I ended up getting three of the four Quarter-Finals right. Ironically, it was the one featuring my team that I miscalled. I overestimated the staying power of Chelsea in the later part of the season and the deadliness of their forwards.
Anyway, two semi’s, three nations.
Manchester United Vs Schalke 04
United are flying high in Europe following a comprehensive display against Chelsea over two legs. They were by far the better team in the tie and a lot of things -Rooney’s return to form, the strength of the wings, the no longer injury decimated defence – are coming together. Top of the English League, United are competing for two trophies following their semi-final defeat and it remains to be seen how that will affect them.
Schalke are a bit of a quandary. They have impressed in Europe, but have had a domestic season to forget, currently lying ninth. They seem to be a team that has put everything into their European campaign, and it is all they have to play for at this stage. Raul is the talisman, but they have talent elsewhere in the likes of Edu and Howedes.
I have to trump for United though. Schalke have had an easish road so far – a standard group, an underwhelming Valencia in the last 16, a tired, dispirited Inter Milan in the last round. Though they’ll have the advantage of rest, Schalke have not faced a challenge like United in the tournament yet, and I think the Red Devils have the drive to get past the Germans, though it’ll be tough, especially in Germany. United by two.
Real Madrid Vs Barcelona
Real are a good team, much better then they have been in recent years. But they are not Barca. These two teams will play each other four times over the course of two weeks, and I would be surprised if Real won any of them. They might have snatched a draw in the first one of them, but Barca, cruising at the top of La Liga, with perhaps the best club squad in living memory, know just how to handle Jose and the current breed of Galacticos.
Barca must be the favourites for the tournament overall. They’re familiar with Real, they have the players, they have the depth, and they have the psychological edge. Mourinho beat Barca last season with an excellent display of defensive football, but Real are not that kind of team. Barca by three.