes getting better. Scoring 2 goals against Real Madrid including a scorcher and converting a penalty against Manchester United last week at old Trafford. The teams steam engine is definitely one of the players to be looked on to.
Torres another gem of a player for liverpool has also been in top form this season despite getting injured numerous times but Rafa puts his trust into the striker and takes chances of playing him when hes not fully fit.This shows the importance of torres to liverpool.
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez admits they need Fernando Torres to stay fit for any chance of winning the champions league this season.
“we have to keep Fernando on the pitch”, said Benitez, who confirmed his star striker did not have an injection to ease the pain in his fragile hamstrings for their victory at old trafford.
“he gives us more confidence and helps us to create more opportunities. It is the same with Steven Gerrard.
The Catalans are arguably the strongest side left in the competition and will be pitted against one of seven teams this Friday.
Even though the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool appear to be their closest rivals for the trophy.
Barcelona would relish a match against one of the four English clubs that have qualified for the Champions League quarter-finals along with the Primera Liga leaders, coach Pep Guardiola said.
“If you want to win the Champions League you have to play with the best in Europe,” the former Barca and Spain midfielder told a news conference after the Catalans overwhelmed Olympique Lyon 5-2 at the Nou Camp.
“So we’ll take the challenge. It would be nice to taste success against one of the English sides,” he added. “If we have to play one of them it will definitely be a good match.”
They are still in with a chance of winning a treble with the Champions League, Primera Liga and King’s Cup and have a six-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid in the Spanish league.
The 2006 winners reached the semi-finals of last season’s Champions League, losing to eventual winners Manchester United, and Guardiola said the quartet of United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool would all be formidable opponents in the last eight.
“It will be difficult for us but they have to come here to play so I’m sure it will be difficult for them too,” he said.
“Whoever our opponents are, we will study them closely and try to pinpoint their weaknesses. Whoever we are drawn against is welcome.”
Bayern Munich, Porto and Barca’s Spanish rivals Villarreal are also in the quarter-final draw on 20 March.
BARCELONA – MESSI , HENRY , ETO’O – PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Messi is just aged 20, which is absolutely astonishing. His raw pace, vision, passing, and close control make him an absolutely formidable opponent.
Henry is a talented individual capable of demonstrating extraordinary skills whilst lighting up every ground he deigns with his presence. A true superstar who has wowed audiences both domestically and internationally. Henry is in superb touch and defenders will have trouble stopping him.
Eto’o has also been in top form this season and he will definitely give barca an edge with an encounter with an english side.Eto’o has showed his qualities this season and showed every club what he is capable of.
If any year will be the one for Man U, this is the one. Besides having the best player in the English league, Christiano Ronaldo, their defence is unbelievable. They have allowed so few goals and continue to pressure the opposition’s defence, giving their offence many chances to score. Man U’s front group of Rooney and Tevez are so quick and fluid together.
Manchester United look unstoppable at the moment despite their 4-1 loss to liverpool last week the English Giants look to be claiming the champions league again this season.
Inter Milan midfielder Patrick Vieira is convinced Manchester United will win the Champions League again this season.
The ex-Arsenal star said: “They have shown they have what it takes to win it again.
“They have underlined how strong their hunger is for more success. In fact, they have what it takes to win every competition.
“I’ve been watching some of their league games on television and they have been winning game after game and that is not easy to do in the English game.
“In the last two seasons they have been difficult to catch.”
Vieira believes it is the Fergie factor that keeps them at the top.
The Frenchman added: “Somebody has to drive the team every day, every week, every year and he is the main man at the club, the one who gives the club the winning spirit.
“He’s been there for so long and has won every thing there is to win. Yet year after year he keeps winning games . . . and wanting to win more.”
MANCHESTER UNITED – RONALDO – PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Paul Scholes says his Manchester United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world on current form.
“The amount of goals and the amount of assists he’s had has been frightening,” Scholes told Football Focus.
“I haven’t seen anybody take players on, score goals and make goals like he has in this first half of the season, so he rightfully deserves that tag.”
Ronaldo, truly a great player has been firing for the reds when they need him most. Ronaldo will be a key factor to uniteds success in the quarter finals.
John Terry believes that Chelsea being on the receiving end of Guus Hiddink’s boot in recent weeks has been key to their revitalised form. Hiddink is far more demanding than Luiz Felipe Scolari, his predecessor, having introduced stricter disciplinary procedures, made the players work much harder in training and urged them to take greater personal responsibility for their performances. The Dutchman extended some leeway to his squad yesterday by giving them two days off, although several reported for duty anyway.
“Since the new manager has come in here we’ve played very well and got the right results,” Terry said. “He has changed a few things, given a few of us a kick up the backside which I think we needed.”
Chelsea’s changed attitude has enabled them to reach the Champions League quarter-finals and the FA Cup semi-finals, as well as re-emerge as genuine Barclays Premier League title contenders, four points behind Manchester United. Terry believes that Chelsea can push the champions all the way, just as they did last season when, after streaking ahead, United had to beat Wigan Athletic on the final day of the season to be sure of retaining their title.
“We’ve got to win our games and push them right to the end,” the Chelsea captain said. “We have shown our strength and character in the last month, and if we keep doing that we can apply some pressure to them. If they slip up, they know we’re coming up behind them.
In addition to the Hiddink effect another unquestionable factor in Chelsea’s revival has been the return from injury of Michael Essien, the dynamic Ghana midfield player. Essien has scored a crucial goal in each of the matches in which he has started since returning from knee ligament damage, a remarkable feat given that he had been out for six months.
Chelsea are one of the hot favourites to win the champions league this year.
CHELSEA – DROGBA – PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Didier is an experienced player, as a striker you need even more confidence than players in other positions – and the way you get it is with goals. Strikers want to score and when they do, they feel good.
“Didier looks more happy now because he is spending more time on the pitch. It’s great that he’s back fit again. You always need games to get yourself really back on form when you’ve been out for a while. He’s getting them now.
“Him being back on song can play a big part in the remainder of the season. For us the season is still very much alive.
“The change of manager has had a positive effect.
“We have to keep going n We have this momentum and we need to keep it going as long as we can.”
Drogba has been in sublime form after hiddinks arrival at Chelsea, and the Ivorian looks to continue his awesome form and take Chelsea to the champion’s league final.