The next couple of weeks will witness two clashes between Italian and English clubs in the Champions League. In perhaps the most anticipated clash of the Round of 16, Inter will take on Chelsea in a battle between the league leaders of their respective leagues. Inter’s lead in Serie A is much more comfortable than Chelsea’s after the London club suffered a 2-1 defeat to Everton. For a more detailed breakdown of the clash which pits outspoken Coach Jose Mourinho against his former club Chelsea please refer to the following article: http://www.championsleaguetalk.com/inter-chelsea-sub-plots-make-tie-one-to-watch/675
The second European tie between English and Italian clubs will feature Milan and Manchester United in an encounter between two of the most dominant forces in recent European history. The Rossoneri have won the European Cup in 2003 and 2007 while The Red Devils took the trophy home in 1999 and 2008 with both clubs making another appearance in the final during the 2000s. Only other clubs to have a similarly impressive record are Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid who have two titles each since 2000.
In 2007 Milan and Manchester United met in the semi-finals of the Champions League with the English side taking a 3-2 lead to Italy only for the Rossoneri to turn the tables on Manchester and comfortably beat them 3-0. Then the Rossoneri went on to lift the trophy against Liverpool to avenge the historic collapse in the 2005 Champions League final. The two clubs currently share three things in common having each lost their star player from the 2007 tie with both Manchester’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Milan’s Kaka departing the club this summer. Ironically both icons signed for Real Madrid to signal the beginning of the second Los Galacticos era.
In the other striking similarity, the two clubs share the nickname with il Diavolo standing for the Devil in Italian while Manchester go by The Red Devils. The tie between those two prestigious clubs will depend on the form of a couple of stars in each squad. For the Rossoneri, Alessandro Nesta and Alexandre Pato must be healthy while Brazilian Ronaldinho needs to perform at his best.
On the other hand, Wayne Rooney will be expected to shoulder much of the responsibility in terms of scoring and creating goals since Ronaldo has moved and the remaining forwards have failed to compensate for his departure. Michael Owen was signed this season but he is no longer the same player with age and injuries beginning to take their toll on the striker. The Red Devils will be hoping to have Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic ready for the European clash with Ferdinand serving a domestic suspension while the Serbian Vidic has been sidelined due to injury.
The lack of playing time may affect the performance of both defenders but they will be needed against Milan as they create a very solid partnership which was key to Manchester United’s triumph in the Premiership last season. Ferdinand received a morale boost recently after being named as England captain by Fabio Capello instead of the troubled John Terry. The first leg in Milan will be key in deciding how the tie will end given the Rossoneri’s recent struggles. Milan have not won in their last four matches in all competitions and are finding it difficult to score goals.
While Inter are doing well in Serie A, Milan are renowned for their expertise in European football so it would be wrong to simply dismiss their chances. As for Chelsea, they have never won the coveted Champions League and will be aiming to go all the way under former Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti who has won the trophy twice during his stint at Milanello. Manchester have reached the last two finals but will be looking to make up for last year’s defeat to Barcelona as Sir Alex Ferguson would relish adding another major trophy to his illustrious career.
Will Ferguson be able to outsmart Leonardo using his vast experience to nullify the threat posed by Milan and its rookie Coach? The next couple of weeks ought to feature some delightful football when the two sides take to the pitch in Milan in the first-leg. While Inter-Chelsea might be the encounter capturing most of the public’s attention, the two clubs tend to be more efficient as opposed to being a joy to watch.
Milan-Manchester will feature two sides who tend to put on a spectacle when performing at their best with Ronaldinho and Rooney expected to shine. One player who must not be overlooked is David Beckham with the England midfielder making his return to Old Trafford as an opponent of The Red Devils. This tie will carry great emotional significance for Beckham and it will be interesting to see whether he will start and how he will perform.