This mid-week is European week, which means Arsenal, Manchester United, Fulham and Liverpool will be playing for semi final spots in The Champions and Europa Leagues. Always an eternal optimist – no sooner when the draws were announced I was thinking of the possibility of two all English finals. Now I am not betting man, not even when it comes to a lucky dip on the National Lottery I still decide to key my hard earned £1 coin and not risk it. But I was amazed at the odds on bookies websites over 125/1 I was almost temped to have a flutter and chuck a Lady Godiva on it!
At further assessment you can see what the task that is in hand for our English flag bearers;
Manchester United: A shaky performance against Bayern Munich and was owed to good goalkeeping from the Dutch Master Van De Saar. Bayern are a very good side with the power and attacking wing flair of Ribery and Robben, the precision and determination of Van Bommel and up front with Olic, Muller and Klose. They will cause problems but even without Rooney and especially since losing momentum in the Premier League race a buoyant home crowd and with the European experience in the team I still expect United to turn it around, but they will need to score 3 goals as Bayern will hit the back of the net.
Arsenal: Without question the hardest task (and the longest odds) of all the EPL teams to have to go the Camp Nou and win will be one of Wenger’s greatest achievements. Despite no Fabregas, Arshavin, Gallas and now Song there is still hope as Pique and Puyol (suspended) and Ibrahimovic (injured) all missing and Iniesta still a doubt. Barcelona will give you chances, especially without their 1st choice central defensive pairing, and Barcelona are not invincible in the Champions League, something that Russian side Rubin Kazan discovered after beating them 2-1 back in October. Both teams have their key players missing but the difference of who wins could be which central partnership (Marquez and Milito or Vermaelen and Campbell/Silvestre) communicates and works together better.
Liverpool: The most frustrating team of the 2009-10 season, this could be one of their most un-achieving season yet still win silverware. As with their last tie against Lille The Reds and FT (Fernando Torres) came back well and need the same recipe. Benfica are a better side and have beaten Liverpool before in Champions League round of 16 in 2006 – and have quality stars including Argentines Pablo Aimar, Angel Di Maria and Javier Saviola. But with home advantage, a noisy Kop, G & T (Gerrard and Torres) and with them needing to score Liverpool should progress and hopefully get that magic tie against Valencia. Just don’t expect them to do it the easy way!!!
Fulham: one the most improved sides in the Premier League and since their ‘Harry Houdini’ escape against The Old Lady of Juventus. In Zamora, Dempsey, Murphy and Duff they have attacking options and will fear no-one – more than enough quality to nick an away goal. Wolfsburg have had a difficult season as Champions and are in mid table of the Bundesliga and recently suffered a 5-1 home defeat to bottom side Herta Berlin, there only league defeat in their last 7 games. Still have quality upfront in Dzeko and Grafite but Fulham have enough to sneak a score draw that will see them through.
Yes people it is still possible, here’s to being one step closer to the all English European finals, or am I (being English) just that little bit too optimistic?