|photo by eye of einstein
So: anyone for some drama? Cue the music and pull up a chair.... In the span of roughly ten days in the middle of April, Manchester United will play Chelsea twice in a Champions League quarterfinal knockout round, and then face City in the FA Cup Semi-final. Could it get any more delicious?
Yes, I know the Champions League draw is a tough one -- I would have loved Schalke, too. I would have taken Shakhtar, but I think they're a little better than the credit they're being given. They're an attacking team with a dynamic midfield, and that matchup with Barca could be the sleeper of the quarterfinals. Inter might have been more our style -- I fancy almost any English team's chances against the holders -- but to be honest I think Sir Alex will be pleased with the draw. If this doesn't motivate his men, nothing will.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I believe Manchester United is a better team than Chelsea this season. It's not exactly as if Chelsea is on a barnburning run through the Prem and Europe. Did anyone manage to sit through the turgid 90 minutes they turned in on Wednesday against FC Copenhagen? If you did, congratulations, because to say the game wasn't overly exciting is an understatement. In case you managed to miss it, the Londoners managed to put in zero goals -- that's zero, as in none -- at Stamford Bridge against a team that hasn't played regular football in several months.
I'm convinced with honest and fair refereeing -- so sorry, Mike Dean and Martin Atkinson, but I don't think your phones will be ringing -- United's class will win out over 180 minutes. The dreaded David Luiz is "cup tied" for this tournament, so Ancelloti will have to make some tough choices at the back. And the second leg will be played at Old Trafford; yet another advantage. I can forsee a draw at the Bridge -- I won't be so bold as to declare a win there -- followed by a tough but steady performance at Old Trafford to move United into a semi-final against either Inter Milan or Schalke.
I may regret writing this at a later date, but Chelsea's strikers are not exactly making me cringe with fear as in years' past, and their mid-field is sub-par this season. Although Lampard is playing better football of late, Michael Essien is having a very down year for him, and Ramires is weak. And I think Chicharito will have a field day exposing Chelsea's back line.
Much of my belief is predicated on this: Manchester United need to get their defense healthy before these matches are played. We need either Rio or Vida back -- preferably both -- and when that happens I fancy our chances against anyone, even Chelsea. With a strong back line, I think we have enough class up front -- and with Valencia, Nani and Park (hopefully) back, our midfield should be significantly improved, as well -- to win out over two legs. So while others may cringe, I say the following: Bring it, and let the chips fall where they may.
This is farlieonfootie for March 19.