Champions League & UEFA Cup last eight draws
[Firstly, non-football related news. I'm passing our congratulations for a thorough job done by West Yorkshire Police and the community of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, for their part in the searching and eventual discovery of the missing nine-year-old schoolgirl Shannon Matthews. She was found earlier today in a house in Batley Carr, north of Dewsbury, hidden inside the bottom of a divan bed (I imagine one of those beds with sliding doors where you can store items in a capacity at the base of the bed). A man has been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, and I pass our well wishes to the Matthews for the return of their daughter. Good news.]
I hoped to avoid Arsenal, Man Utd, and Chelsea for the quarter-finals next month until such time as it would be unavoidable but nonetheless, in a season with four English sides amongst the last eight, two of them at least had to be paired. Arsenal will face off with Liverpool at The Emirates to begin with, AS Roma have another chance with Man Utd at the Stadio Olimpico, Chelsea go away to the Sukru Saracoglu stadium for Fenerbahce and Barcelona will be hosted by Schalke 04 in the previous Word Cup city of Gelsenkirchen at the Veltins Arena. The winners from the all-England tie will face Chelsea or Fenerbahce in the semi-finals.
The UEFA Cup hopes are all British with Rangers faced with Bolton's victors, Sporting Lisbon, starting at Ibrox. Bayer Leverkusen host Zenit St Petersburg at the BayArena, Bayern Munich welcome Michael Laudrup's Getafe at The Allianz Arena, with Everton's conquerors Fiorentina facing PSV at the Artemio Franchi stadium.
Arsenal's form all season has overall been superb both in the league and the Champions League with only two defeats so far this season as opposed to Liverpool's five. Both coaches are confident of their side's ability come the day, and for me football can be readable or unpredictable. Game on!!
For Roma to get Man Utd again, and again beginning at home at the same stage as last season, people are looking for lightning to strike twice. How strong are Roma? They made good work of Real Madrid while Utd simply have good form in Christiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney to spearhead their cause. It's another tough eye-catching tie.
Some have already labelled Chelsea's draw with Fenerbahce as game done. Surely those with knowledge in the game know there is no such thing. Olympiakos held Chelsea and for Fenerbahce to compel a team like Sevilla to elimination, having beaten them at home, to discount them would be foolish.
Schalke 04 have arguably the best team standing so far. Their first quarter-finals ever in the history of the club, they showed great bravery to maintain Porto, their keeper Manuel Neuer was in good form to deny Porto many times and the Germans held their nerve to come through on penalties. To outshine the Spanish side in both legs will have to be vigourous, a great feat for them, and it will also be another match to watch out for. All four matches are quite superbly and enthrallingly poised.
Rangers held off the UEFA favourites to progress in Werder Bremen to face Sporting. Sporting for me were not formidable last night against Bolton, who were minus their usual first-teamers. If Rangers were to play to their limits I think they can go through to the semi-finals. The first leg at Ibrox will be very pivotal to that objective.