Date:Thursday March 18 2010
Tomorrow at 11.00 GMT the draw for the Champions League quarter-finals will be made. United are in the hat, of course, after dismantling AC Milan - and seven sides lie in wait for last season's runners up. Here they come, in strictly alphabetical order which I might mess up.
Arsenal: I don't have to introduce them, do I? United outclassed the Gooners twice in the semi-finals last season and did the double over them in the league this season. I do not want them, though, simply for the fact that they are an English club and we meet plenty of those anyway...
Barcelona: The super-duper gargantuan mega-favourites. So far they haven't been as scintillating as last season but Lionel Messi is even better if that is possible. Facing them twice is my idea of a nightmare so no thanks. Finding faults with Barcelona? Well, clutching at straws here: Ibrahimovic's form is disappointing, they have a thin squad and it's ridiculously difficult to retain your CL title as we found out last season.
Bayern Munich: Robben and Ribéry are fantastic but both are injury-prone. Louis van Gaal is a terrific coach but overall there isn't too much quality in his team and they were very lucky to wriggle through against Fiorentina. Would be an awkward but winnable draw.
Bordeaux: Laurent Blanc is touted as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor after breaking Lyon's stranglehold on the French title and registering seven wins and a draw in this season's Champions League campaign. They have the very, very skilful and dangerous pair of Yoann Gourcuff and Marouane Chamakh, the former being the brain and the latter being the instrument. A fine team but United should dispose of them.
CSKA Moscow: It's a huge surprise that they managed to end Sevilla's run. We have met them, of course: in the group stages United recorded a well-deserved 1-0 win in Moscow then almost got badly burnt at home with an understrength side, securing a draw in the dying minutes, coming back from 1-3 down. They are everyone's dream but the trip to Moscow would be unenviable. I'd rather have one of the French teams.
Internazionale: Well, Mourinho certainly got them together for this season, even though they are stumbling in the league at the moment. But Wesley Sneijder combined with Eto'o, Pandev and Milito can do anything that Ibrahimovic could and then some more. The Lucio-Samuel defensive pairing has been rock-solid against Chelsea but the Brazilian will miss the first leg of the quarter-finals. Still, I'd like to avoid them if possible.
Olympique Lyon: Not the team they used to be but eliminating Real Madrid is hugely impressive. They are labouring in the league but are a threat to anyone. Jeremy Toulalan, Lisandro Lopez, Jean Makoun are all fine players and Miralem Pjanic is a huge talent. The defence is solid but too often they are not inventive enough up front.
ne more thing: there will be no more Champions League draws this season, we will learn who are the potential semi-final opponents as well. Here is my wishlist:
That is to say, the winners of the first two ties would meet in the first semi-final and the winners of the second pair of duels would clash in the other semi-final. It would be fun and we would have a real chance of making it to the Bernabeu.
Date:Thursday March 18 2010
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