With their other first choice centre-back Nemanja Vidic already ruled out for three weeks with a knee injury, Manchester United now face the prospect of Rio Ferdinand missing out the return leg of the quarter-final against Roma after he limped off with 20 minutes remaining in a 2-2 Premier League draw at Middlesbrough on Sunday.
Ferdinand, who reportedly left the Riverside with his left ankle in a cast after apparently injuring himself trying to block the second of two goals by Boro’s Brazilian striker Afonso Alves, will sit out Wednesday’s second-leg at Old Trafford as United look to protect a 2-0 lead – and he is no better than 50-50 to play against third-placed Arsenal in their Premier League clash on Sunday.
United are faced with playing an unproven, untested central pairing comprised of some combination of Wes Brown, John O’Shea and/or Gerard Pique. Brown had a shaky afternoon at centre back in the draw to Middlesbrough and much may depend on the fitness of Mikael Silvestre and Gary Neville.
Roma captain Francesco Totti will miss the match at Old Trafford as he is still suffering a thigh muscle injury. Roma will be upbeat after they beat Genoa 3-2 in the Serie A on Saturday, following goals from Taddei, Vucinic and De Rossi. Vucinic will be key to any chance Roma have of advancing. Facing an untested defence pairing is a likely scenario and one that the Montenegrin will be relishing.
Barcelona, having won 1-0 in Germany, should advance though it is not likely to be by a wide margin. Barca are having problems creating goals at the moment and were held goalless against Getafe in La Liga on Sunday. To their credit Barca created plenty of chances but were quite wasteful in front of goal and hit several posts. For their part, Schalke edged past FC Hansa Rostock 1-0 on Saturday to move up to second in the German Bundesliga. If Schalke can nick an early goal, it should tighten some collars in Barca and make for an interesting finish.
Meanwhile, the Chelsea – Fenerbahce clash has had some spice added in the form of comments from former Chelsea, now Fenerbahce striker Metja Kezman. Kezman was quoted as saying
“If Mourinho had been in charge of this match, of course it would have been different. He’s a very different coach and in his time there were no surprises and no mistakes. Everything worked fantastically. They don’t have the same spirit in the team any more.”
Look for both Kezman and Kazim — the two Yellow Canaries with English experience — to feature during the 2nd leg at Stamford Bridge this week. Veteran defender Roberto Carlos should be back in the side after missing the first leg through injury.
Fenerbahçe SK defeated Kayserisporby a score of 2-1 at the weekend while Chelsea defeated Manchester City by a 2-0 score so both clubs will feel confident heading into the second leg. It will come down to a matter of tactics and I’d have to give the slight edge to Zico based on what I’ve seen so far this season.
Finally, we come to the all-EPL matchup of Liverpool and Arsenal. Arsenal are up against it after conceding an away goal and failing to capitalize more fully on their territorial and posession dominance in the first leg. Liverpool came away from Emirates Stadium with a draw and a vital away goal. The clubs contested another 1-1 draw in the Premier League on Saturday, a result that dented Arsenal’s title ambitions. While admitting to the club’s official web site that Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy and Aleksandr Hleb were all “feeling tired”, Wenger also said Arsenal’s Champions League adventure was far from over.
I would expect similar tactics from Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez as he employed in the first match. He will likely stick with his 4-2-3-1 system and try to frustrate Arsenal’s approach play by concentrating on Fabregas and Hleb. Liverpool will look for a quick counter-attack and hope to nick a goal while keeping a clean sheet. A 2-1 scoreline is most likely though which way that will go is anyone’s guess !