Are you watching Merseyside?
By Dan Salisbury-Jones.
Whilst Liverpool face a difficult Lille side this evening in the Europa League, Manchester United are preparing for Sunday’s clash with their dignitaries heading to Nyon in Switzerland to witness the draw for the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final.
The draw will take place on Friday at 11am (GMT). Europe’s elite 8 this season are more varied in nationality than in recent years and Manchester United could even face another long haul trip Moscow.
With this season’s quarter final draw being made on an open basis, there are no restrictions on who will be paired in the four ties. This means United could potentially be drawn once again with Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal in an all English affair.
After Arsenal’s sudden resurgence after defeat to Chelsea and the Reds, it would be a mouth-watering tie. Both would surely be hoping to avoid each other though.
Last night, ITV1 viewers would have witnessed another dynamic Barcelona performance with Lionel Messi putting German side Stuttgart to the sword, with 2 of the European champion’s 4 goals, mirroring United’s victory over Milan a week before. The last surviving side from Spain are who everyone wants to avoid, if United do end up facing the Catalan’s, then it will be the third consecutive season they have done so.
Despite the relative ease that United had in brushing aside AC Milan, their housemates in the San Siro seem a different proposition. Jose Mourinho’s side put pay to Chelsea’s latest attempt to win their first ever Champions League trophy, with victory at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night. Italy’s sole remaining representative would provide a very stern test.
Bayern Munich need no introduction to United fans, although its been a while since the clubs last met. Munich fell off Europe’s elite list recently, but investments in the likes of Frank Ribery has seen them rise to join the cream once more and possibly renew old rivalries with Sir Alex‘s side.
France’s Ligue 1 joins the Premier League as the best represented in the draw with Bordeaux a preferable opposition. The other French side are Lyon, who sunk the mighty Real Madrid famously in the last round. Lyon would have been looked on as fairly weak this season compared to previous years with Karim Benzima leading their line, evidently though they have developed a unit that proved to much for the most successful club in the competition’s history.
As mentioned earlier United could face yet another trip to the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow as fellow qualifiers from group B CSKA are a potential opponent once again at this stage. The Russians displaced Sevilla in the last round, a side many tipped as dark horses for the competition. We saw at Old Trafford earlier this season the danger that CSKA possess with United needing an injury time deflected equaliser to draw the match. Of the previous venues available where United have won the competition, despite the distance, you feel the reds would prefer a safer passage into the semi-final with a tie against CSKA rather than a daunting encounter at the Camp Nou.
The ties will be played on the 30/31st of March with the second legs on the 6/7th of April.
The first leg incidentally will precede United’s top of the table clash with Chelsea the following weekend, Jose Mourinho may therefore have inadvertently aided Chelsea’s title challenge with the Blues having the week off instead of European action.
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