Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: ”Everybody was writing us off after the first leg in Napoli when we were 3-1 down and yet here we are, in the Camp Nou, just 90 minutes from the final. We feel confident. I’m just one of a lot of experienced players here who has been hoping, for years, that I’d have a chance of winning the Champions League.” - Petr Cech.
Runner-up: ”It’s clear that Barcelona are a step ahead of all other clubs. They have reached the last five semi-finals, and that’s not easy at all, but this is football: the best team doesn’t always win.” – Fernando Torres.
Chelsea Can Do It
Chelsea required to better perfection to handle Barcelona’s backlash (Guardian) Serial winners do not tend to wilt at the first sign of trouble, especially when the alternative is to roll up their sleeves and remind their audience of what made them great in the first place. Barcelona have accumulated 65 goals from 17 league fixtures at the Camp Nou. Set against the issues that have attached themselves to Chelsea, it is bemusing to find so many observers concluding that this is suddenly a team on the wane.
Beauty always needs a beast: Gritty Chelsea make Pep’s magicians special (Martin Samuel, Mail) Does this mean more dogged defending, a bank of nine resisting, quick counter attacks and some direct play up to an imposing forward, probably Drogba? More than likely. But what is wrong with that? Where does it say that football equates to Barcelona and a million lame imitations?
Leo and his lions looking beatable (Sun) When Messi cannot provide the answers, Barca do look fragile. But how much do the Chelsea vets have left in the tank?
Di Matteo: We have the quality to shock Barca (Independent)
Barcelona Are Not Beaten
Barcelona coach not ready to hoist the white flag against Chelsea (Sid Lowe, Guardian) A team that had won 13 of the last 16 trophies available deserves the benefit of the doubt. And talk of ending this campaign empty-handed misses two points: firstly, Barcelona have won three trophies already this season: the European Super Cup, the Spanish Super Cup (against Madrid) and the World Club Championships. And secondly, it could yet be 15 of 19. Barcelona have the final of the Copa del Rey to come, having defeated Madrid on route. More importantly, they still have the Champions League semi‑final second leg.
Barca fans “pessimistic” before Chelsea clash (Mirror) Suddenly, a side that had appeared remorseless, unstoppable, inevitable, appears to be harbouring genuine worries.
Barca-Chelsea: Individual Appraisals
Facing world’s best forces Chelsea’s Ashley Cole out of comfort zone (Guardian) It is safe to assume the visitors will rely upon Cole’s effervescence and ability to read the game on Tuesday evening, just as they will be hoping he – as one of five players one booking from a suspension – does not endure a flash of yellow should Chelsea progress to the final in Munich. This has been a strange season for the defender, though his display in the first leg that merely served as a reminder of his qualities.
Ramires: This Do Nascimento may be more Parlour than Pele but he will be crucial tonight (Independent) Chelsea’s running man, Ramires Santos do Nascimento, shares his surname with the most famous Brazilian footballer of all, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele. It is, though, another “Pele” whom he most resembles in style – Ray Parlour, “the Romford Pele”.
Pace of Alexis Sanchez can open door for Lionel Messi in Champions League semi-final (Alan Smith, Telegraph) Messi and co can work off and around Sánchez to give the team a more balanced feel, so freeing up the little Argentine and giving him another option in possession. There is no question that Barca have missed the injured David Villa this season, but Sánchez can step forward to do a valuable job tonight.
The Mega Manchester Derby
Manchester’s mouth-watering title decider cannot disguise grim truth (Guardian) City and United will face off at the Etihad Stadium next Monday having both endured anxieties through the season.
Tevez lucky to have any say in thrilling climax (Ian Wright, Sun) I cannot wait for next Monday’s Manchester derby at the Etihad and I think, looking at recent events, City will edge this biggest of local derbies. As a result, the title race will go down to the final game of the season with United at Sunderland and City at home to QPR. Remarkably, Tevez could end up having a major say in the championship.
Manchester managers Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini have no margin for error in league title race (Henry Winter, Telegraph) The destiny of the title could come down to this: when Tévez and Agüero start running at United’s defence, will Ferdinand and Evans respond correctly? Decisions, decisions.
Rangers In Lockdown
Rangers hit with 12-month transfer embargo by SFA (Guardian) Rangers have been banned from signing players for 12 months by the Scottish Football Association after being found to have brought the game into disrepute during Craig Whyte’s period in charge.
Mario Getting Married?
Raffaella Fico and Mario Balotelli tie knot “soon” (Star) Love cheat football ace Mario Balotelli’s girlfriend has revealed that the couple are getting married.Raffaella Fico says the pair will tie the knot “soon”.