Champions League Draw: Previewing The Possible Opposition
After narrowly scraping through their Round of 16 tie against Olympique de Marseille, Manchester United earned a spot in the Quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League draw today.
United is accompanied by Barcelona, Real Madrid, Internazionale, Schalke 04, Shakhtar Donetsk and fellow English clubs, Chelsea and Tottenham, who the Reds are ineligible to face at this stage of the competition.
Last year, everyone, mistakenly thought that the Reds had a clear path to the Champions League Final at the Santiago Bernabéu in Spain, but United was fell victim and exited the competition at this stage, so Sir Alex Ferguson will have to make sure that his team re-focused as they try to reach this season’s final at Wembley Stadium.
The Reds got their name in the bag with a slim 2-1 aggregate win over the reigning Ligue 1 champions, but it could have been very different scenario after some careless defending.
After a scoreless draw at the Stade Velodrome, United jumped out to a comfortable 2-0 lead through a double Javier Hernandez in the return leg at Old Trafford, however, that advantage was needlessly cut in half with just minutes to go by an unfortunate own goal from Wes Brown, but the Reds were able to hold on by the skin of their teeth to advance through.
The way that UEFA sets up the next stages, United will know not only who they will battled in a two-legged quarterfinal, but also their potential opponents in the semifinals as well. Because they were they won their group in the Group stage, United had the luxury of playing their second match at Old Trafford against Marseille in the Round of 16, but now every team is given a clean slate.
England’s Barclays Premier League has the most representatives for the quarterfinals of Europe’s biggest competition with three, followed by the Spanish La Liga with two and one team from each of the Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga and the Ukrainian Premier League. No two-legged tie is going to be easy at this stage, but there are two clubs that United does not want to face until the final – Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The Catalan giants advanced through to the quarterfinals with a clinical, come-from-behind win over United’s domestic title challenger, Arsenal, 4-3 on aggregate. Barca’s free-flowing style of play, and Arsenal’s right way to play was suppose to be a football fan’s feast, but it turned into a tie that will be scarred by a refereeing decision – even though the La Liga side .
Arsenal surprised Barcelona at the Emirates Stadium to take a 2-1 advantage into the return leg after Robin van Persie and Andrei Arshavin doubled up David Villa’s opener. However, Arsenal rudely crashed back down to earth at the Nou Camp as a well-deserved double from Lionel Messi sandwiched an own goal by Sergio Busquets, which gave the Gunners a glimmer of hope of going through, and well worked goal from Xavi to seal Barcelona’s fate in the quarterfinals.
United supporters try to erase the last time the Reds met up with Barcelona, because it was a precise performance by the Spanish giants in their 2-0 win in the 2009 UEFA Champions League Final in Rome.
Like United, Real faced a tricky Round of 16 test against French opposition, and Los Blancos advanced with a convincing 4-1 aggregate with over Olympique Lyonnais. At the Stade de Gerland, Madrid took a vital 1-0 lead when Karim Benzema scored against his former club, but Lyon grabbed a late equalizer through Bafetimbi Gomis to give them life going into the second leg.
In that second leg at the Santiago Bernabeau, Real turned on the after burners and cruised to a 3-0 win with goals from Marcelo, Benzema and Ángel Di María, which broke their seven year jinx of not advancing past the Round of 16. The last time these two European powers traded blows was in the 2002/03, Real Madrid was a very 6-5 aggregate loss for the Reds – even though the won the second leg 4-3.
Inter, the only team in the Round of 16 to overturn a loss in the first leg and advance to the quarterfinals, got the better of Bayern Munich on the away goals rule as the two-legged tie finished 3-3 on aggregate – which, fittingly, was a familiar fate United suffered last season against the Germans.
In a rematch of last year’s final, Bayern stole the advantage after Mario Gomez scored from close range in the 90th minute to give them the advantage over the reigning European champions at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. Samuel Eto’o gave the treble-winning Italians the best of starts at the Allianz Arena, but two first half goals from Gomez and Thomas Müller looked to have the Germans in the next phase, but Wesley Sneijder and Goran Pandev scored after the break to book Inter’s place instead.
Inter and United last met in the 2008/09, and the Reds triumphed in their Round of 16 affair 2-0 on aggregate with both goals coming in the second leg at Old Trafford through Nemanja Vidic and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Germans are struggling domestically, but Schalke saw off Valencia, a team that pushed United to the wire, 4-2 on aggregate in their Round of 16 pairing. At the Mestalla, Roberto Soldado opened the scoring in the first leg for Valencia, but the ageless Raul, who claimed that he denied a move to Old Trafford, scored to level the match and give Schalke the advantage.
Like in the first leg, Valencia jumped out into an early lead through Ricardo Costa, but two goals from Jefferson Farfan and another goal from Mario Gavranovic saw Schalke 04 progress through. After their impressive win, The Miners fired their manager, Felix Magath, after Schalke is in 10th place in the Bundesliga, but United has never met the Germans.
Continuing to be the surprise of the top European tournament, Shakhtar Donetsk ousted AS Roma 6-2 on aggregate to advance to this stage. In the first leg at the Stadio Olimpico, Razvan Dinca Rat put through his own net to give Roma the lead, but three goals in 12 minutes from Jadson, Douglas Costa and Luiz Adriano gave Shakhtar the shock two goal advantage, which was halved by Jérémy Menez to see Roma lose 3-2.
In the return leg though, the shock winner of Group H, which included Arsenal, the reigning Ukranian champions stormed to a 3-0 win with two goals from Willian and another from Eduardo. Like Schalke, United has never played Hirnyky, or Miners, so it will be a bit of an unknown for the Reds.
As Wayne Rooney said after the Reds’ win, it does not matter who Manchester United draws, because they have to eventually beat the best of the best to lift the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League at Wembley Stadium come May.
Submitted by The United Religion
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