The first legs of the Champions League quarterfinal round are right around the corner. We’ll see two games on Tuesday and the other two on Wednesday, and if you’re a fan of the Premiership, you have to be happy with the situation right now. Four teams out of the eight remaining hail from England and of those four, three could very well advance to the semifinals.
Today, we’ll take a look at the ties scheduled to open on Tuesday. My pick to progress is highlighted in bold.
1. AS Roma vs. Manchester United: This is one of the “dream ties” I wanted to see and a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal, won on aggregate 8-3 by United. These two teams are well acquainted with one another as they also were in the same group this season, a group won handily by United.
It’s really rather simple for Roma. If Francesco Totti doesn’t play, and he is a “major doubt” for Tuesday’s game, the Italian side has very little chance at advancing. Totti isn’t just the straw that stirs Roma’s drink, he is the drink. This is a guy who is one of the two or three best players in Europe right now (behind Cristiano Ronaldo and possibly Fernando Torres) and without him, I’m not sure if Roma has the firepower to overcome a United side that is working on all cylinders at the moment. If Totti is healthy, it’s a different ballgame altogether and Roma would have a puncher’s chance.
Roma need to win at the Stadio Olimpico, where they are 12-2-1 in Serie A, on Tuesday because they’re not going to win in Manchester. It’s also important to not concede an away goal to United, who have scored 27 of those in the Premiership, good for the second-highest total in the league.
Prediction: Roma won’t be able to keep United off the scoreboard at home, and will get tonked at Old Trafford. Totti at 80-90% is good enough to beat a lot of teams, but United isn’t one of them. 1-1 in Rome, 3-1 in Manchester — 4-2 aggregate
2. Schalke 04 vs. Barcelona: With no disrespect meant to Schalke, Barcelona got the easiest possible draw in this round. Schalke are in a dogfight just to finish in a Champions League spot in the Bundesliga and scoring goals is a problem for them.
Barcelona will be without the services of Lionel Messi, but I honestly don’t think it’ll matter too much in this tie. The Spanish giants score for fun (60 goals in 30 league games) and while their road form is a bit of a concern, they more than make up for that at the Camp Nou.
Kevin Kuranyi needs to come up with two all-world performances for Schalke to have much of a chance, and by that I mean 3 or 4 goals in these two games. The problem? In Schalke’s last five Champions League games, they’ve scored a combined four goals. Ouch.
Prediction: Schalke will get something at home but won’t be able to stop Barca from scoring. The return leg, however, won’t be pretty for the German club. 1-1, 3-0 — 4-1 aggregate
Check back tomorrow for a brief look at the ties set to commence on Wednesday, Arsenal-Liverpool and Fenerbahçe-Chelsea.
Editor’s Note: I wrote this post for my own site yesterday, when there was still a possibility of Roma’s talisman, Francesco Totti, playing. Totti has since been ruled out to injury and Mirko Vucinic will take his place.