AS Roma v Manchester United
This is an intriguing battle though Manchester United will be understaffed for the first leg. Park Ji-Sung is out of the match with a knee injury, captain and right-back Gary Neville is suffering from an ankle sprain, centre-back Nemanja Vidic broke his collar bone in this past weekend’s 4-1 win over Blackburn Rovers and centre-back Mikael Silvestre has been ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering a dislocated shoulder. Vidic is unlikely to feature in the return leg either. Also amongst the injured are Louis Saha and Darren Fletcher. If I were running the show, I would pair Heinze and Ferdinand in central defence with Wes Brown at right-back and Patrice Evra on the left. However, Ferguson may opt for Brown and Ferdinand in the centre which would mean John O’Shea will deputize at right-back. I think they might deviate from their preferred 4-4-2 just to keep things tight in midfield.
Manchester United Probable Starting XI (4-4-2):
van der Sar
O’Shea Ferdinand Brown Evra
Ronaldo Scholes Carrick Giggs
AS Roma have had a solid season and are coming off a 1-1 draw with AC Milan. They currently sit second in Serie A and this is the furthest they have ever progressed in the Champions League. Manager Luciano Spalletti has been pretty faithful to the 4-2-3-1 system though he is flexible and shift the side to a 4-3-3 depending on the situation. At home, I think they will go 4-3-3 and give United a run, especially considering their injury problems at the back.
AS Roma Probable Starting XI (4-3-3):
Cassetti Tonetto Mexes Chivu
De Rossi Pizarro Perrotta
Taddei Mancini Totti
United are ripe for the picking in the match and Roma must go for the jugular. However, they will need to remain patient and not get caught committing too many bodies forward or they will get struck on the counter-attack by the pace of Giggs, Rooney and Ronaldo. If Roma can build a sufficient lead, the return leg at Old Trafford could turn into a real case of trench warfare.
Chelsea v Valencia
Chelsea have some key personnel out of action though Joe Cole has been included in the squad after recovering from a stress fracture in his foot. He will likely be named as a substitute and not a starter. Wayne Bridge is also included in the squad after recovering from knee surgery, but Arjen Robben is set to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Doubts about José Mourinho’s future
Chelsea Probable Starting XI (4-3-3):
Geremi Carvalho Terry Ashley Cole
Wright-Phillips Ballack Essien Lampard
Valencia are having a good season but their recent CL form has been poor. The Spanish club are winless in their last three CL matches and have not won any of their last three away matches. Valencia will travel to London without striker Fernando Morientes, who has a dislocated shoulder. Key defenders Carlos Marchena and David Navarro are serving long-term suspensions for their part in the post-match brawl with Inter Milan in the last round. Navarro was originally banned for eight months but that was reduced to six months, though it could be extended if he is involved in a similar incident in the next two years. Former Chelsea defender Asier del Horno may get a start at right back after recovering from his knee problems.
Valencia Probable Starting XI (4-4-2):
Miguel Ayala Moretti Del Horno
Joaquín Albiol Albelda Vicente
I fully expect los Ché to shut up shop and try to have the tie level going home for the second leg. Chelsea need to come out and put pressure on and look for an early goal to force Valencia out of their defensive stance. This was not the case when Valencia went to Inter in the last round but they also had a more full squad to choose from. Chelsea have to remain aware of David Villa’s ability from free-kick situations. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard remain the main threats for Chelsea though Andriy Shevchenko’s form has improved in recent weeks.