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Champions League draw shows no mercy to Premiership sides



Wembley will be the venue but will an English team be present?After Liverpool and Manchester City were knocked out of the Europa League last night, with both producing abysmal performances, there are no English teams left in the competition. Rangers were also defeated at home to Dutch side PSV to complete what was a night of misery for the British sides.

All hopes of European success therefore rests on the Champions League. But the quarter-final draw was not very kind to English sides, to say the least. Chelsea, the current domestic Champions, face Manchester United, the current domestic leaders. Spurs meanwhile were drawn Real Madrid, who under Jose Mourinho now have steel as well as style.

If there is any consolation for the remaining British sides, it is that all three avoided Barcelona, who look almost invincible. Arsenal did scare them at the end of their first leg, but were completely outclassed when they visited the Nou Camp. Incredibly, you have to go back until 2006 for the last time Barcelona had less than 50% of possession in Europe.

There remains the possibility (probability, even) that only one British side will appear in the semi-finals, where there could be some mouth-watering ties. The winner of the all-English clash will most likely face champions Inter Milan, while the other match-up may well be ‘El Classico’, assuming that Madrid manage to shake off Harry Redknapp’s men, who have already proved too good for both Milan sides.

For devout fans of United, Chelsea and Spurs, the draw will further etch wrinkles into foreheads. For the neutral, however, it will spark hopes of fantastic matches played with tempo and vigour. Either way you look at it, the Champions league is really heating up, and the potential for great games is massive.

So who has got lucky with the draw? Shakhtar Donetsk certainly have not – even though they beat Roma convincingly, Barcelona will probably be one step too far. Xavi and Iniesta control literally every game, and with David Villa and Messi up top and an excellent central defence, they are hot favourites not just to reach the semis but to win the competition.

Schalke 04 have drawn Inter, but although the Italian side are the reigning champions, they are not the side they were last year. Diego Milito has been short on form this year, while losing Jose Mourinho would weaken any team dramatically. Schalke lie only five points above the relegation zone in the Bundesliga but coming from behind to beat Valencia is no mean feat.

Of the English sides, Tottenham most of all can count themselves unlucky. Real are not far their superiors on paper, but Mourinho is a master tactician, and can psyche out opposition with his mere presence. On their day, Spurs can match anybody, and barring injuries, could scrape through. Even so, Madrid go into the match as favourites.

If anyone wants to try and call Chelsea V United, be my guest. Whoever keeps their nerve over the two legs will most likely progress, as there is virtually nothing between the two sides. As a spectacle, the match may well not be fantastic, especially at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea will not dare to concede an away goal.

But from where I’m standing, the line-up for the Champions League quarter-finals looks brilliant. With just over three weeks before it all starts again, I cannot wait. Whatever happens, you can be sure of one thing: it’s gonna be good.

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