Chelsea and Manchester United would gladly settle for Luzhniki Stadium final rematch
Two English teams are considered to be amongst the outsiders by the bookies
Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Fahrmann saves a header from Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Rivals in this morning’s draw will be hoping defending champions Bayern Munich and La Liga leaders Real Madrid are drawn against each other.
Six years after they faced each other at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow to decide the title, Manchester United and Chelsea would probably settle happily enough for being handed a rematch in this morning’s quarter-final draw (11am Irish time). Jose Mourinho boasted this week that the Londoners had put themselves back amongst the game’s very best side’s by qualifying for the last eight of this year’s competition but it’s doubtful that either he or David Moyes would fancy actually facing any of them quite yet.
United have appeared in two finals since that penalty shoot-out success over their Premier League rivals while Chelsea won the title just two seasons ago. However, of the eight remaining sides this time around, the two English teams are considered to be amongst the outsiders by the bookies, alonside Atletico Madrid and last year’s beaten finalists Borussia Dortmund who have lost several key players to long term injuries.
Both would probably fancy their chances against Juergen Klopp’s depleted side although clearly neither side, particularly United just now, could take success for granted. In the circumstances, a “derby” game might suit both with Mourinho certain to be confident of another victory over a Moyes-managed Manchester outfit.
Both men, meanwhile, in common with their counterparts at PSG, Barca and Atletico are likely to be keeping their fingers crossed that defending champions Bayern Munich and La Liga leaders Real Madrid land each other.
If their luck doesn’t hold up then Chelsea look the better equipped of the two English sides to deal with the challenge that one of the big guns would present especially at the back where Mourinho has broght his tactical know-how and re-instilled his customary work ethic. Up front, though, the Londoners clearly lack a cutting edge with their joint top scorers, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres, on three goals apiece, unlikely to unduly worry opposition managers.
United’s win on Wednesday night will have disappointed almost everybody else left in the competition as, regardless of their current troubles, the club could never be regarded as the sort of soft draw that Olympiakos would have been had they successfully defended the two goal advantage they took to Old Trafford.
David de Gea’s saves, Wayne Rooney’s performance and, most of all, Robin van Persie’s goals were all reminders that the team still has its qualities and Moyes, inevitably, expressed the hope afterwards that the game might mark a turning point in the club’s generally dismal season. But a great deal now would appear to depend on whether the Dutch striker is fit for the next round, to be played on the first and second of April, with the return legs a week later.
Even then, there would have to be a dramatic improvement in other areas of the pitch for a better side than Olympiakos would surely have scored in the second half of Wednesday’s game.
As it is, United’s survival means that this will be the first time in the short history of the competition’s current format that all eight group winners have made it to the quarter-finals.
What’s more remarkable is how little most of them were tested in their second-round ties. Of the eight clubs that progressed, only United lost the first, away, leg with Dortmund losing at home after establishing a two-goal cushion in the opener.