by Kevin Stott |
Tuesday, April 29
Liverpool (-145, +˝) at Chelsea (ESPN2, 11:45 a.m. PT): It’s the Reds against the Blues again, this time from west London and the winner can be the first to punch its’ ticket for Russia in a month.
The lads from Liverpool were the only team to actually put the ball in the net in Leg 1 – one on purpose and one by accident late in extra time on an own goal on a defensive header by substitute John Arne Riise which left the packed crowd at Anfield stunned (1-1).
That away goal by Chelsea may play a big factor in keeping the Reds from advancing to the championship match May 21 in Moscow.
Chelsea has not lost to Liverpool in their last four meetings, but has won only once (three ties), a 2-0 shutout of the Reds in the Carling Cup at Stamford Bridge in December. The Blues best players are Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack and with that free momentum provided by Liverpool’s late own goal, may actually be able to put one of their own in at home today.
Can one expect Liverpool – the biggest underdogs of the four UEFA Champions League finalists – to score at Chelsea?
Recent history says no as the Reds have gone scoreless eight straight now at Stamford Bridge and goalie Petr Cech should be up for the challenge. Liverpool looks to Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Dirk Kuyt – who has seven goals in 11 European ties this term – for goals and will need to try and get one early on to wash away the reality of that own goal in Leg 1.
This game could end 1-0 with Chelsea finding a way to please the home crowd, but a draw would also suit the Blues just fine in this second matchup. CHELSEA.
Wednesday, April 30
Barcelona (-115, +˝) at Manchester United (ESPN2, 11:45 a.m. PT): An own goal kept the Liverpudlians from controlling their own destiny in Leg 2 but it was a missed penalty kick by star Cristiano Ronaldo early on that is giving Manchester United a headache after the 0-0 draw in Leg 1 in Spain last Wednesday.
To set up an all-England finals in Moscow, Man U needs one of its’ stars like Ronaldo (38 goals), Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney or Carlos Tevez to score. The Red Devils were the favorites to win going in (6-5, Caesars Palace) but the Catalan (5-2 odds) are a formidable foe. Man U actually has a player on its roster named Dong Dong (no word if his little brother Ding is any good).
To bounce Barcelona – two-time UEFA Champions League winners and one of the prides of Spain’s La Liga – Man U will have to get a goal somehow against Catalan keeper Victor Valdes but with the game being played at Old Trafford and the weight of the world on its’ shoulders, the Red Devils should find a way to succeed and advance. So warn the Bobbies, the natives may be a little bit restless after this one. MANCHESTER UNITED.