The English quartet of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United hoped not to face each other in the Quarter–finals of the UEFA Champions League. But with four teams from England, the most ever from any country, it was inevitable that one would face another. Hence, at the draw which was held by Russian goalkeeping legend, Rinat Dassaev at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, Arsenal were handed Liverpool, England’s most successful club in Europe.
This will be Arsenal and Liverpool’s first meeting in the European Competition. Liverpool has a reputation in Europe and has successfully shown Chelsea, another local team, the door in the semis in the last three years. Barcelona was drawn against sole German survivors FC Schalke 04. History repeated itself as Manchester United was handed AS Roma, the sole Italian side. Incidentally, United had thrashed Roma 7-1 at this stage of the competition last year, as well as faced them twice this year in the Group Stage. Roma will be looking to exercise the ghost of the same fixture last year. Chelsea rode their luck once again as they were drawn against Turkish champions Fenerbahce, seemingly the weakest of the last eight.
Premier League leaders Arsenal, who were unluckily beaten in the final a couple of years back by Barcelona, will host Liverpool in the first leg of the clash at the Emirates Stadium. Liverpool has the advantage of having the second leg at home at Anfield where their noisy, vocal crowd has never let them down. Liverpool is known to raise its level during European matches at Anfield. The fixture thus leaves these sides to face each other thrice in a matter of ten days in a season-defining week with Liverpool having to travel to Arsenal for a league game on April 5.
Barcelona will have home advantage in the second leg after travelling to Schalke for the first. Chelsea too hosts Fenerbahce in the return leg at Stamford Bridge in London. United travel to the Stadio Olimpico in the first leg and a week later host Roma at The Old Trafford in the return leg. Roma will go into this fixture with bitter history as at the same stage last year, their home leg victory was overshadowed by crowd trouble and the Old Trafford leg has painful memories of a seven goal drubbing.
The teams also know their subsequent opponents if they are to progress to the semi-finals and hence their prospective opponent at the final showdown at Moscow. If Chelsea beat Fenerbahce, they could once again face Liverpool in the semis, provided that Liverpool sees off Arsenal. Liverpool has beaten Chelsea twice in the semis, last year and in 2005, when they eventually won it. The winners of the Schalke vs. Barcelona tie will face Roma or Manchester United in the last four leaving United and Barcelona on collision course for an epic clash.
Arsenal vs. Liverpool
Fenerbahce vs. Chelsea
FC Schalke 04 vs. FC Barcelona
AS Roma vs. Manchester United
Ties to be played 1/2 and 8/9 April
Arsenal/Liverpool v Fenerbahce/Chelsea
FC Schalke 04/FC Barcelona v Roma/Manchester United
Ties to be played 22/23 and 29/30 April
The home team in the final will be the winner of semi-final number two, i.e. FC Schalke 04/FC Barcelona v Roma/Manchester United. The final will take place on 21 May at Moscow.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cuppini/511578753/]