The Return of Ranieri While Villa and Spurs Forget UEFA Cup

Chelsea’s first leg clash with Juventus is all about one man, Claudio Ranieri. The manager who was first fired by Roman at Chelsea, after getting one season, knew he was a lame duck and insists the fact he didn’t give up shows the character he has. For a man who thinks he did ok, he certainly did alright by me…even if that meant heartbreak against Monaco in a Champions League semi-final and Arsenal in an FA Cup final.

Guus Hiddink’s first home match in charge of Chelsea has almost taken a back seat to Ranieri’s return. But Hididnk knows his place, win and win now. While Hiddink’s preparation for Juventus wasn’t exactly ideal, Guus says he won’t make excuses if there isn’t instant success.

Chelsea/Juve is an interesting tie for sure. Two sides who’s form have appeared to mirror each other will take the park Wednesday (2:45 pm ET ESPN2). This one all falls on which set of strikers decide to show up, and if John Terry doesn’t turn out to be the liability he has been of late. While Terry did have a half decent outing against Aston Villa, Ranieri will know his old players well, and which ones to quickly exploit.

That doesn’t mean the build up to the Real Madrid/Liverpool hasn’t been dull (Setanta Sports 2:45 pm). Let’s start with the Real Madrid president predicting a 5-1 aggregate victory. We then read that Rafael van der Vaart thinks Liverpool are scared of Real Madrid. Arjen Robben, he just wants revenge.

Rafa has an interesting dilemma ahead of him. Steven Gerrard is close to being fully fit, the question is will Rafa play him? I think that answer the most obvious answer of the year (yes). Fernando Torres is looking forward to making an impact in Madrid, after not  Alvaro Arbeloa has no regrets about his past and is looking to his future with Liverpool, Xavi Alonso is a bit worried about the threat Real Madrid pose.

Real Madrid come into this tie with Liverpool on fire, Liverpool just look ice cold. Rafa has always proved his sides can do the job over two legs, and with his contract still not signed, there is extra motivation. Of all the four ties between English clubs in this round of the Champions League, this could end up being the most entertaining to watch.

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Here’s an interesting way to apologize. Craig Bellamy says all Robinho has to do is ‘play his best‘. You first Craig.

Giofranco Zola disagrees with those who have devalued the FA Cup, insisting he wants to win the trophy as manager of West Ham. Gareth Southgate, doesn’t plan on sacrafacing the FA Cup just because they are in the relegation zone.

And Sam Allardyce says he will stick with Blackburn, even if they are relegated.

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