The much-anticipated quarter-finals draw of the UEFA Champions League has been finally revealed. This season has seen the top four English clubs make it to the quarter-finals. Premier League leaders, Arsenal will play former Champions League winners Liverpool in what is being billed as an encounter to watch out for. Manchester United, following a close second in the League, have been drawn against the Italian club AS Roma. United had played Roma last year in the quarter-finals as well, thrashing them 7-1 in the return leg of the fixture at Old Trafford. Chelsea will play Turkish outfit Fenerbahce, while 2006 champions Barcelona will face German club Schalke 04.
Both Fenerbahce and Schalke 04 created an upset of sorts by entering the quarter-finals of Europe’s most prestigious competition for the first time, beating Sevilla FC and 2004 champions FC Porto respectively. This is the draw of matches: Arsenal vs Liverpool; AS Roma vs Manchester United; Schalke 04 vs Barcelona; Fenerbahce vs Chelsea.
Arsenal-Liverpool will be the pick of the pundits as a game that promises everything. The Gunners are currently sitting atop the League table, though United tail a measly two points behind them. The Reds, on the other hand, slid off the radar in the middle of the season, going down to seventh position in the league, and being eliminated by Championship side Barnsley from the FA Cup. Barnsley have continued its tremendous form by humiliating Chelsea in the FA Cup recently. However, it seems that the Reds are back in form, having won the so-called tense knock-out round matches against Inter Milan. They were superb, especially in the return leg at San Siro, where Captain Steven Gerrard, frontman Fernando Torres, and anchorman Javier Mascherano were especially notable in steering the team to victory. Indications are that the Reds are back on track and the quarter-final fixture with the North London club will look to prove just that. In a surprise turn of events, both clubs will play each other thrice in a space of one week. The first leg of the Champions League quarter-final will be played at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium on April 2 with the return leg at Anfield on April 8, and the teams will meet each other again at The Emirates in the midweek on April 5 for a Premier league fixture. When the two teams last met, the match ended in a 1-1 draw at Anfield, with Torres and Xabi Alonso sustaining injuries.
Chelsea have drawn a relatively easier team, with Fenerbahce previously unknown in the Champions League world-of-giants. It is hard to say if the Turkish side can cause a massive upset. The same is the situation with Schalke, who will look to beat Barcelona, which will seem like a mountain to climb, with the Catalan club boasting of a team of stars – Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o, Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Xavi, Carlos Puyol and the like. Something interesting and worth looking forward to will be the Roma-ManU encounter, as the English club had overturned a 2-1 aggregate against them in their favour by beating Roma 7-1, progressing to the semi-finals 8-3 on aggregate, where they were beaten by eventual champions AC Milan.
With European giants like Milan and Real Madrid having been already eliminated, it remains to be seen which teams will make it to the semi-finals, bringin them one step closer to European glory.
[image courtesy: http://flickr.com/photos/edwin11/262764557/sizes/m/]